I never really thought I’d end up in politics. I had been a fairly active participant in my own politics; however, I never really shared it. It was something like an imaginary friend. We would talk and play around a bit, and then it would vanish. Granted in high school, with the urging of a friend, we held a protest. About what I’m not quite sure. I wrote a play in high school about people disenchanted with the Vietnam War and attempted to draw a heavy-handed parallel to the Iraq War started by ‘W.’
I grew up with a house of Democrats with an auxiliary family of Republicans in a state that seldom makes up its mind. Our senator is Harry Reid, Democratic Majority Leader, who is a polarizing entity unto himself. One of our most celebrated Governor’s is Kenny Guinn (who is a Republican.) As far as presidents go, we voted for Obama, Bush twice and Clinton twice.
Moving to Sioux Falls for college, I graduated from Augustana with a degree in English and Theater. And now I’m working on a Masters of Education. Within a few months of moving back to South Dakota for graduate school, I was thrust into the world of SD politics, the passing of Governor Janklow, the varying sentiments towards Noem, and the sense that South Dakota is doing alright. Democrats argue we can do better, that state government’s priorities are misplaced, that we can get more bang for our buck without painful budget cuts. Republicans defend their policies, pointing to a balanced budget and modest job growth. People on both sides of the aisle are on the defense while simultaneously striking the other. A sort of bob and weave. A match of full contact checkers (or chess if you prefer.)
But after watching the GOP debates and the pundits prognosticate about who will face Obama, I decided to drop the South Dakota Dems a line. Because even though I have a propensity to vote Democrat, I believe that this country will go nowhere if we don’t entertain all viewpoints. And Republican Presidential candidates refuse to do that. That’s why my weight is entirely behind Democrats in 2012. (If you’d like to know why, let’s have a beer, or coffee, or tea, or just water.)
I’ve now started my third week as an intern at the South Dakota Democratic Party. Let me tell ya. It’s glamorous. There are plenty of moments straight out of Aaron Sorkin’s mind—quick jaunts through the office with Chairman Ben Nesselhuf and Legislative Director Zach Crago. The coffee is dismal, but I am rather affectionate towards it. Office Manager Jeff Wilka and I chat about anything.
One of the first days, Zach Crago asked a question I’ve thought about but not sure if I have a succinct answer for. That question is:
Why are you a Democrat?
What do you mean why am I Democrat? I just am okay. So let’s let this fester for a bit. Why are we Democrats? What does “Democrat” mean? In the few days since this question I was struck by a quote of John F. Kennedy:
“If by a ‘Liberal’ they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a ‘Liberal,’ then I’m proud to say I’m a ‘Liberal.'”
I have been fortunate enough in my short time here to meet people who are dedicated to what is ahead. I have heard Matt Varilek speak, interviewed Jeff Barth, attended a Legislative Coffee and eaten lunch at Whiffers with Ben Nesselhuf.
I suppose I’ll end with I am happy to be an intern here. And working towards a country, a state and a Democratic party we all can be proud of. I look forward to interacting with you all in the future. Oh and about the question “Why am I a Democrat?”, well, I think JFK said it pretty well.
Here’s to 2012.
******Jonathon Josten is our unparalleled intern at SDDP headquarters. An Augustana college graduate and current graduate student at the University of Sioux Falls, Jon enjoys writing and theater. Needless to say, politics provide enough theatrical antics to keep him busy.