By Tanner Mantel
Election Day has passed, allowing most of the population to put politics out of their mind. This can’t be said for Jan Stewart, who won’t quit talking politics just because the election is over.
A native resident of Eau Claire, Stewart began her involvement in politics by protesting the Vietnam War on the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire campus. Since then she has continued to stay active by attending political events, and working on Presidential Campaigns.
“I was 17 and my husband – fiancée, at the time – had been drafted,” Stewart said. “He understood that we weren’t protesting the soldiers, but the violence of the war.”
Stewart also found support in her father. As a veteran of World War II he had his concerns about his daughter being a part of the protest, but understood her cause.
The protests mostly took place on the college campus, but also occurred across town in Carson Park as well as downtown.
Stewart recalls that each event was seldom physically violent. Conflict came from the people who didn’t think they should be protesting. These were usually older people who didn’t see eye to eye with the younger crowd of protesters.
Stewart’s fiancée served in the war for three years and when he returned in 1969, they married. A couple years later, she began working on presidential campaigns. She has been involved with the Democratic Party of Eau Claire ever since. Her job mostly consisted of making phone calls on behalf of the presidential candidates. Some of the people she called were equally passionate about politics.
“The phone calls were enjoyable when people were willing to listen and talk about different ideas,” Stewart recalls. “It was difficult when people would yell at me because I had to stay calm.”
Stewart was able to ignore most of the negative people she talked to, knowing that to keep the job she had to be level headed.
Beginning with a small amount of work on former President Jimmy Carter’s campaign, Stewart has worked on every presidential campaign since them – except for the most recent. Politics have gotten very harsh, and Stewart found that it was best to sit out of this race. She participated from the sidelines, attending different political events instead.
Another part of her job included walking door to door to talk to people. She used to enjoy it, but as the years went on people began to get more and more heated about politics. Today Stewart does not think that campaigning door to door is something that she would enjoy. The recent election featured two radically different belief systems, oftentimes making the supporters of each side unpleasantly heated, Stewart believes.
“Being screamed at over the phone is one thing, but it’s completely different standing face to face with someone where anything could happen,” Stewart said.
One of Stewart’s good friends, Lynn Stremcha, shares in her passion for politics. Though they have never worked together on a campaign, Stremcha has close experience with Stewart’s work. She experienced her hard work on John Kerry’s campaign and the two also attended an event in celebration after Barack Obama was elected President.
Since they have seen a lot happen politically over the years, they both have a lot to say about the 2016 election and the battle that occurred between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
“We’re excited that our gender might finally be represented in such an important position,” Stremcha said.
Before the results of the election, Stremcha said that she and Stewart would talk a lot about Trump’s reaction if Clinton won. They were upset that he might undermine her success and make something that should be exciting very ugly.
After the election, Stewart was disappointed with Trump’s victory and what it might mean for the future of America.
“We would like to see the country move forward and become accepting, but it’s disappointing that there are steps being taken backward,” Stremcha said.
These days Stewart continues to stay active in politics by attending political functions, watching debates, and attending election night parties. She has also volunteered as a driver in order to get people to the polls who might not be able to go without transportation.
Stewart does not foresee herself working on any more Presidential Campaigns, but will continue to be an active voice in the near future.