By Graham Glover –
I really don’t understand it. As much as I witness the popular myth play out in electoral politics, it makes no sense to me. The popular myth is this: Republicans support the military more than Democrats. Hence, those in the military vote Republican.
But I don’t know why those in the U.S. Armed Forces, especially among the Officer Corps, typically self-identify and vote for conservative candidates. This is not an indictment of such voting. Yours truly pulls the lever for conservatives as well (typically on social issues). Yet I remain perplexed why those who are part of an organization that loves its universal health care, embraces communal living – with fixed housing costs, is first among most government agencies to enforce social change, and rewards its employees with a generous pension plan (with NO financial contribution on the employees part), vote for conservative candidates.
Don’t misinterpret me. I’m not suggesting those in the military can’t or shouldn’t support conservatives, I just don’t understand why they are blind to what appears to be the liberal utopia they represent.
Take health care. With the exception of a few dental procedures, my family has not paid one deductible or one co-pay for the past 6 ½ years. Sure, we have to wait in long lines and have limited choice in what doctor to see, but our health care costs have literally been $0 since the day I joined the Army. This is the case for every Active Duty Soldier and their dependents. But to even suggest that those serving should incur some of their health care costs is tantamount to heresy, punishable by “death”. The irony is that many of the same Soldiers who receive FREE health care, oppose national health insurance. I’ll grant that Obamacare isn’t perfect. In fact, it has a lot of flaws. But those in the military who receive FREE health care don’t oppose Obamacare because of its flaws. They oppose it on principle. And this is nothing but hypocrisy at its finest.
What about taxes? We in the military enjoy some very generous tax breaks. My housing and subsistence allowances are tax free. (When I am deployed, I pay no income tax for every month I am in a war zone.) Shopping at the PX and Commissary save my family and I a lot in costs, especially with respect to sales taxes. But many in the military support conservative tax proposals that do nothing for their bottom-line. I’m not arguing here for one tax policy over another. But even officers who have a hefty compensation package are better served by more liberal tax proposals that are concerned with those making less than $250K a year. Moreover, I can’t help but laugh when many of my peers complain about paying taxes (you know, those dollars that pay their salary!) and when I ask what tax bracket they’re in, it’s most often the lowest – if they even have an income tax bill at all.
We in the military also fully embrace the whole, “It takes a village” mantra that conservatives despise. From barracks housing for single, junior-enlisted Soldiers, to officer neighborhoods of all ranks, military housing is communal living at its finest. The community supports each other. It assists one another. It depends on each other. Individualism does not work in the military – especially in our living quarters. We cannot survive, especially when our Soldiers are at war, without the village that is on-post/base housing. This village mantra also finds its way into our missions. Think about much of what the U.S. military has done overseas for the past 13+ years and you will see a military that has been a world-class humanitarian machine, giving to communities with no illusion of getting anything back in return – a most “liberal” thing to do.
When it comes to supporting social change, nobody does it like the military. We were the springboard for racial integration in this country. And now that the Defense of Marriage Act has been overturned, I suspect the military will help normalize same-sex marriages. My point is not to argue the merits of the later (I didn’t/don’t support the repeal of DOMA). Rather, I’m simply pointing out that the U.S. military remains a force for the implementation of social change – which is most often, liberal change.
I know. I know. Republicans support increased pay raises and Democrats oppose them. But if you want to argue over the merits of 0.8% when our nation is financially struggling, I think you are missing the point. And don’t get me started on the frivolous military projects that many in Congress support – which typically have nothing to do with Soldiers’ interests and everything to do with special interests.
Is this column a call for the military to support liberals? Not necessarily. Their policies are equally frustrating – sometimes even more so. But to suggest that conservatism is the philosophy of the military is politically naïve and intellectually dishonest.