What is the American Dream? How that is answered is unique to each individual, but the beauty of this country is that the ideal of pursuing this dream is enshrined for all in our founding documents.
For the past two years, I crisscrossed Washington State, both as a candidate for the U.S. Senate and as an advocate for our veterans. Unfortunately, in so many of the conversations I had, I was struck by how people have lost their grasp of the influence and impact they can have simply by voting!
Many Americans seem to have given up on the electoral process, believing that their vote doesn’t matter, their voice isn’t being heard and their views aren’t represented. And looking at Washington, it is easy to see why.
The 118th Congress is the third-oldest since 1789 with the average age of Congress steadily climbing since the 1980s. Current statistics from the US Census Bureau place the median age in this country at 38.8 years old. For this Congress, however, the average age in the House is 57.5 years while for the Senate it is 63.9 years. Thus, there is a sizable age gap between many elected officials and their constituents.
Beyond the age disparity, there is a strong case to be made that those currently employed in the workforce and experiencing the actual effects of policy are better equipped to be effective leaders for today’s voters than those who have been ensconced on Capitol Hill for decades.
It is time for more political outsiders to enter the political arena, whether they are military veterans, military spouses, doctors, nurses or small business owners. A dynamic candidate can come from anywhere. Prior elected experience can help, but it is by no means a prerequisite – especially when that experience comes in the detached world of the federal bureaucracy. We need new faces who can run competent campaigns while also bringing their life experiences among everyday Americans to bear in the halls of Congress.
Life is a great teacher, and so often those experiences, from both accomplishments and failures, are what make a strong leader. My whole adult life has been spent serving in one capacity or another: helping women as an OB-GYN nurse, helping my husband recover after he was blinded by a suicide bomber in Iraq, and helping veterans by championing VA reform as a private citizen on Capitol Hill. Those experiences drove my desire to run for public office. The same might be said of law enforcement, emergency responders, businessmen, and people from virtually any walk of life.
Just as important as the candidate is the message. Republicans are the party of Ronald Reagan, the “Great Communicator,” and it is time for us to de-emphasize the partisan tit-for-tat and return to focusing on policies that allow citizens to control and improve their daily lives.
Candidates must prioritize their own independent policy agendas rather than one manufactured specifically to suit a political party in Washington. Our country is facing a looming economic downturn and our party must put forward solutions that strengthen workers and small businesses – the backbone of our economy. Our government is pushing farther and farther into our private affairs and our party must take the lead on solutions to constrain government power and unleash freedom.
The electorate has tired of the constant partisan rancor and I hope to see candidates propose solutions that seek to attract voters through a positive message rather than the usual tactics of gathering votes by not being the other guy.
Policies that put Americans’ priorities over the priorities of government bureaucrats and special interests are the best answer to the challenges facing our country. Electing candidates who come from different life experiences outside of the Washington establishment that inspire them to serve their neighbors will re-inspire voters who feel lost to re-engage in politics.
In other words, voters need to feel like they have something in common with their representatives. An engaged, informed and involved electorate will work to ensure the American Dream as articulated in our founding documents stays alive, and that America’s best days are still ahead.
Tiffany Smiley, a Washington native, is a national veterans advocate and was a 2022 candidate for the United States Senate. In February of 2023 she launched Endeavor PAC which will support candidates with a clear agenda and a firm commitment to conservative principles.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.