I am a Utah Democrat. That means I’ve lost a lot of elections (and won precious few) and while the losses really sting, I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around why this presidential election hurts like death. I mean, I wasn’t a functional human being Wednesday.
1) Not only did someone who terrifies me win the presidency, but this election cements the fact that conservatives will shortly control nearly every branch and nearly every level of government from the presidency all the way down to the vast, vast majority of state legislatures and gubernatorial races. As a democrat, that means we are in deep, deep doo doo.* While we do have a beautiful Constitution with built-in checks and balances on power, there are precious little parts of government that they don’t control. There isn’t much to prevent Mike Pence from undoing all of the social progress of the 60s and beyond. Few legislators at both state and federal levels care about protecting the rights and privileges of minority voices. My brothers and sisters, the cultural wars are not over. Indeed, they’re starting all over again. A silver lining: it would be very, very difficult for Trump and Pence to overturn Roe v. Wade and Obergefell vs. Hodges (it would require a constitutional amendment: 2/3 of congress and then ratified by 3/4 of states) but, we also said Trump had no chance of winning the electoral college. Far too many state legislatures have already tried to run bills to limit reproductive and LGBT rights. Not to mention, bills that limit the civil rights of many more marginalized communities.
2) Pew Foundation is saying that 61% of Mormons voted for Trump. The majority of my tribe, who made international headlines because we have problems with Trump, voted for him anyway. That hurts and makes an organizer like me wonder if what I’m doing with LDS Dems, Mormons for Hillary, and a million of other things are making a difference.
3) In many ways, I feel that when it comes to national races, the electorate could care less about the kind of candidates that I personally, like best. I like candidates who work with realities and not ideals, who compromise to get shiz done, and who are nerdy policy wonks. I don’t like candidates with charisma who pander to populist trends such as isolationism, promise ideals that aren’t possible, and prey on many voters’ fear of globalization (anti-trade) as well as racial and religious minorities. Those are not the only two kind of candidates out there, but I do feel like this election is the death of my preferred kind of candidate on the level of a national election as long as the electoral college continues to be a thing.
So it hurts, almost like a death because it feels like the end of a lot of things that I care about. Hence, I’ve been crying my eye balls out since Tuesday evening (might I add, all over my white pantsuit and Mt. Nasty T-shirt).
I’m done now. I woke up Thursday morning and after talking it through with some of the strategic minds I admire most, I know what I’m going to do. Make up your own damn plan.** Find the area that works best for you and focus there.
First of all, don’t give up. In my own world, LDS Dems is working. While at the end of the day, most active Mormons voted for Trump, less Mormons voted for Trump than voted for George W. Bush in 2004. Heck, less active Mormons voted for Mitt Romney then voted for George W. Bush! Mormons for Obama launched in 2008. We formed LDS Dems in 2011. While we have made mistakes along the way, we’ve also made great decisions, and we’re getting better at what we do. It’s going to take years (probably decades) of hard work by approaching monolithic American Mormon voting from the outside in. So, short of my Church leadership finally giving us some kind of statement that says it’s ok to be and vote for democrats to combat all the crazy from President Benson back in the day, WE KEEP DOING THIS WORK ON THE GRASSROOTS LEVEL AND KEEP CHIPPING AWAY at the idea that Mormonism and Republicanism are not synonymous.
Over the last five years with LDS Dems, we’ve found that we’re not a great electoral organization. We’re not awesome at getting other LDS Dems to show up and walk for candidates or phone bank. But we are pretty good at getting more Latter-day Saints to consider voting for Democrats. We are great at teaching Democrat candidates how to talk to our people and we’re even better at teaching our own LDS Dems how to talk positively about progressive values from an LDS point of view, and be bolder about it. More and more of us are feeling more confident about speaking up in Church when that one crazy person (every ward has at least one, let’s be real) goes off about how they feel the “gay agenda” is fronted by crazy gay secret combinations or welfare = Satan’s plan and other such nonsense. So my progressive Mormons keep going to church (if that’s an option for you) and speak up, and LDS Dems will continue to give you the tools to get better at doing that.
Now I can do more than just talk to my people. The most beautiful result of the last few days is how many people have asked me, “what can I do and how can I help?” I love all this ACTION. Here’s some of what I’m going to do, come along. And yes, some of this is more rant than action plan. Deal with it. I have opinions.
