Austen Crowder

How we should be treating Ken Mehlman

Filed By Austen Crowder | August 29, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: bipartisanship, conservatism, CPAC, GOP, GOProud, Ken Mehlman, liberal

Ken Mehlman holds the honor of being the highest-ranking GOP Thumbnail image for mehlman.jpgofficial to eventually come out as gay, plain and simple. Top GOP officials have invited him into their lives, made emotional connections with him, and generally built a solid network with a guy who at one point was the linchpin of the Rove-run GOP strategy. Like him or not, he is an incredible asset for LGBTQ rights, and he's ready to step up and do his part to undo the mess he created in the 2000-2008 Bush era.

Even with all the bad blood I think we can agree that Mehlman has unique connections most LGBTQ folk can only dream of creating. He just happens to have been Republican at a time of anti-gay animus, and despite his stated desire to help the marriage equality movement people in the blogosphere are putting significant effort into slinging mud his way.

One thing I've noticed in the LGBTQ community is an almost religious fervor in its Democratic ties. Yes, the loyalty is sometimes warranted, and right now the GOP isn't a friendly place for LGBTQ people. However, as a former Republican myself I have to caution against slinging mud at the folks across the aisle just because of the "R" in front of someone's name. As far as I'm concerned, GOProud and the like are on the bleeding edge of increasing our acceptance, working behind enemy lines to create sympathizers and pro-equality agendas.

It's slow going, but they're having an impact. Remember GOProud and how we made fun of them for going to CPAC? Remember the impact they had on that convention, and how they left anti-gay PACs feeling like they received the cold shoulder? Remember how all those antigay groups languished shortly after the event? Anybody? I remember it pretty well. You don't have to like LGBTQ conservatives; however, you do have to understand that they have a role in advancing our rights across the board.

Sure, Mehlman did bad things in his day. I get it. But let me paint a fun picture for you. It's one that I think can come to fruition in the long-run, seeing all the outings and pro-equality conservative advocacy and general strategy-shifting taking place on the Right. It goes like this:

  • The Republican party, realizing that despite its small demographic size LGBTQ people pack a serious political punch, decide to level with us on issues and take on a "liberty for all" stance that includes LGBTQ provisions, spearheaded by groups like GOProud.
  • The Democratic party, now faced with actual competition for LGBTQ votes, can no longer hold possible LGBTQ-positive legislation hostage to lead LGBTQ voters along. The "vote for us or else!" rhetoric falls apart.
  • Thanks to market competition for votes, bills get proposed. Actual progress is made in the name of campaign grandstanding.

Is that idealist? Yes. Very. I'll admit to being a political centrist and a mercenary. The Dems have my vote only because of their tepid support of LGBTQ people. If the Republicans were to step up their game and align their LGBTQ policies with their messaging of "individual liberty" and "freedom for all people," however, I'd consider voting for them. I started out this life as a Republican and still hold a lot of traditionally Republican ideals sacred: a free-market economy, consumer choice over government intervention, the power of small business in driving economic growth. My stint as a Democrat is rooted solely in LGBTQ politics. It is the only thing securing my vote.

Here's the simple truth of the matter: if the GOP gets their act together on our rights, we all win. Period. Ken Mehlman may have done some crappy things in the past, but as far as I'm concerned he and rest of the GOP-supporting LGBTQ community are the keys to the castle of equality. They are the ones turning our binary opposition into tepidly friendly voters, pushing the conversation from "are gays diseased/worthy of rights" to "gays should not/should have the same rights we do." To paraphrase Milk, we aren't going to win until people realize that they know an LGBTQ person, regardless of their social circle, political affiliation, or region.

Like it or not, our GOP friends are playing for our team. I understand being pissy at their past transgressions, but can we turn the friendly fire off long enough to welcome them to our side of the battle? I'd rather have more soldiers than burned bridges.

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It is true that some gay leaders have used their clout to indoctrinate progressive ideas upon their gay peers, and that is lamentable.

But for some other gay people, they do see "equality" as a broader cause. A victory in marriage equality would not sway, say, Alex, because there are many, many more critical issues in which he sees Democrats better inclined to helping with, namely women's rights and the fight against the corporatization of social goods like education and government.

