It’s a common misconception among military spouses that they cannot get involved in politics.
Sometimes it’s because of logistics – after all, we are never in one place for very long. And sometimes it’s because of the preconceived notion that as the spouse of a service member we should not outwardly stand for one political party or another since our views can be seen as a reflection of those of our spouse. Although your service member is bound by the Universal Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and other federal regulations concerning political activity, spouses of service members are not held to the same rules. Therefore, any military spouse can get out there and get involved in politics if they have the desire.
How to Get Involved
Many military spouses who love politics feel as though they aren’t able to get involved because of their nomadic lifestyle. How is it possible to align yourself with the needs of a community when you’re barely there long enough to know where the nearest Target with a Starbucks is located?! Luckily, social media and internet access make it possible to connect with a campaign or a project even when you are across the country (or the ocean!).
There are two major ways to get involved in politics: volunteer or career. Volunteering for a political campaign or project can mean many different things. You could be knocking on doors and making phone calls to those in your (or the candidate’s) local area. You could be working behind the scenes on research, development, and social media. If it is election season you may be able to find opportunities in your local voting office or your local party office. Many commands also have a voting assistance officer, so be sure to check with them about any opportunities they may know about.
If you are interested in more of community outreach program projects rather than campaigns there are opportunities for you, too! Volunteers are often asked to sit on community boards like the school board or city planning boards to help bring insight from those in the surrounding community. Even though military families often do not have a long-term stake in their current direct community, civic boards often like to hear insight from military families because of their vast knowledge and experiences in different locations.
Getting involved in politics as a career may seem a bit more lofty of a goal, and seemingly unattainable to many military spouses. However, it can be done! The best way to get started in a career in politics is to start networking. Branch out to your local party offices or attend local community service events. Check out local campaign managers via LinkedIn or other professional networking sites, and contact them to inquire about positions available.
Why You Should Get Involved
As military families it can often be frustrating when seemingly “better” regulations and policies from Washington trickle down to service members- mostly because these “better” regulations are just the opposite for those who they affect the most. The representatives who make these decisions often have little to no experience serving in the armed forces. Therefore, they have no basis to make coherent decisions on what is best for the military family. So who should take there place as the voice for this very important population of the American people? You!
Military spouses have all been put in a place where they need to advocate for their service member. Spouses have stood beside their service member knowing they would still have to perform their duties during a government shut down with no paycheck in sight. We have listened to talks of commissaries shutting down, wondering how we could afford groceries if that happens. Spouses have sat in VA offices for hours, arguing with doctors and praying that their service member gets the treatment they need. We have watched as our loved ones walk onto that ship or that plane, hoping that the government they stand for will stand for them, and care for those left behind.
There is no better voice for the military family than the military spouse.
Every spouse has unique experiences in how this lifestyle affects the military family. With those experiences brings a great deal of insight into what military families need from the government and what harm can come from some of the policies handed down. Only a spouse can relay to Congress what it can mean to hike up prices at the commissary. Only a spouse can truly convey to the Senate how the families of Wounded Warriors suffer under the current VA system. Only a military spouse knows what it is really like to be a military family.
One amazing resource for getting involved in politics is a non-partisan initiative called Homefront Rising. Homefront Rising, along with the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN), helps to empower and encourage military spouses who wish to be involved in politics. They offer seminars and forums to help educate spouses on how to become the voice in the political office and how to enact real change in policies that are important to military families. They want military spouses to be the representatives in the House, the Senate, and on local levels so that military families’ voices can be heard.
Stories of Inspiration
Military spouses often think that it’s impossible to get involved in politics, either at the local level or a national level, because of their service member’s career. However, many military spouses have succeeded in having a career in politics. Just take the few military spouses below who have campaigned and served while married to an active duty service member:
Governor Nikki Haley– Haley is the current governor of South Carolina, and an Army National Guard Spouse.
Mayor Anita Dingler– Dingler is the Mayor of Holly Ridge North Carolina, and a Navy Spouse.
Jocelyn Benson– Dean at Wayne State University in Michigan, and an Army Spouse.
If this election season has taught us anything, it is that there needs to be voices in politics who can stand up for military families.
There are no better voices than those closest to the service members- the spouses. It is our civic duty to be involved in our communities, and as military families we have the privilege of being involved in several different ones over the years. These experiences can help to form a unique understanding of the needs of military families in different facets and areas, giving military spouses a prominent voice for those who have given their all to serve their country. The best thing we can do to ensure that military families are represented properly is to be the voice.