In late June, Clarence Kooistra surprised many people by announcing that after 47 years as a Republican, he would be leaving the party that he had been inspired to join by Dwight David Eisenhower and join the Democratic Party. I would imagine that at this point, a single question is on the mind of most Kossacks:
Just who the hell is Clarence Kooistra?
Find out below.
Clarence Kooistra is my state Senator
. I'm from rural South Dakota (District 25 to be exact), and Mr. Kooistra was my high school government teacher. He was also our town's high school football coach, and as a former Marine, he ran a program marked by strict discipline and "tough love." It was also a program that produced many state championships and elevated him to the status of a local legend in my small, rural town of 1,100 residents. Shortly after I graduated from high school, he retired from teaching and ran for public office, winning a seat in the South Dakota House of Representatives as a Republican in 1996.
He was then subsequently elected to the state Senate in 2002.
In February of 2006, the state of South Dakota enacted a now-infamous ban on abortions, which outlawed the practice in almost all cases, including those involving rape and incest. Senator Kooistra, a longtime pro-life activist (and a member of South Dakota Right to Life) voted against the bill because he was concerned about the fact that no exemptions were made for these two specific circumstances.
Consequently, he was scorned by members of his own party and ultimately ended up losing his primary election on June 6th. Following this, the South Dakota Republican Convention (which met in late June) adopted a resolution supporting the ban. Senator Kooistra described this as "the straw that broke the camel's back" and officially broke his ties with the Republican Party.
Now, if you're wondering why I'm bothering to regale you with this tale of local politics that has absolutely no effect on the lives of anybody outside of South Dakota's 25th State Congressional district, I'm leading to a question. I've known "Clare" (as we've affectionately called him in my hometown) for decades. He has always been a straight-laced, hard-nosed conservative. He's voted for bans against nude dancing in South Dakota. He's sided with the National Rifle Association on almost all of the issues that they consider important. And, perhaps most importantly to this story, he's always been a staunch pro-life legislator, except (of course) in cases of rape or incest.
So here's the question: What does it say about the state of the modern Republican party when a man like Clarence Kooistra is considered "too liberal" for them? Conversely, what does it say when Kooistra considers the Republicans too extreme for him? Perhaps the activities of the South Dakota Republican Party don't mean a whole lot on the national level, but as somebody familiar with the situation and the people involved, this party-leap is something that I never thought I would see in a million years.
What have your local Republicans been up to lately?