Breaking the gridlock
For most voters under 40, there has never been a time when Washington DC, or most likely their state government, was not embroiled in nasty partisanship. Until just recently it’s seemed we were never going to break out of this vicious cycle and it really seemed like we hit the bottom when Trump was elected. Now it seems to finally be changing.
And who better to lead the charge than a young crop of new candidates, men and women, from both parties with one thing in common. They are all veterans.
It wasn’t always this way
The current percentage of veterans in congress is at an all time low, just 19%. In the 1970’s, 75% were veterans, many of the Greatest Generation from WWII. They were in both parties and were able to come together to get the country through some very troubling times (Watergate) and produce great legislation (EPA).
It wasn’t until 2012 was there a Presidential Election where neither candidate was a veteran. Many believe the breakdown in Congress and politics is directly related to the small number of elected veterans. You only have to look at the few voices of reason (not always, but often) coming from the Republicans are voices of veterans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Again, not always but on the big issues where democracy is threatened, they are at the forefront.
What is it about veterans?
Data suggests just being a veteran does not help winning elections, and veterans who run as Democrats have done a little worse than their opponents, but that is changing. Since Trump has been elected and has wrought havoc and chaos in Washington, the laws of political physics have returned: For every bad action there is an equal or greater good reaction.
Today’s veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are returning from the battlefield with deep reservations about the direction of the country. While they are conflicted about the outcomes of Iraq and Afghanistan, they are not conflicted about their service and the time spent in combat or in support of combat.
In fact, it’s their experiences from military service that have perfectly prepared them for politics in today’s starkly divided system. Consider the veteran victories we’ve already seen: Tammy Duckworth, Tulsi Gabbard, and Seth Moulin. They have broken through the gridlocked walls of Congress and are reaching out to more like minded veterans such as Max Rose (D) running in the Republican leaning 11th District on Staten Island and Amy McGrath a retired F-18 Marine pilot running as a Democrat in Kentucky’s 6th District. Let’s not forget Conor Lamb who recently won a major upset in western Pennsylvania’s special election in a district that went for Trump by 20 points. These veterans are just a tiny sample of the 300 veterans running in this election cycle. There’s Dan McCready (D) in the NC 9th, a district that’s been held by a Republican since 1963, Dan Feehan (D) in MN’s 1st district and Joseph Kopser (R) TX-21st.
What they all have in common
All of these veterans are trained to complet their mission. Nowhere is there room for petty backbiting or back stabbing. They are trained to identify a problem, analyze it and act quickly by building teams to engage in chaotic environments, sort out the problems and fix what can be fixed. There is no room for ego, no room for racism or discrimination and no room for bullshit.
In the end though veterans choose a political party. The Democratic veterans are running against a Republican Party that has abandoned the middle and working class with it’s fallacy of trickle down economics. Republican veterans know this too and will act in a bipartisan fashion to end this problem. Surely there will be some issues for Democrats to bend on as well, but when all parties are on the same general page, everyone wins.
That’s why With Honor, a “cross-partisan” organization that aims to “help elect principled next-generation veterans in order to solve our biggest problems and fix a Congress that is dysfunctional is working to elect veterans. They are looking for veterans in both parties who can pledge to maintain integrity by always speaking the truth and put the public interest first. This includes returning money from groups/persons who turn out to be tainted and to use the power of their office only for their constituency, not some outside group like the NRA. They pledge also to respect their colleagues, focus on solving problems and work to bring civility back to politics by rejecting and seek to remove any negative ads attached to their campaign and will attend and participate in a cross-partisan veterans caucus. Finally they will defend the rights of all Americans and have the courage to collaborate across the aisle and find common ground by meeting with someone from the opposing party one on one at least once a month and join with colleagues on both sides of the aisle on at least one piece of major legislation each year and co-sponsor additional pieces.
Democratic veteran candidates are proud to be Democrats. They want Democrats to be Democrats again and by that they mean that government does have a role in this country and be bold about it. To not be afraid to say if the working class has a problem, it’s the role of the government to fix it.
The system, the government only works when you fill it with people who are willing to work. This is not the case now but it can be if we elect enough like minded veterans and non-vets who can agree to agree at least half the time.
These candidates are a good first step.