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[dc]“Y[/dc]ou’re bringing the whole party down! Stop being so selfish!”

shunning progressives

This is the kind of accusation I hear routinely as a progressive from my moderate Democratic friends in their efforts to persuade me to toe the line. I tell them it’s not the first time I’ve been subjected to such an approach. When I came out as gay 30 years ago, I was excommunicated from the Mormon Church, told I was selfish for choosing what was best for me instead of following my leaders without question. I made it clear then that eradicating homophobic policies was in their own best interest, not just mine, and the same is true today of my belief that the DNC needs to move further to the left.

Democratic leaders could learn something from the way Mormons treat dissenters. Despite my unhappiness with some of the official LDS “platform,” I continued to attend church services after I came out. Mormonism was still my culture, there were some good aspects I enjoyed, and I wanted to remain a part of it. I also wanted to be with my friends.

But my Mormon friends shunned me. When they saw me enter the building, they would walk across the chapel to avoid shaking my hand. I was forbidden from taking part in Sunday School discussions. I wasn’t allowed to pray publicly. I couldn’t partake of the sacrament. I could no longer attend weddings in sacred temples. I wasn’t even permitted to don Mormon underwear any longer, or at least purchase any. It didn’t take long before I realized there was no place for me in the LDS Church, even if I had been willing to stay.
Excommunication couldn’t get rid of me, but treating me as a pariah did.

Giving up the infighting only and always means progressives must let moderates control the discussion. It never means they’ll choose a bolder platform.

Shunning progressives is not a successful strategy for the DNC. Do they really want to force millions of voters out of their party?

Too often, when I try to discuss these issues, my friends say, “We’ll lose altogether if we keep up this infighting.”

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What I hear, though, is, “Shut up and do what we tell you. We make the rules around here.” Giving up the infighting only and always means progressives must let moderates control the discussion. It never means they’ll choose a bolder platform. But we are not apostates. Treating us like Judases or Benedict Arnolds is counterproductive at best. Only through discussion and debate can we understand what’s not working for the Party and figure out ways to move ahead.

Gay Mormons point out that the LDS Church’s resistance to equality for Blacks eventually gave way to the implacable forward movement of society. They tell Mormon leaders not to be on the wrong side of history this time, too, and to treat LGBTQ folk equally now, not later, when they again show the world they are only followers rather than leaders.

Likewise, Democrats are always telling Republicans to get on the right side of history, that future societies will condemn them for not leaving bigotry and economic oppression behind. But DNC leaders need to realize THEY are on the wrong side of history, too, by saying the time isn’t right to push for single-payer healthcare or a ban on fracking and new oil pipelines and all the other changes in policy we so desperately need NOW.

In the late 1800’s, doctors prescribed cocaine as a treatment for alcoholism. No one in their right mind would follow such an outdated practice today. Someone who needs the solution to a tech problem doesn’t go to an Amish farmer but to someone working on the next development in digital technology. So let’s stop asking moderates for 1990’s solutions to problems of the 2020’s.

I could have stayed in the Mormon Church and tried to work for change from within. But to have done so would have meant giving up the last 30 years of my life to an institution that STILL hasn’t changed.

The only way for Democratic leaders to get on the right side of history is to look forward, not backward. Even the status quo won’t do. One doesn’t need to be a Mormon prophet to see the future. Progressive policies are the only way society can function and prosper in the coming decades. Many of us already know this. We will continue to raise our hands in Sunday School. We will ask questions. We will state our conclusions and explain our reasoning. If the Democratic Party continues to shun rather than embrace us, we can and will go elsewhere.

Johnny Townsend

Johnny Townsend