Public trust in Congress and our legislative process in this country has been trending downward over decades of perceived incompetence of our legislators. In fact, according to a poll by Gallup done in 2017, public trust in Congress was only 12% and that was up from the previous year! Rarely do legislators reach across the aisle to work in the common interest of all Americans. Instead what we have witnessed over time is increasing and disastrous partisan brinkmanship which destabilizes our country on a regular basis. So, is the process broken or do the bureaucrats at the helm of our Congress bear the blame?
In an Op-Ed written for Time Magazine, Rye Barcott and Jake Wood, argue that the current ineffectiveness of our Congress can be directly linked to the decline in Veterans serving in office. Rye Barcott is Co-Founder and CEO of With Honor, a PAC founded to provide support to Veterans running for office, and Wood serves on its Advisory Board. They cite that the current 19% of Veterans in Congress represents a near all-time low. For much of the 20th Century, Veterans constituted nearly half of all representatives. They argue, “lawmakers who have served in the military often have a special sense of duty and an uncommon ability to reach across party lines and get things done. Veterans often put principles ahead of both party and self-interest.”
Veteran’s experience in defending the Constitution above all other political affiliation is what makes them ideal candidates to serve in office and effectively accomplish bi-partisan compromises. “Recent research by the Lugar Bipartisan Center and a team led by a West Point political scientist suggests that veteran lawmakers in Congress have historically acted in more cross-partisan ways than their non-veteran counterparts.” While data suggests that having more Veterans in Congress has been a net positive for America, it may not be as simple as picking a winning candidate. This is where PACs like With Honor come in.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle for any candidate to conduct an effective campaign is the high cost of running one.
“During the past twenty years, the average cost of a Congressional race has quadrupled. Furthermore, veterans, having lived outside of their home districts during their military service, often settle outside their home areas of origin, and often don’t have access to affluent fundraising and political circles.”
Having these PACs breaks down the funding and influence wall for new candidates and levels the playing field against the career politicians with massive media machines and far reaching connections.
When we look at the next generation of conservative leadership in Congress, rising stars like Dan Crenshaw, former SEAL and Republican Congressman from Texas, give great hope to the potential of these organizations in shaping Congress. Barcott & Wood said it best: “We have both observed first-hand next-generation veterans leading with integrity, civility, and courage, including the courage to work across the aisle…Are America’s best days behind us? Not if this group of next-generation veterans has the opportunity to serve again.”
The numbers of veterans represented in political office have seen a corresponding downturn. Currently, those with military experience make up about 39 percent of Congress. This is a stark differential from the 1970s peak of over 80 percent represented in Congress seats. Read more here.