Liberal

The Democratic Party Must be Changed from Within

When leftists complain that liberal Democratic candidates aren’t bold enough once in office, we’re told that change takes time and is only effective if it comes from within. If these liberals are too bold, they tell us, they can’t be insiders and will lose what little power they have. The problem is that they willingly give up their power to be an insider in the first place, securing their own failure from the start.

Liberals and progressives need to consider that leaving the Democratic Party may be a more successful path for them as well – staying won’t accomplish anything that’s meaningful.

Elected Democratic leaders keep voting for pandemic relief packages that overwhelmingly benefit corporations at the expense of the people, promising that “next time” they’ll insist on a better deal. This behavior, though, pre-dates the pandemic by decades. The public health crisis is just the latest excuse. Liberals and progressives had to vote for this bad deal first to earn the power to say, “Now you owe me a favor.” But when the next package deal comes up, still overwhelmingly in favor of corporations, our Democratic saviors again vote for it, telling us once more that the “next time” will be different. Even when offering a fake proposal for the following relief bill, Democratic leaders still don’t include the programs and policies necessary to address real needs, and this is in the “showy” package, the one everyone knows will need to be renegotiated before it gets passed. They simply can’t be bothered to pretend they care about our priorities.

Even Lucy van Pelt was more convincing when asking Charlie Brown to kick the football.

I was excommunicated from the Mormon Church over thirty years ago for being gay, but for decades I kept writing stories about “progressive” Mormons, hoping that Mormons reading my books would slowly move to the left. Organizations like Affirmation for LGBTQ Mormons tried to work “from the inside” as well. As did Family Fellowship, the Mormon equivalent to PFLAG. Mormons Building Bridges tried a similar approach, as did Mama Dragons. All these organizations, and other writers like myself, tried to effect change “from inside.” Sunstone magazine has been publishing since 1975, and almost no “active” Mormons have even heard of it.

The problem is that once a Mormon, or worse, an ex-Mormon, says anything contrary to official policy, they are automatically seen as outsiders whose words must immediately be discounted. It’s impossible to change policies on LGBTQ issues from the inside. It’s impossible to effect change even on the rights of heterosexual women from the inside. Mormon feminists have been excommunicated for such heresy.

If one day the Mormon Church makes any significant changes, they will only come from leaders at the top. I could hang around another thirty years in docile anticipation, but I won’t live that long. So I invest my efforts to make the world a better place elsewhere. A remote chance of success is better than none.

Liberal and progressive Democrats will also have a greater chance of success once they realize the same thing applies to them.

Democratic outsiders, the rebels, the troublemakers, are squashed again and again until they are finally offered a tiny bit of power. They’re appointed to this committee or that task force, if they promise to toe the line. So they do, because they know that this act of compromise will mean Democratic leadership now owes them a favor.

But moral clarity and the strength it provides are what become compromised. In the film version of John Grisham’s The Firm, Tom Cruise’s character is enticed by all the perks he gets from joining a prestigious law firm. He isn’t ethically compromised yet, but when the senior partners begin suspecting he won’t remain loyal, they set him up with a beautiful woman confiding a heartrending sob story.

The Tom Cruise character has sex with the woman, which is of course all caught on film, and now the firm has leverage against him. If he doesn’t do as they say, they’ll go to his wife.

When liberal Democrats we’ve voted for cheat on us, it’s not easy to forgive. Especially if they insist on continuing an open relationship without our consent.

I don’t want a candidate or elected official to say the right things in a speech, no matter how eloquently he or she says it. What matters is the vote. Every single time. On a pre-employment integrity test, what’s the correct answer for the following question:

You know you could skim a little money from several large accounts without being noticed. Do you:

    • skim the accounts every chance you get?
    • skim the accounts only twice a year?
    • skim the accounts once and never again?
    • enlist someone else to skim the accounts so that your hands are clean?

The answer “None of the above” never seems to be an option in the world of politics. But compromising one’s ethics can only decrease an elected official’s power, never enhance it.

Not voting for an inadequate relief package when everyday people desperately need some relief means you’ll get some flak. But haven’t any of these “rebels” noticed they’re already getting flak every day? They tell us that minimal relief is better than none, so they must get something in the hands of the poor immediately. They promise to get us a better deal “next time.”

I see Lucy van Pelt holding the football again.

Every single time you vote against the needs of the people in favor of corporations and their owners, you give opponents anywhere on the political spectrum ammunition against you. “So-and-so says they’re for student loan forgiveness. But look how they voted on this piece of legislation.”

Those who hate you, those who have never supported you, won’t suddenly support you because you’ve been broken into submission. They’ll stick with the candidates who were on their side from the start. And those who used to believe in you will have lost faith in anything you tell them. Yes, you say you’ve learned your lesson, but I won’t know if that’s true until after the next election. You burned me before. Maybe this other candidate will, too, but if I must take a chance, I’ll go with the one who hasn’t burned me yet.

There are those on the left who hope that if enough Democrats leave the party, its leaders will realize the error of their ways and change. Who knows? Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. But it’s pointless to wait. The carrot on the end of a stick never gets any closer.

In the last fifteen to twenty years, Mormons have been leaving their church in droves. And what have Church leaders who see this departure done? Well, they now allow sister missionaries to wear slacks…sometimes. Black members can now wear “black hairstyles” inside the temple. And teenage girls can now hand out towels in the temple, a privilege once denied them. That’s all new. Groundbreaking. But leggings for women in their daily lives? No, that’s a bridge too far. Women who commit such sin still need to confess to their bishop and repent. Beards for male BYU students? Such a violation of the Honor Code will still get them expelled from college.

I’m not wasting any more time on vain hopes for improvement from within. Not in the Mormon Church and not in the Democratic Party.

Last night, my ex-Mormon husband and I watched Monsters University. One throwaway scene near the beginning shows a slug “racing” to his first class. He arrives in the final minute of the film, after the semester is over and everyone else has gone home.

Johnny Townsend

Despite its many flaws, I enjoyed being part of the Mormon Church and hated to leave, especially since so many people I love and respect are still believers. But my life is immeasurably better since. Liberals and progressives need to consider that leaving the Democratic Party may be a more successful path for them as well. The one thing we can be sure of, unfortunately, is that staying won’t accomplish anything that’s meaningful—because it isn’t “time” Democratic leaders need. It’s the opportunity to keep supporting their corporate donors.

Johnny Townsend

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