Are they the several prominent local Democratic politicians who chose not to associate themselves with the Citizens’ Candidate movement for fear of hurting their own political future? Are they the Utah Democratic pundits who are fed up with Matheson’s voting record in Congress, with his refusal to meet with his constituents (unless they have Big Money), with his neutralizing and ill-thought-out responses to questions about health care and other Democrat-supported bills currently in Congress, with his (and his staff’s) disingenuous explanations as to why more than 50 percent of his 2008 campaign contributions came from the health-care industry and pharmaceuticals? Are they the Utah Democrats who really believe that being “pragmatic” (Holland’s term for Matheson) means voting against all progressive social justice bills—in order to appease one’s Republican constituents?
Really? I call this myopic concern with one’s own political future short-term thinking. It has no claim to the fight for real progress. I call this type of centrist “pragmatism” cowardice. I say that people who endorse the status-quo party line are anesthetized by the platitudes that pass for Democratic Party discourse in Utah. I say that calling Matheson more liberal than right-wing Republicans Bishop or Chaffetz is an insult to people in Utah who are still believing in the promise of social change we knew under FDR, Kennedy and Johnson—who still believe in the promise of social change lived and died for by our history’s most courageous activists: the Suffragists, the civilrights marchers, the women’s movement pioneers, the health-care reformers, the climate-change civil-disobedience demonstrators. All of these reformers were called “crazy,” naively optimistic—or worse—when they started. Where would we be today without them?
I call Claudia Wright a person of stature, one who has the courage to stand up for what she believes and act upon it, taking in stride the naysayers’ disillusionment, “neutrality,” and even scorn. As I heard her say at a Citizens’ Candidate meeting the other night: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”
Salt Lake City