Getting active — glamour and grunt work: Young Democrat


by Matthew Smith, 4/16/08 • Three Sixty • Since my junior year, I’ve always been a part of my school’s Young Democrats. Coming from a working class family in St. Paul, I’ve always been told to support the little guy and that the Democratic Party did this. Going to meetings was the extent of my political involvement.

This blog was written for Three Sixty, a youth journalism program based at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is reprinted with permission from Three Sixty.

This year, I felt I needed to do more. In my AP Government class, we were learning exactly how the political process worked. I had always thought that people just went into a booth, filled in a bubble, and then the votes were counted. I was greatly wrong and greatly intrigued. To top this off, I heard over and over how important the upcoming election was. There are issues I cared about, like lowering college costs, getting out of Iraq and reforming health care. As a first-time voter, I would be able to make my voice heard.

A spark was ignited in class. Then my class went to see the Iowa caucuses in Mason City, Iowa, and the spark turned into a flame. I knew that I wanted to be part of this great election process.

Both Al Franken and Barack Obama represented my views. Both have spoken out on helping out with college costs, getting out of Iraq, and drastically changing the health care system. I had found my candidates.

I started by helping the Franken campaign make phone calls to get people out to Minnesota’s precinct caucus. My next step was attending the rally with Obama at the Target Center. Once again, seeing the huge turnout, I knew I was a part of something great. I was pumped, excited, and ready to go to my caucus.

After making it past the huge registration line, I cast my first vote. I was about to leave when my former history teacher told my group of friends to go back inside and wait for the business to begin. Feeling pressured we obliged.

A man approached us while they were choosing delegates to the next convention.

“We could really use some young people to represent us!” he said. We couldn’t even ask what it meant to be a delegate before he whisked us to the front as the crowd applauded their young delegates.

Weeks later, my friends and I attended the five-hour district convention. Thinking it would be no longer than two hours, we sat bored and starving, blind to the process and trying hard to figure out exactly what we were doing.

I noticed that people were holding packets and found out they contained the agenda and the ballot. By the time I found the table with the packets, all that was left were newspaper-sized, large-print packets for the visually impaired, a testament to my blindness about the process.

That Saturday, I listened to many different people speak about many different issues. They were all in the same party yet they seemed so different. I got a greater understanding of where I stood while I took in the sights and sound bites.

I have now seen the glamour and the grunt side of the election process, but that hasn’t stopped me. If it weren’t for my graduation ceremony being the same day, I would be going to the next convention. I loved this process no matter how long and boring it could be, and I hope to remain politically involved.