INTERN CORNER: My Kentucky Democratic Journey
About this time eight years ago, I first fell profoundly in love with politics. For the longest time prior to that, I was a kid who simply enjoyed history and its great figures—chief among them being our own U.S. Presidents. I can still remember how, when I was only three or four years old, I would carry around a placemat that played host to images of the presidents that I had picked up from some untouched, forgotten shelf in Wal-Mart. While other children my age were fascinated with whatever animated show their televisions happened to have landed on, I was busy memorizing those then-42 figures, reciting them to whomever happened to be sitting closest to me.
Eventually, I upgraded to an electronic device that had the presidents on it, a machine that looked like an ancient pre-cursor to a modern-day tablet. I’d sit and listen to its robotic voice as it expounded on how John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas on November 22nd of 1963 and how Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached, recounting those same facts to my peers (most of whom could care less).
It wasn’t until I was eleven, however, that I realized just how exciting politics are—after all, they are really just living history. The 2008 presidential election was the first time that I actually paid attention to an in-progress campaign, and I knew from the get-go exactly who I would support: then-Senator Hillary Clinton. I followed the election relentlessly, even getting my dad to check me out of school in order to see Bill Clinton—one of the men emblazoned on that old placemat of mine—speak in Frankfort about the need to elect Hillary Clinton.
Once the primaries concluded and my candidate had lost, I shifted my support to Barack Obama, as I knew that it was imperative that a Democrat be elected to the nation’s highest office. That election caused me to realize that the Democratic Party was where I fit in, ideologically. It was my home. Those values that Democrats stand for are the ones that I knew just inherently made sense. After all, throughout American History, Democrats have been the ones who have always fought for progress.
At present, it still remains clear that Democrats are the ones on the forefront of progress, continuing to fight for those who have been marginalized by society. The current presidential election makes that fact even more evident. While it may sound as if I’m preaching about fire and brimstone, I do not hesitate to say that Donald Trump is the greatest threat to our republic of any candidate ever nominated by a major political party.
Never before has it been so crucial for Democrats to stick together than it is right now. If we fail to unite, then we risk losing so much more than one presidential election. If we elect a man who discusses how he abjures the press and wishes to open up libel laws, then we could lose the very notion of a free and informative press. If we elect a man who wishes to deport 11 million people and ban an entire religious group from setting foot on American soil, then we risk losing our very humanity. It is at that point that the idea of America being a land open to anyone—regardless of race or religion—meets its downfall. If the American experiment is to continue on for posterity, then we mustn’t allow the once-unthinkable to happen: electing Donald Trump, an authoritarian in every possible way.
It is because of that reason, among others, that I decided to come and intern for the Kentucky Democratic Party this summer. It was the least I could do to try and ensure that Kentucky—the bastion of Southern Democrats—keeps fighting to remain blue. The moment that we get discouraged from participating in politics is the moment that progress dies, as there will be no one left to take up for it.
As a matter of fact, that’s the important message that I’d like people to understand: No matter what level of government it is that one wishes to impact, it is crucial that informed citizens at least attempt to impact it. Whether it is volunteering for a large campaign for federal office or simply canvassing for a local mayoral candidate, all political action is necessary and worthwhile. After all, those who are opponents of progress thrive on political inaction, as it is the main way that regressive policies are enacted. If people who support progress don’t take part in the political process, then agents of regression easily seize control, making it all the more difficult for headway to be made. The onus is on us to make certain that future generations have it a little easier than we did. Only then can we be proud of ourselves for making genuine, tangible progress.
For that reason, I don’t intend for this internship to be my final foray into politics. In a world full of uncertainty and burgeoning political problems, the best way to ensure that our republic stays robust and vibrant is through a politically active citizenry. This creed is one that I expect to follow for my entire life, as the best way for one to affect change is to be a part of whatever it is one desires to change.
Now, that old placemat of mine that I first used to memorize the presidents over a decade ago is framed in my room. Its edges are tattered and its lamination is torn up in places, displaying just how the years have treated it. Its informative importance has been drastically diminished, as it is now significantly outdated; the last portrait to be featured on it is that of President Bill Clinton. Its importance now, however, is largely a symbolic one. It serves to remind me not only of my past and what was important to me, but also of what will be my passion in the decades to come.
Many of the men on that placemat conceived the idea of an America that was better than it had been—for the most part, they saw the actualization of their dreams. America is not perfect, but it is great and unique in that it never ceases improving. With every successive generation, we come closer to achieving the more perfect union that we so greatly desire. Each new generation spawns new ideas, new energy, and a renewed effort to make America a place that is more open and accepting than once it were. That effort to support and defend the rights of all is one that has been at the core of the Democratic Party for the past century, which is why I am proud to say that I am a Democrat.
Cameron B. Newton is a rising sophomore at the University of Kentucky, and a current Summer Intern at the Kentucky Democratic Party. In his free time, he enjoys watching baseball and clinging to his tragic Cleveland Cavaliers fandom. He is a native of Frankfort, KY. Opinions expressed in this piece are his alone, and not necessarily the official positions of the Kentucky Democratic Party.