The thing is, Mehlman has yet to admit fault or apologize for his deeds. He sidesteps that and instead says he felt powerless/didn't know well enough to intervene. Which is a lie; we all know politicians are in the business of furthering their career at any cost, and this man was comfortable with the cost being the livelihoods of his people.

Moreover, people respected him because he was lock and step with the GOP platform; they respected his mask, not his true self. That he needed to stay closeted during his stint goes far to show how risky he saw gay issues to his place in the RNC. Now that he's gay, anything he says to fellow Republicans will be dismissed, since he's gay and obviously biased (as if straights are immune to bias).

As far as GOProud, really? They've supported strictly anti-equality candidates under the argument that gay people have no right to same-sex marriage, and that same-sex marriage is unimportant and a leftist agenda. Mehlman himself up to date has continued donating to anti-gay candidates like Mary Cheney.

Let's get real. He knows change in his party ain't coming anytime soon, but he has his partisan loyalties. So he's going to donate to the prop 8 case as his good bet to achieving marriage equality and then trying to spin it as if he was always helpful to marriage equality when the reason for these court challenges at all is because of campaigns like his that put marriage amendments up.

This is not slinging mud. He's a politician, doing what politicians do-- which is to put personal gain before integrity during critical times and then wait for the bandwagon to come so they can pretend that their past deeds never existed by trying to distract people through their opportune and recent support.

What I will give you is blogs like Towleroad, JMG, Boyculture, and most gay blogs engage in personal attacks instead of attacking Mehlman's actions; but, seriously, they're just blogs. They're spaces where anonymous people with some time to waste can post things they wouldn't say in polite company. Those blogs don't hold any prestige or actual authority whatsoever besides the one you are willing to give them.


He just happens to have been Republican at a time of anti-gay animus...


You say that as if being Republican was something over which he had no control. It would be more accurate to say he "CHOSE" to be Republican at a time of anti-gay animus.

Listen.. I'm pissed at the democrats too. But Melman is going to have to do a hell of a lot more to make up for the intense harm he and his Republican party has done to their fellow americans who "just happen" to have been gay during a period of intense Repulican fomented anti-gay animus.

Well said Austen.

I don't care if Melhman apologizes. We are adults and we realize how he was infected by religious beliefs that caused him to hide a part of his life or risk retribution. It is encouraging that he (and others) and now more willing to take that risk.

It is more important to see what he does now, than what he has done in the past. Republicans didn't make him do it - religion did. I'm glad he has broken free and is now in a position (and state of mind) to help us.

We need more Melhmans. Embrace them, instead of simply trying to make anti-Republican points in a "game" most of us don't really care about. We care more about equality than Democrats Vs. Republicans. Melhman has made himself more authentic and in the process, more valuable.

We are adults and we realize how he was infected by religious beliefs that caused him to hide a part of his life or risk retribution.

Do you have any proof of this? He never struck me as particularly religious, and Wikipedia says he's Jewish (although it doesn't specify which movement). I was under the impression that he has been out for a long while now to everyone except for the media, considering how many people have called him the biggest open secret in Washington for several years now.

Also notice that he lives in Chelsea, Manhattan. That doesn't seem like the sort of place a troubled, closeted, religious man would live to avoid the temptation of the homosexual lifestyle.

The only thing I see him as "infected" by was career ambition and ideological fervor. Now he doesn't work for the Party anymore and their ideology is no longer dependent on gay-bashing (there are other hobgoblins right now, but they'll come back to us), so he's free to come out.

Alex, thank you for saying this. I'm not interested in any psychological speculation about why he was the way he was, I'm concerned with his actions and how those actions contributed to a hostile legal and social atmosphere for queer and trans peoples.

"Like it or not, our GOP friends are playing for our team. "

Friends... name them? Are you talking about Ann Coulter? Playing how? What team are you talking about... team mainstream gay male Log Cabin member or the entirety of the TBLGQ community? The republican party is on the cusp of going even more towards the ultra-right wing and you're talking about possibly voting for them again?

Oh Pulleeeze Andrew. Religion had nothing to do with it. As Lucrece points out, Mehlman was being a politician. He was using whatever position on whatever issue would get votes for the people paying him, and civility, honesty, integrity, and civil rights be damned. Mehlman's religion is opportunism. He was in the closet because it helped him pay the bills.

