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Robin McGehee Headshot

Come Out of the Political Closet!

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Last night, Democrats lost seats. Those losses have been predicted since January... it's not news. What is news is that Democrats lost seats not for being too progressive -- they lost seats for not being progressive enough. Although some in Washington will undoubtedly try to make the public think that Democrats lost this election cycle because they fought too hard, did too much, and went too far left -- nothing could be further from the truth. Two years ago, we walked in to the ballot booth with hope that bold, progressive leaders would take the mantle and move us forward. Sadly, this Election Day, we walked into the voting booth uninspired.

I remember when I first came out as a lesbian. I was terrified; I grew up in the inequality state of Mississippi, and wasn't sure how my family or my friends would react. I fled to California because my home state was hijacked from me, and I assumed I'd find safe haven within the borders of the Golden State. On the same night I voted for Barack Obama, I watched the rights of a minority get stripped away by a majority. I quickly learned that I can not run from injustice, but we have to organize, stand strong, fight back against the powers that oppose us, and "come out" of a political closet of timidity and fear.

Sadly, Democrats are living in political closets right now. As I knocked doors, phone-banked, and canvassed in one of the most conservative areas of California, I learned again and again how powerful it is to come out and to be courageous. Rest assured, it wasn't easy to have those conversations and to take those actions in the thoroughly red county of Fresno, CA -- but it was absolutely necessary and I don't regret it one bit.

Even as Proposition 8 passed and I was devastated that California voters had labeled same-sex relationships and my family as "less than," I hoped that Barack Obama would step up and live up to what he promised -- that "we are not a straight America or a gay America, we are the United States of America." Sadly, two years later, I still feel very separate and not anywhere close to equal.

Progressives across the country have spent the last two years trying to push the White House and the U.S. Congress toward legislation supported by wide majorities of Americans in order to avoid this moment. We have tried to offer a pathway to avoid disastrous losses in the midterm elections -- inspiring Americans in the same way that we saw happen in 2008. They didn't listen -- choosing, instead, to cling unflinchingly to politics as usual. That's not change we can believe in.

Change is hard. We know that. But every day that we cannot safely hold the hand of the person we love is hard. Every day we face the ends of our careers because of no other reason than discrimination is hard. Every day that we bury our young people, driven to suicide in the face of hopelessness, is hard. Every day we are denied to marry the one that we love is hard. Every day that we watch our partners having to return to their home countries, or having to follow them there ourselves, is hard. Every day that we face bullets on the front-lines in Iraq, not knowing how our partners will be treated by the government should we have to pay the ultimate sacrifice for our country, is hard.

President Obama's re-election campaign starts today -- by taking bold action during the lame-duck session to enact progressive policies and to repeal regressive ones, we know that the American people will respond positively. Progressive organizers have done the hard work of earning broad public support for progressive policies -- now it's the job of the White House and Congress to do their work of getting votes for those policies.

Some in the Administration said we had a "enthusiasm gap" -- I completely counter that with the energy, passion and determination on the streets for repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, pushing forward the DREAM Act, and seeking bold climate legislation. We don't have an "enthusiasm gap" -- we have a disappointment canyon.

We will hold Democrats and Republicans accountable who fail to come out and lead or actively oppose us on key progressive issues. And we will rally around Congressional heroes who lead on progressive issues -- whether that's working toward LGBT equality, pushing for climate justice, reforming our immigration system, or protecting a woman's right to choose. We simply want those representing us in Congress to show the same courage when casting votes as they show when cashing checks -- and we'll continue to take to the streets until we see the political closets of DC come crashing down around us.