The puzzle of party politics

Okay, I’ve got a poli sci degree, I was a political reporter and I stay fairly up to date. But I evidently have grown or remain blindly (or perhaps happily) ignorant to much of politics.

For the first time in my 36 years as a registered voter, I voted Tuesday as a registered Republican. The reason was simple and certainly not nefarious or Machiavellian. For 24 years I’ve been lucky enough to practice law with Dave Knudson, who was seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Although Dave left our firm at the end of last year to campaign full-time, he is undoubtedly one of the brightest and most astute people I’ve the pleasure to know. My personal experience working with Dave left no doubt about his ability to identify problems and find workable solutions, skills South Dakota desperately needs.

So although a lifelong registered Democrat, earlier this year I registered as a Republican to vote for him in the primary. Don’t be mistaken. Our politics are different and there are issues on which Dave and I disagree. Yet I have always known Dave to consider arguments from all sides. He investigates and considers issues before deciding. I realize many in the GOP may have considered Dave “too liberal.” Yet my still naive heart of hearts tells me we are in dire need of elected officials who base their decisions on considered evaluation, not playing to a particular constituency or the latest partisan bandwagon. Dave is one such person.

Even knowing little of state GOP politics, I figured Dennis Daugaard had the inside track. But to see the scope of his win and where Dave placed in the race seemed to prove that labels may still carry too much weight in political races. Or it could simply be that me voting for a candidate is a kiss of death. (I did not cast votes in the Congressional primary or the legislative races, only for candidates for two county offices I knew were imminently qualified for the position they were seeking — and one of them lost.)

I’ve known Scott Heidepriem longer than Dave. But despite that and the fact more of Scott’s views are probably closer to mine on many issues, I would have voted for Dave in the general election had he prevailed in the GOP primary. That’s how much respect I have for his talents and abilities. And while I don’t doubt that Dennis Daugaard is a good and qualified man, I believe the South Dakota GOP missed the boat yesterday.

There is silver lining for both me and the GOP. I am hopeful that once Dave has some deserved post-campaign R&R, I will again have the fortune of practicing law with him. And South Dakota Republicans need not worry about my name besmirching their rolls. My new change of registration goes out in today’s mail. And lest you think this was just a Democrat just having a bit of fun with the GOP, my disgust with the dominance of partisan politics in our country means I will now be a registered independent.

…there is a wide difference between the politician and the statesman. A politician … is a man who thinks of the next election; while the statesman thinks of the next generation.

James F. Clarke, “Wanted, a Statesman!”, Old and New, Vol. 2

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