I don't have any interest in throwing mud at the guy, but Austen is seriously mistaken if the thinks Ken Mehlman will have any significant influence over the GOP's platform. Ken is now that out gay guy, and the Rethugs are not going to embrace him, they are going to put distance between he and they.

Mehlman knew all along he was gay. This is not something that he came to suddenly realize. That's all horse-shite, and every gay person knows it. He stayed in the closet because he had to in order to keep his job and his influence. But now that his influence has waned, little Kenny can go ahead and come out officially. Good for him, I guess, but don't expect it to have any impact with the GOP. They will quit gay-baiting when it no longer earns them votes, and not a moment before that.

Mehlman is a political has-been not worth nearly the news cycles this is getting. If he weren't, he'd still be pretending to be in the closet.

My question is whether he really is playing for our team. What is he going to do to make a difference?

Angela nBrightfeather | August 29, 2010 3:06 PM

An expose' from Mehlman, outlining exactly how the Republicans and Rove consiously decided to use the lives of GLBT people to parly their way to the White House might be a start. I would love to understand why they thought it was morally correct to influence other people to hate GLBT people and what they needed to be equal. Just exposing that big "turd" Carl Rove and the way he manipulated and planned to play on other people's sense of discrimination and heighten it enough to win the election would put a nail in the Republican plans to do it again in the future.

Lets see the book Mr. Mehlman. Lets see you tell the turth for once so that the American people can see how they were used to create an environment of hate against GLBT people.

Austen conveniently left out some crucial points. Many members of GOProud don't even support ENDA, hate crimes legislation, and other issues because they see them as part of a "leftist special rights agenda". It's no mistake that the ONLY glbt issue Mehlman has spoken in favor of is marriage equality. Ken is following the exact talking points of GOProud/LCR in saying his sexual orientation is only a very small part of his identity - and that issues like conceal/carry gun permits and the 'death tax' are much more important for gays. We are making a very dangerous mistake in aligning ourselves with this guy. For God's sake, he openly financing anti-gay candidates right now. Why are we so desperate to deny reality and cozy up to evil for a few dollars?

I'm not ready to make nice quite yet. I'm glad that Mehlman decided to come out. It's good for him and has the potential to be good for republicans, too. However, his future potential doesn't change his previous actions. Mehlman's current views are akin to offering the LGBT community a band-aid several years after punching us in the face. The policies Mehlman helped craft left millions of LGBT Americans in a weaker position, a position that most are still stuck in today. So I will hold off on calling him an "incredible asset" for LGBTQ rights like the author did and reserve that distinction for people who were working for our benefit, even in risky political and/or employment climates.

And the reason that many in the LGBT community are throwing mud should be obvious, and it has nothing to do with the fact that he is a republican. Maybe we don't like people who are closeted gays hurting those who have the courage to be out. Maybe had he been a marriage advocate when he actually had power and could have changed something, the mud wouldn't be as thick. Maybe he could have just hid in the closet and still spoke out against anti-gay policy. But that didn't happen, and now after the trainwreck of anti-gay amendments that had his seal of approval on them, some question the slinging of mud? I understand it, fully.
Maybe now Mehlman can stop being a puppet and join other republicans and religious people who are smart enough to work for equality, and smart enough not to work against their own interests.

Even if Republicans were pro-gay, I couldn't support them. Their policies on social programs fails and so do their economic policies. The free market doesn't exist, supply side doesn't work, and unemployment insurance is a good thing.

Lots could be said about this, but I'm wondering what you want us to do, Austen. Write nice things about Ken Mehlman? Have a party for him? Invite him to speak at events? I'm sincerely asking, since "welcome" him isn't really all that specific but is the language usually used in these discussions. I always wonder what people have in mind specifically.

Anyway, the only thing I can think of to do is to write nice things about him, which I won't be doing any time soon. He did lots of bad things, and not just to LGBT people. His political campaign put Bush back in office for four years and Bush wasn't just bad for LGBT people, but for pretty much everyone - the working class, the impoverished, people in Iraq and Afghanistan, people accused (but not convicted) of terrorism, the people who couldn't get out of New Orleans before Katrina hit, the Schiavo family, people who got sub-prime loans, anyone who participates in the economy, etc.

