If I run for partisan office someday, I run the risk (a small risk in South Dakota) that some party diehard will primary me and beat me up for being a DINO—Democrat In Name Only. "Heidelberger's no liberal!" my fellow Dem will shout. "He used to be a Republican!" Indeed, out will come my old voter registration card and my own narrative of M. Michael Rounds's success in converting me from my youthful abstractions to pragmatic liberalism. My opponent will get friend of the blog Joseph Thompson to repeat his argument that I'm still a conservative, just waiting to come back to my senses, and thud!—I'll be knocked out by some Democratic upstart who wore a McGovern t-shirt in her crib.
I'm not in the 2014 primary, and I'm not a conservative (Joseph, I mean it!). I'd like to be able to say I'm a lifelong liberal, but I can't.
State Senator Larry Rhoden (R-29/Union Center) is in the 2014 primary. He is a conservative... but he's catching the grief I imagine above from State Representative Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton), because Larry, like me, decided he erred in his youth and signed up for the wrong party:
At the top you see Larry Rhoden's first voter registration card, available at the Meade County Courthouse. On April 17, 1978, at the eager age of 19, Larry R. Rhoden registered to vote as a Democrat. He thus had the chance to vote in the 1978 Democratic primary, which offered a choice between Don Barnett and Ken Stofferahn for U.S. Senate; among William Walsh, Bob Samuelson, and Charles J. Bellman for U.S. House District 2; and among John Bohr, Roger McKellips, and Harvey Wollman for Governor (Dems! What fun! Primaries across the ballot!).
At least on paper, Larry labored under the delusions of Democratism even after the defeat of Jimmy Carter and the dawning of the Age of Reagan. Whether he engaged in any nefarious liberal doings during this dark period is anyone's guess. But he performed official repentance on November 25, 1998, when he asked the Meade County Auditor to change his party to Republican.
Larry's Meade County neighbors quickly forgave him this transgression: they graced him with overwhelming wins in the 2000 primary and general elections for District 29 House. He has served that district in Pierre steadily and Republicanly since then.
We were young and stupid when we were young and stupid. I got out of my youthful stupor around age 32; Larry emerged from his just shy of age 40. Do either my or Larry's original party affiliations have any relevance to our current pursuits? Or do we get a little extra credit for choosing our political baptisms as older, wiser adults?