Do We Really Need More Veterans in Congress?

Most Americans can probably agree that when it comes to our representation in Congress, the politicians are far too monolithic. Despite the fact that we now have the most diverse Congress in history, that doesn’t change the fact that unlike our general population, the U.S. House and Senate is overwhelmingly comprised of those who identify as  white, rich, straight, cis male and Christian.

Now Jeff Bezos, the billionaire owner of Amazon, is taking a chunk of his unfathomable wealth and dedicating it to increasing the diversity of our political candidates. Bezos wants to ensure there is a better representation of one group in our federal government: military veterans.

New York Times reports:

[T]wo months before the midterm elections, Mr. Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, are making by far their biggest known campaign contribution to a political group that plays right down the middle. The couple are donating $10 million to the With Honor Fund, a so-called super PAC that supports military veterans running for Congress who vow to take a cross-party approach to governing. The group has endorsed 33 candidates running this year — 14 Republicans and 19 Democrats.

The slate of candidates that With Honor is supporting may be explicitly and equitably diverse politically, but on other demographics it is enormously lacking. Of the 33 candidates endorsed, less than one quarter are female — eight — and the percentage of non-white candidates is even smaller.

With Honor doesn’t seem to see this as a concern, however. Instead, the group claims that they are combating a bigger problem of representation in the Congress: the lack of military experience among current members.

The PAC cites:

Veterans represented more than half of Congress for much of the second half of the 20th Century. Although veterans have declined in the U.S. population, the decline of veterans in Congress has been far more rapid. Today, veteran representation in Congress is near a historic low at 19 percent.

With Honor calls that a problem, but is it really?

Veterans in Congress, too, have been overwhelmingly male, white and Republican, and they’ve marched us into military skirmish after military skirmish, stripped our privacy under the guise of national security and rebuked attempts to close Guantanamo Bay or end so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is stuffed to the gills with former military commanders and generals to an increasingly alarming point.

Is it a good idea to add even more military people to this mix?

There’s no doubt that Congress needs to be more diverse to represent the American body. When one-third of Americans identify as non-religious, it is ridiculous that the number of non-religious members of Congress can literally be counted on one hand. Despite the U.S. population being 50 percent female, Congress hovers at a mere 20 percent. Nearly 40 percent of Americans are non-white, yet only 19 percent of Congressional politicians are. The median net worth of each congressperson is at over half a million in assets, whereas the median net worth for a non-politico doesn’t even reach $100,000.

Yet billionaires like Bezos are supporting an effort that claims to be making Congress look more like the rest of the population, despite the fact that the initiative would primarily put more power into the hands of the rich, male and white.

There is a massive problem with representation in Congress, but it’s not one that can be addressed by people like Bezos — because they are only exacerbating it.

We will get more diverse members in Congress when endless amounts of dark money isn’t flooding our political campaigns thanks to Citizens United. We will get more diversity when we put limits on how much a campaign itself can spend in an election, evening the playing field for those who do not come from generations of wealth and political power. We will get diversity when we fight against gerrymandering and voter ID laws to ensure every population has equal access to the ballot box — including felons who have served their sentences. We will get diversity when we stop believing the best candidate is the one who can self finance, concentrating political power in the same hands that already are overflowing with economic privilege.

But in the meantime, no, we don’t need more veterans in Congress. When it comes to diversity, there are far more important groups to promote.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

49 comments

no M
no M2 months ago

No.

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Loredana V
Loredana V2 months ago

Interesting debate, we haven't veterans here and I wasn't informed. Thank you (commenters, too)

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Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga2 months ago

thx

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Julie W
Julie W2 months ago

No David, it doesn't, but it seems to matter to many Republicans.

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David F
David F2 months ago

Julie W. quote: "If you have predominantly white, Christian males in Congress, how can they possibly"...
Skin color matters to you.

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Mary B
Mary B2 months ago

Yeah we need more veterans in congress, but not if they're aligned with the republican party since they do nothing for working class people, the poor or the elderly. There is plenty of diversity already in the lower income levels. Unfortunatly too many of them don't vote for a variety of reasons, and also probably would not think they could run for congress. Kids need to start early to learn to vote, why it matters and what the core values of the 2 major parties are.

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Brian F
Brian F2 months ago

We need more progressives in Congress like Tulsi Gabbard, Ocasio Cortez, and Bernie Sanders. What we don't need are these Republicans and corporate fake Democrats who have sold the country out to Wall Street and corporations.

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Julie W
Julie W2 months ago

"You expose racism when you tell all that people of a certain skin color cannot manage politics. " I haven't a clue what this is supposed to mean. It doesn't make grammatical sense. BTW, the US 'accepts' people, not excepts. You need to proofread more carefully befoer you post!

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David F
David F2 months ago

Julie W. The melting pot is this country that excepts people from all over the world that many times hate each other and blend them into one united force with common goals and interests.
You expose racism when you tell all that people of a certain skin color cannot manage politics.

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Julie W
Julie W2 months ago

Oh, and "The success of the US is it's melting pot? The melting pot is made up of a diverse population, so this comment makes no sense. (Not unusual!)

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