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When I was a boy, I used to sing along with Helen Reddy as she belted out, “I am woman, hear me roar.” Whatever empowerment her lyrics offered women, they also taught young men that women were equals. Perhaps that’s why I feel so disappointed when Democratic leaders mostly offer apologies. “I’m sorry. I can’t get behind that policy right now. We don’t have the support.”

i am liberal

Of course, by “support,” they usually mean corporate backing, not the will of the people.

Time and again, I hear Democrats admit they can’t get us universal healthcare or tuition-free colleges and trade schools or taxpayer-funded childcare because they don’t have the votes. I hear them say over and over they can’t support a ban on fracking or a ban on new pipelines or a ban on new drilling, that pushing such legislation, even though they firmly believe in it, would get them voted out of office, and then they wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything at all.

So what are you accomplishing now?

“If you don’t vote for Democrats, you’ll let more Republicans win power, and that will be a disaster! You don’t want that, do you? At least if we’re in office, we can keep things from getting worse.”

So Democratic politicians function basically as a leaky dam?

I’m not sure you can really inspire voter turnout with that less than inspiring message.

“The lack of support from progressives has already put too many Republicans in office. You have to keep voting for Democrats year after year after year until we finally have enough power. And THEN we can get things done.”

Admitting up front that you’re too weak, powerless, and ineffective to accomplish anything significant is not a selling point.

But I remember the first two years of President Obama’s presidency, when Democrats controlled the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives. Democrats didn’t even try to get us any of these essentials. They went out of their way to “compromise” on healthcare and took the public option off the table before negotiating even began.

“That’s because we understand how politics works.”

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The problem is that we need you to understand how human psychology works. Admitting up front that you’re too weak, powerless, and ineffective to accomplish anything significant is not a selling point. Even the Affordable Care Act was far from affordable for many people. My sister, for one, ended up paying the tax penalty because she couldn’t afford the affordable insurance. She’s an LPN and yet hasn’t been able to see a doctor in years.

If Democrats today can only offer the status quo or some minor improvements in place of Republicans dragging us down even further, yes, that is the better choice. But that’s like offering a couple of aspirin to someone suffering the intense pain of appendicitis. Lessening the pain won’t address the underlying emergency. We need Democratic leaders to DO something.

And if you can’t, for whatever reason, you’re telling us you’re feeble and frail and insipid. That won’t inspire me—or millions of others—to vote for you. Some of us may still reach for the aspirin, but many will understand the futility of such a decision. You’ll collect fewer donations, you’ll win fewer elections, and you’ll have even LESS power, when you already admit you don’t have enough to give the American people what they need now.

“Vote for me today, and I’ll be able to get you something good later. Someday. Probably. I think.”

We need more than elected placeholders. We need leaders who will act now, not in some vague, indefinable future.

I can hear voters at Democratic rallies singing, “I am timid, watch me waffle.”

That’s not an anthem voters can get behind, is it?

If Democrats want to win elections, we are going to have to stand for something. We need to be bold and progressive, liberal and confident, not cautious and apologetic.

Johnny Townsend

If the 1970’s was the time for Women’s Liberation, today is the time for Liberal Liberation. So let’s sing out, loud and proud, and empower ourselves.

Johnny Townsend