Saying he's a stand-up guy right now just because he's gay and not because anything he believes or did strikes me as a bad sort of identity politics where his being gay outweighs everything else that has made him an individual. And I think the gay Republicans would be against that sort of mentality.

I don't see anyone slinging mud at Ken Mehlman; he wallowed in it all by himself. Call this a "republican" value if you wish, but I was raised to believe that people are accountable for their conduct. It is simply not factual to claim that Mr. Mehlman merely "happens to have been Republican at a time of anti-gay animus." He was central to a campaign of cruel intolerance that trickled down from the highest levels of power to fuel the darkest fringes of religulous extremism.

According to religious leaders, the conference calls with White House officials started early in the Bush administration and became a weekly ritual as the campaign heated up. Usually, the participants were Rove or Tim Goeglein, head of the White House Office of Public Liaison. Later, Bush campaign chairman Ken Mehlman and Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition and the campaign’s southeast regional coordinator, were often on the line...The religious leaders varied, but frequent participants included the Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, psychologist James C. Dobson or others from the Colorado-based Focus on the Family, and [Watergate felon turned right-wing Christian extremist Chuck] Colson. (WashPost, Nov 8, 2004)

Countless LGBTQ people have lost their jobs, families, homes, marriages, civil justice and even custody and visitation of their children to the homophobia and transphobia that were cultivated by GOP and neocon strategists during these years. Mr. Mehlman contributed to this atrocity and owes an apology to all who were victimized. If he wishes to move on in his life and put this past behind him, he has a lot of splainin' to do. If he seeks trust within the LGBTQ community, he must earn it.

"But for some other gay people, they do see "equality" as a broader cause." Yeah, because not all of us are rich, white, anglophile, citizen, christian, able bodied cis men. The republican party hates more than just gay people and the cries of rich white dudes to be let in on more rich white dude privilege makes me want to hurl.

"Saying he's a stand-up guy right now just because he's gay and not because anything he believes or did strikes me as a bad sort of identity politics where his being gay outweighs everything else that has made him an individual." Yes, I never did take 'I hate myself too' as an excuse to brutalize others either.

The Republican party is a party based on hate, bigotry and facism and it is beyond salvaging. Yes, I know I said 'facism', but I'm not throwing it around as a meaningless insult. From an online holocaust cybrary(

"Fascism and Nazism as ideologies involve, to varying degrees, some of the following hallmarks:

*** Nationalism and super-patriotism with a sense of historic mission.

*** Aggressive militarism even to the extent of glorifying war as good for the national or individual spirit.

*** Use of violence or threats of violence to impose views on others (fascism and Nazism both employed street violence and state violence at different moments in their development).

*** Authoritarian reliance on a leader or elite not constitutionally responsible to an electorate.

*** Cult of personality around a charismatic leader.

*** Reaction against the values of Modernism, usually with emotional attacks against both liberalism and communism.

*** Exhortations for the homogeneous masses of common folk (Volkish in German, Populist in the U.S.) to join voluntarily in a heroic mission_often metaphysical and romanticized in character.

*** Dehumanization and scapegoating of the enemy_seeing the enemy as an inferior or subhuman force, perhaps involved in a conspiracy that justifies eradicating them.

*** The self image of being a superior form of social organization beyond socialism, capitalism and democracy.

*** Elements of national socialist ideological roots, for example, ostensible support for the industrial working class or farmers; but ultimately, the forging of an alliance with an elite sector of society.

*** Abandonment of any consistent ideology in a drive for state power. "

I'm not a democrat and I'm not defending the dem's spineless, cruel, and biased policies, but really, the republican party is not worth trying to salvage at this point. I look at flirtation with republicanism the way I look at flirtation with other nasty groups, like the Klan, Focus on the Family, etc.. It might not be impossible to reform, but you've got to expect that people will be suspicious of you and put the burden of proving reform on your back.

What I find amazing is the discussion of how “We” should treat someone.

Why take advice on how “We” should treat someone;

“You” should decide how to treat someone.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 30, 2010 2:57 AM

Mehlman was one of the founders of the Teabag wing of the Republican party. He and turdblossom pushed it further and further to the right by promoting union busting, racism, homohating, gynophobia and above all by the invasions and (attempted) occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now that the Teabaggers are openly embracing fascist ideas and appeals perhaps Mehlman sees that if the Teabaggers grow and win (unlikely) he'll have signed his own death warrant.

