Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Considering the rank partisanship of modern American politics, the bipartisan mourning of Sen. John McCain feels like something from a different era. His broad-based appeal is partly due to his centrist politics but primarily his unique background as a Naval aviator and prisoner of war speaks to voters’ collective memory. He was a rare politician who could speak of duty, honor, and sacrifice without a hint of postmodern irony.
Veterans used to be commonplace on Capitol Hill, but today they’re an endangered species. Using statistics compiled by the non-partisan Brookings Institution, I graphed the decline of servicemembers in the Congress and Senate over the past 50 years.
In the 1970s, more than 80 percent of Senators and 75 percent of Congressman had military experience. Today, only about 20 percent of either chamber are veterans. Precious few modern politicians were willing to put their lives on the line to serve the nation, especially when it might interfere with an Ivy League degree or a robust bank account.
This trend is disturbing to us veterans but it should disturb all citizens. The most important votes a Senator or Representative will ever cast involve matters of war and peace. To have a political class so divorced from the life-and-death consequences they inflict upon others is a bad omen for the future of representative government.
Perhaps more distressing is the lack of those unfashionable values — duty, honor, sacrifice — that empowered our greatest leaders to achieve our greatest victories.