- Change the conversation about Culture Wars // This is going to be a frequent topic from LDS Dems. If you believe in religious freedom, if you believe that the state shouldn’t tell the church what to do or believe, then you are a hypocrite if you force your church onto the state by enshrining your religious beliefs into law. End of story. Yes, you should be allowed to think, believe, and worship whatever you want. You should be able to speak up about abortion or gay marriage or whatever else you think is an important moral issue, maybe even be able to refuse to make a stupid cake for a gay wedding, but that doesn’t mean you get to make the law mirror your religious beliefs. That is not religious freedom. That is not what our Constitution is founded upon. That is not democracy. That is not even a democratic republic. That is theocracy. I love my religion, but I do not want to force everyone else to live my religion’s laws and doctrines. In fact, in Mormon world, we’d call that Satan’s plan. So speak up against abortion all you want, make advertisements or write blogs or whatever to talk people out of having one, but that doesn’t mean you get to make it illegal. Sheesh. Same for gay marriage, alcohol, or whatever other “moral” issue on which many people of differing faiths or no faith disagree. Case in point: marijuana. Tactic A: tell Mormons it’s bad/immoral/anti-Word of Wisdom to smoke marijuana. Tactic B: Tell Mormons that they should vote to keep it illegal. Tactic A is exercising yours or a Church’s right to free speech and freedom of religion. Tactic B violates the principal of freedom of religion if not exactly the law because it attempts to put one religion’s beliefs in law. That’s not right. In fact, we Latter-day Saints even have scripture that says it’s unjust “to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.” D&C 134:9. WHY DO MY PEOPLE SO OFTEN IGNORE OUR OWN SCRIPTURE.
- Culture Wars, part two // We’ve also got to communicate that not every election is about Culture Wars. If you believe in education, clean air, and compassionate immigration reform but you only vote for candidates who will work to ban abortion, you are voting against your greater self interest and the greater good in general. I heard from far too many voters that they would have supported Hillary except for abortion. Or needed comfort that their vote for a democrat wouldn’t lead to the government forcing gay marriage in temples. Come on people, have you never read the Constitution? That would never fly in America. Stop with the crazy.
- Voting part 1 // I will work to turn my friends and family into informed voters // News flash (to some): elections don’t happen once every four years. THEY HAPPEN EVERY FREAKING YEAR. TURNOUT IN SALT LAKE COUNTY, WHERE I LIVE, WAS 30%. 70% of the registered voters in my community didn’t care about who their president would be. Only 56% of the American electorate voted. That’s BS. Vote. DON’T BOO, VOTE. DON’T FREAKING PROTEST IF YOU DIDN’T FREAKING VOTE. I don’t care if you don’t like your options. Pick one and next time get involved in the nominating process to get yourself better options. Salt Lake County sent mailed ballots to every single registered voter so you didn’t even have to get your butt out of bed to vote. And still, people procrastinated and created 5 hour lines at the 37 open day-of locations, and then most of you didn’t even vote anyway. I am one person and I only have an effect on so many, but I can at least turn my circle of influence into active voters. If more people got used to voting regularly and followed their local politics more closely, they might become better at identifying the idiots in all parties. Do you know why “the establishment” of both parties so often gets behind one candidate over others? Because we’re in the trenches every day and we know who are the idiots and who aren’t. We also know who’s willing to work, and who just wants to hear themselves talk.
- Voting part 2 // TURNOUT // I don’t know the solution to this yet and don’t tell me that low turnout is because of uninspiring candidates, rigged systems, all politicians are evil, yada, yada. BORING TALK. Look at a chart of percentage over time and you’ll see that turnout hasn’t varied greatly. Yes turnout was worse in 2016 than 2008 or 2012, but 2008 turnout was slightly higher than average. Our turnout problem is bigger than recent elections or DNC vs. RNC or rigged systems or whatever. PEOPLE, LOOK AT THE CHART since 1789. As more groups got access to the ballot after the 14th and 19th amendments, turnout has more or less plateaued between 50-60% of the electorate SINCE 1920. That’s not cool. THIS IS NOT A NEW PROBLEM BUT MAYBE IN THE 21st CENTURY WE CAN SOLVE IT. And yes, the RNC and DNC make stupid decisions. Yes, there's probably some corruption. The majority of people working in these organizations are just trying to make a difference. They're just trying to win elections. Give them a break.
- Elected officials are not your enemy and it’s time to scream that message // NEWS FLASH: most elected officials are good, honest PUBLIC SERVANTS who work to improve their communities the best ways that they know how. Sure, for every saint there’s an Anthony Weiner but the vast majority aren’t idiots and aren’t weirdo sex addicts. Most of them are spending hours and hours to serve you, often at the expense of their own sanity, health, and even their family time. It’s excruciating. And then people are constantly yelling at you and telling you how you suck at life and tell you how they know all the answers and if only you said this or did that or voted this way or what have you, they would have solved world hunger. It’s a lot of pressure. Give them a break.
- Brand O’ politics part 2 // There is money in politics and it’s time to get over that fact. People have to make money to pay the billz and it’s asking too much to expect all political strategists or lobbyists or whatever to work for free. It costs money to hire campaign staff. It costs money to hire party staff. It costs money to get the word out through advertising. Just because a candidate has to ask a rich person or business for money doesn’t mean they’re beholden to them. GET OVER IT.
- Turn my friends and families into involved voters // Follow bills at your state legislature. Get to know your representatives. It’s so easy, they’re very accessible. Their cell number is probably on your state legislature’s website. Make an appointment, send a quick email, etc. Your emails to legislators don’t have to be lengthy novels full of emotional appeals. They mostly just keep tallies on topics or bills. Just send a quick email with two sentences (I support X bill for Y reason). Done. Then you can go back to posting cat videos.
