A Second Act of Service

If you judge a country’s health by the level of trust in its government, the U.S. may be in serious and not particularly stable condition, suggested the Pew Research Center. In a recent analysis of surveys dating to 1958, it found that public confidence in government reached a high of 77 percent in 1964, fell dramatically in the 1970s, recovered modestly in the 1980s and early 2000s, then plummeted to historic lows. Today, Pew reports, just 17 percent of Americans trust the government.

But if democracy is broken, there’s at least one group that might be handy enough to fix it: veterans.

“Over the last 50 years, veterans representation in Congress has fallen from an all-time high of over 70 percent to historic lows of less than 18 percent. At the same time, Congress has become more polarized and is now the least-trusted public institution in the United States,” said Marine Corps veteran Rye Barcott, co-founder and CEO of With Honor Action, a cross-partisan organization whose mission is advancing veteran leadership in elected office. “We don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

When it analyzed congressional voting records, With Honor Action found that Congress tended to collaborate more across party lines when there were more veterans in its ranks. Veterans likewise score higher than nonveterans on The Lugar Center’s Bipartisan Index, which measures how often members of Congress cross the aisle to sponsor or co-sponsor legislation.

“Everybody who has served has shown a proven commitment to putting public interest over self interest,” Barcott continued. “When you serve in the U.S. military, you take an oath to support and defend the Constitution… and potentially even (giving) you life in order to do it. That’s that type of service, frankly, that we need a lot more of in our public institutions.”

Read more of the USA Today article here starting on page 24