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Quicksand Campaigner

Daniel Viehland

Daniel Viehland in the neighborhood where he used to walk door to door campaigning for Obama

By Anne Clausen

Daniel Viehland is the kind of guy who is excited to vote in a local election – even if the mayor is running unopposed. He is the kind of guy who will campaign door to door for Barack Obama and walk away satisfied if his efforts only yield political discussion.

“I really like democracy,” the20-year-old University of Montana student said a year after Obama won the election.

Viehland’s red hair was slightly disheveled as he walked through the same neighborhood he canvassed for Obama. He was wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a coat hanger on it and “Don’t let this become plan B. Vote NO on C 102” written on it.

In August of 2008, Viehland moved to Missoula, Mont. from his native state of Arizona. It was his freshman year and he was eating at a Pita Pit with his mom when someone from the Obama Campaign walked in and talked to them.

Viehland went to the campaign headquarters after dinner and signed on as a volunteer.

“I am just a complete and total politics dork,” he said.

He was no stranger to campaigning or politics, having grown up in a political household.  Viehland described his mom as “an old school feminist” who volunteered at Planned Parenthood on a regular basis.

He joined the student council in the seventh grade and later campaigned for Get Out the Vote, the John Kerry campaign and against Arizona’s proposition 200, all while he was still too young to vote himself.

But for Daniel Viehland, politics is about more than issues, it is about values and what he considers to be fundamental fairness. He describes himself as a values voter who gets riled up over issues like lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’s rights, abortion and the environment.

“A lot of it is my faith,” he says.

His childhood church was very politically active and put a huge emphasis on social justice, preaching that the most important message in the Bible was love and inclusiveness. The church had a huge LGBT following and from a young age Viehland had many gay friends and a gay church mentor.

Discrimination against gays is an issue that affects him deeply, to a point where he describes it as almost something physical. “It appalls me, it’s painful,” he explained.

But it is not just his religious views that have affected his political activism. He says he grew up as a “weird kid” suffering from Tourette Syndrom, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. He could recite the entire Gettysburg Address by the third grade but would forget to put on random articles of clothing before leaving his room in the mornings.

“It is part of the reason inequality affects me so much. I know what it’s like being at the receiving end of discrimination, at the receiving end of being made fun of,” he said.

Obama’s campaign over, Viehland is now a campus organizer for Students for Choice, a community organizer for Montana Equality Now, and secretary of the College Democrats.

He says political activism is like quicksand to him, it keeps sucking you in deeper.

“It’s not an option for me not to do something,” he said.

Casting for a Candidate

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One Comment leave one →
  1. MUtayaR permalink
    December 1, 2009 11:35 pm

    Daniel is an AMAZING guy. I have always been awed by his innate ability to care about everything. I have a theory that if you ask Daniel ‘what’s going on?’ he can recite at least three or four things ‘you should attend’ this week—most of which he planned or helped plan. If I want the student body to know about an event on short notice, I call Daniel. Overall he’s simply an organizing rockstar (hair band) on steroids.

    Thanks for being a model citizen, Daniel!

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