Mehlman's no more part of our movement than HRC, the Stonewall Democrats, GOProud or the Log Cabin Republicans. We have no friends in either the Democrat or Republican parties. Bothe parties are run by bigots or bigot panderers.

Bill you're an idiot "Mehlman's no more part of our movement than HRC, the Stonewall Democrats, GOProud or the Log Cabin Republicans."

All of those things are part of the LGBT movement, even whack jobs like you have there places.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 30, 2010 11:45 PM

HRC, the Stonewall Democrats, GOProud and Log Cabin Republicans are not part of the movement.

Rather they're front groups for the Democrats and Republicans who use them to promote their partisan purposes which more often than not end up being at the expense of and harmful to the movement.

Understanding that is the first step towards political maturity.

I'm not rejecting Mehlman and I think, yeah he can probably be a political asset. But...

The way his anti-gay past is being rainbow-washed is gross. He didn't just happen to be a Republican...he was the campaign manager of the most anti-gay election campaign ever. And he was the RNC chair during the second most anti-gay election campaign ever. That's not small.

If we just throw our arms around him and give a queer hug, it sends the wrong message. "You can stay in the closet almost your whole life, get successful throwing your own under the bus, and all will be forgiven."

It's also possible to burn bridges by embracing the GOP. We have more coalitions and allies on the left side of the aisle. The HRC has also gotten in trouble for endorsing an anti-abortion, pro-gay GOP candidate. The LGBTQ has always been left of center, not just because Democrats aren't anti-gay, but because queers are themselves more than just LGBT or Q.

Conservatives gays can do their own thing. But I don't see a bridge between us.

Greg Proctor | August 30, 2010 9:40 AM

Mehlman should be rejected outright. His sins are unforgivable. How many lives has he helped destroy? Can that ever be made right? NO. We don't need him and even if we did, it would be a mistake to embrace him. Throw him under the bus just like he did everyone else. Remember the message Ripley reads on Mother's computer in "Alien" - "Crew expendable"? That was Mehlman's mantra in his quest for power. Now, he's chosen a new career path. Big deal. We don't owe him anything, except banishment to a dark, uncomfortable corner where he can contemplate his own obscenity. As a tool of those who have no compunction in using Holy Scripture against people they despise, Mehlman should have no difficulty with Psalm 137 ("By the rivers of Babylon"), which deals with a people exiled and forced to live among their enemies: "Happy shall he be, that repayeth thee/As thou has served us."

Thank you. I have also been "behind enemy lines" so to speak. I think we should build a bridge and not a chasm. A good politician, on either side, knows when and when not to make a bipartisan effort.

The democrats have not exactly been our strongest supporters and having any ally we can is our best bet. We lack numbers as it is. I've seen a few haters bow their heads in shame when confronted and surprised by a nice clean cut representative of LGBT rights. It works wonders.

We should remember, at one time, party politics were divided on racial lines and no politician in their right mind today would make some of the statements made 50-60 years ago. I hope we too will eventually be able to enjoy bipartisan support just as civil rights have by so many degrees. That said, we have a somewhat recent resurgence of racism too which shouldn't be ignored but it would be a shame to also ignore the progress made and not learn from those victories.

Also, like it or not, the news about him will expose the republican haters for who they are and divide them further. It's a divisive issue for them and I'm not too opposed to a divide and conquer. Sure, more criticism of his past will help him come further to our side. Some of you say he participated when anti-gay bias was at its worst, well, that also makes him somewhat brave for coming out in such a hateful environment too. I also think the future is worth noting. I'm not Democrat solely for the LGBT issue either. I believe in a balanced/regulated economy, democratically but untyrannical socialized safety nets and equality for all (that might include "disability" and "mad" rights next after we've had our day)

To some extent, all of us have been hypocrits before we came out.

As someone who came out at 40, I can understand something about the personal conflict he experienced. Before I came out, I have stood by in some situations where I should have spoken out, but my own personal fears of loss held me back.

To be sure, most of us do not have the power to influence lives the way Mehlman has had, but I believe we should welcome him into the LGBT community. We must not embrace only those with whom we agree. By rejecting him, we only make it more difficult for those who are still in hiding.