- Focus on local elections // Your city council person has a far greater effect on your daily life than does the presidency or Supreme Court. To restore checks and balances, we have to bring back electoral balance and that starts at the level of municipal and state legislative races. Yes we need to find great candidates and train them BUT it also means more of us need to become informed voters and vote every year. When you’re in the minority party, we’ve got to keep building our candidates’ name ID. Don’t run once and be done, keep at it because the second or third time you run, you might win.
- Improve electoral balance // I am a Democrat in a red state. The rest of the country is going to soon understand what it’s like to be a Democrat in Utah or a Republican in California. It’s not fun. But we focus on the races that are possible, we work to convince more voters to be open to our message, we work to find new voters, we learn to work with the sensible Republicans on the other side on the issues we agree with, and we just keep plugging. With republicans controlling everything from most state legislatures to soon the presidency and supreme court, it’s going to be hard to keep progress moving, but it can be done. We do it in Utah every every year. It is hard, I am not going to lie. It is exhausting. Often we loose. But it’s worth it.
- Focus on practicalities and don’t be so damn idealistic // Look, once upon a time I was a Republican and I wrote a paper arguing that Democrats should be exiled to Antartica because southern democrats were responsible for segregation. Another once a upon a time I was a green party activist who planned anti-war protest after anti-war protest with Rocky Anderson until eventually they stopped getting covered and I realized I was waisting my time and accomplishing nothing. So I reached out to the Democratic Party’s marketing director at the time and offered my services. He got me involved in the Progressive Caucus, then I found Young Dems, and then I helped to create LDS Dems. Now I’m one of those dirty, insider “establishment” people — whatever that means — simply because I show up and try to do shiz and get good people elected. When I first got involved in politics, I was the kind of Democrat that wouldn’t vote for Jim Matheson. I was too cool for him. Then I got to know him and realized that compromise is not a dirty word, and it takes an open heart to understand that you don't know all the answers but you’re willing to listen. So what I’m saying is that you’re unlikely to see me at many protests but you will see me working to make sure good candidates get nominated. It’s time for us as democrats to loose the idea that every candidate who wins the nomination must check off a certain number of required positions. I’m also not saying that moderate candidates are the only way to go. Utah Democrats have run a lot of those kinds of candidates, and we’ve lost a lot of those races. But, I am saying that I don’t care if a candidate is moderate or progressive as long as they’re willing to work across the aisle to get things done. It’s one thing to prey on the loss of manufacturing jobs and fear of globalization say you’re anti TPP or whatever. It’s another to say that maybe there are economic upsides to free trade and globalization and work to mitigate the negative effects.
- Stop the scapegoating // Yes, I’m mad at third party voters. Yes, bernie bros are mad at the DNC. Don’t live in the past, focus on our present.
- Work to change the electoral college // I realize that this is somewhat contradictory to my “focus on realities” goal, but really. The electoral college is an ancient piece of bananas that makes zero sense in modern society and it’s got to go. I do get that it will be nearly impossible given that the GOP has won the presidency twice now in two decades thanks to the electoral college. But hey, we passed the 17th amendment to directly elect senators. Let’s directly elect presidents. It’s 20 freaking 16, not 1776.
- Make it cool to read the damn paper. Promote real news to your circle of friends // It isn’t hard to read the paper. Dump cable news. Don’t get your news from Facebook, Twitter, Breitbart, Occupy, Talk Progress, Drudge report or anything else that is more opinion than news. Stop blaming the media for everything. Blame the people who consume stupid media. I know we’re all busy but I think it’s worth your time to spend 10 minutes of every day scanning your local paper.
- I’m wearing my damn Hillary pin for the near and possibly longer future // A) I paid for it and it only arrived like 3 days ago and B) it is a little symbol to myself and others that I voted for the candidate who was best equipped to not only beat Trump but was also best equipped to do a stand up, brilliant job as president. I want people to see it and know they are safe with me. I like the safety pin idea too, and this is my version of that. I sincerely hope that the safety pin thing doesn’t become like the flag pin thing for male politicians because that’s the most ridiculous way of showing patriotism in the history of patriotism.
- Help my kids be kind and decent human beings // Yes I did a lot of yelling, Mormon swearing, and judgmental statements in this post and that’s not very kind, but give me an inch of wiggle room, I’m still in mourning. But I think the most important thing I can do is talk to my kids every day about why it’s important for them to be better than me. I tell them every day that kindness is #1, especially to people who are different from them.
I’d love to hear your plans. I’d love for you to join me in mine. I’d love for you to tell me how I’m completely misguided (but only allowed if you voted and have concrete action ideas beyond yelling). Just do something, it’s not hard to get involved.
P.S. Excuse my atrocious sentence structure in much of the above rant. I haven’t slept in three months because I was trying to win an election.
*Yes I’m LDS and I say things like deep deep doo doo, especially online in places where my mother might see it. :)
**OK I allowed myself a couple of damns. I am a Mormon feminist progressive woman and I am allowed to express myself with righteous anger when a sexual abuser wins the White House. Plus, Mormonism would benefit with the return of some potty mouths like J. Golden Kimball and Porter Rockwell.