I've got a confession to make. I'm not sure where to start, so I'm just going to come out and say it: I am a Democrat.

But there's also something else -- I haven't practiced my Democratism for decades. Much like some Protestants and Nones who have never darkened the darkness of a confessional to turn on the light in their hearts, I am still a Democrat. I can almost never vote for Democrats, and I can't participate in their strange ceremonies and platform calls: Yet, I am a Democrat. That's the way it has always been in my family.

We were Catholic, American-Irish and Democrats who voted by rote. It was impossible to assume one of those identities without the others. We were also a union family. Dad and an uncle were union organizers at a meatpacking plant in South Dakota in the 1930s; a brother-in-law was a union official in the '80s, and a brother was a local union president in the '90s. I was a member of the meatcutter's union and the steelworker's union. We were rock-solid Democrats, but ...

Times changed, and so did the party's platform. It changed in ways that longtime party members foretold 35 years ago. The Democratic Party decided in all its infantile wisdom to jump on the wagon of what it perceived as progress, running over established values with a number of divisive social issues. Older party members -- including some who agreed with the party's move -- predicted that farmers, laborers, union members and prolifers would know the bitter taste of deception. But what's a little deception when you can get what you want.

They were right, but the rank-and-file thought dissenters were whacked out and way behind the times. Little did we know then how prescient these old-timers would prove to be. We have seen the nation turned on its head as unions became increasingly controlled by leaders who had never worked a day in a factory, mine, forge, pressroom or schoolroom -- leaders who began trucking in the same social circles as Hollywood stars, corporate heads and political celebrities. They sensed the winds of change and wanted to direct some of the changes, and they used members' dues to fund candidates whom growing numbers of members could never support for reasons that transcended party and union.

In 1972, the Democratic Party began shedding its political skin, revealing its true identify: It was a religion. A religion whose beliefs, while still evolving, would be required of all adherents. Death with dignity, abortion on demand, euthanasia, no-fault divorce, fetal experimentation and homosexual rights became some of the dogmas, or sacraments, of the new political party/religion. All these sacraments are inimical to Christian beliefs and, at that time, caused huge defections from the party.

Abortion was the pivotal issue for many party faithful then and has remained so in every election since, despite the party's efforts to downplay its significance. This is the issue that frames all other issues; it is the number one of number-one issues because it was the first of many aberrant social issues the Democratic Party adopted. But, like union heads, heads of the Democratic Party seem to have little more than contempt for the ideas or positions of moderates among them and can "excommunicate" the unfaithful.

Politicians such as John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Tom Daschle and many others were practicing Catholics years before becoming involved in politics. They knew full well that to put the planks of abortion, euthanasia, partial-birth abortion, same-sex marriage, etc., into building the altar of the Democratic Party would put them at moral odds with their professed Catholicism. But to call the party to question over such extreme issues would be disloyal. Catholic pols understand the seriousness of the party's high priests when they command acceptance of new dogma by all party faithful: The Democrat Religion will brook no dissent. It abides no other God.

The late prolife Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania had this forcefully demonstrated when he was denied the honor of speaking at the opening of the 1992 Democratic Party convention in his own state.

Like Casey, I, too, am a Democrat. I am also a Catholic. But I am a Catholic first and foremost.

As it now stands for me and other moderate Democrats like me, we are outside the wall, displaced political orphans who have no place to go. And we are starving. There is not a scrap of food for thought out here, just as there was no morsel inside. New ideas and old politicians lay scattered about on barren soil, their resolutions for the protection of the unborn and unwanted litter the countryside, fertilizer for a new age; minutia for historians to note with asterisks.

So, for me and for many of thousands of others, the party's over, all over. And the fat lady with the long trunk is ready to sing. I won't dance, but I may tap my foot.


Chuck Lynch is a retired roustabout in Hopkins.