If we wish to be forgiven for our own failures to speak out when we should have, perhaps we must consider forgiveness of Mehlman. We have all failed at times.

I think you raise a good point, Dr. Loren. Few of us are totally innocent of perpetuating homophobia or transphobia, or at least acquiescing to them, in our closeted past. On the other hand, I'll repeat what I said about personal accountability. Mr. Mehlman is certainly our brother in the queer community, but he remains a brother accountable to countless victims for the deliberate harm he inflicted. Without contrition, there can be no forgiveness.

janiice J carney | August 30, 2010 12:43 PM

this is harsh But I have to belive that if Carl R. offered Ken enough money he would run the glen Beck for President campaign .

Being welcomed is being trusted. Trust, to a great degree, is earned. When he does something to earn that trust, I'll welcome him. Until then, all I see is a history of self-promotion at the cost of our community. When he gets people in "his camp" to start voting on legislation that helps us, or stands against the far-right wing for us, then I'll consider him one of us. Until then, he's still just another anti-gay republican, regardless of his personal orientation.

GraciesDaddy GraciesDaddy | August 30, 2010 1:40 PM

How should we be treating Ken Mehlman?

As a 5th Generation Southerner & Alabamian, I say we have a good ol' fashioned "Whistle Stop Cafe"-style bar-b-que.

"It's hawg boilin' tyyme..." and Mehlman is Frank Bennett; Turd Blossom is Sheriff Smoot. [They eat their own, y'know.]

"The secret's in th' sauce."

MichelleRose | August 30, 2010 1:49 PM

Embrace him? I think not. How many hypocrites have any of y'all embraced lately? Pathological liars? Narcissistic manipulators? None? Just imagine my surprise. Me, neither.

Sure, we'll give him a seat at the table but there's an entry fee: COMPLETE DISCLOSURE. He tells us (and the whole wide world) everything. ALL the dirty tricks. ALL the lies. ALL the behind-the-scenes machinations.

(It's called confession, Kenny. It's good for the soul. Assuming, of course, that you have one.)

He can start with the Plame affair. He must have known about it and some of the details. After that, he might as well spill his guts. What we want is indictable offenses. We want to know where and when he broke the law helping to maintain GOP power. We want to know how he helped others in the GOP break the law. If he helps put some bad guys behind bars, then he gets a conditional pass, one that is instantly revocable. And he'll be on probation more or less for the rest of his miserable life because I, for one, don't trust him any further than I can throw him.

Embrace him? I think not. I don't embrace cowards and liars and hypocrites. I don't embrace someone who has enabled others to damage me and mine. I will not embrace a man who has done as much damage to America as Lee Atwater. (another hypocrite who recanted and was remorseful...on his deathbed. A little late, Lee...)I will not welcome a man who helped create such misery.

But he can be used. Let's use him. Whether or not he should be discarded later should be debated. I will throw no one to the wolves, even a wolf itself. Collar him. Tag him. Watch him carefully. But never never trust him.

Michelle Rose

Having waded thru all the vitriol and bile that your opinion piece has precipitated -- so far -- I would like to say THANK YOU, Austen!

I may not agree with everything you wrote, but I won't put every smarmy action ever been taken by any self-proclaimed Republican on Ken Mehlman's shoulders.

He knows what he's done, in public and private, to advance -- or moderate -- a lot of homophobia in political life. And he knows how to undo some of the damage, if he chooses to do so. What he does in the coming months and years will show what he's made of. I will not rush to condemn him.

Again, thank you.

Seems to me it will take him much more time to "undo" than it took him to "do." I'll be dead by then.

Sorry for you all that Ken doesn't meet your purity standards but it seems to me he is making progress toward redemption. Better late than never. How about your pal Obama, who started as a gay marriage supporter when he was a nobody, but now as president has decided that "God is in the mix," making same-sex marriage too risky. And when his long-time preacher Rev. Wright said stuff that whites considered too radical (without listening to the whole sermon), Obama abandoned him, too. But of course Obama gets a pass for being a political realist, and gays are told to shut up and wait until the second term. Ken's sins of self-loathing, deception, and selfish ambition are in the past. Many of us have a closeted past we're not proud of, either. Lighten up and focus on the Democrats who actually are in power right now and could make a difference.