How Democrats Can Lift Up and Engage Veteran Voices
November 11, 2021
On Veterans Day, the entire country is reminded of the service and sacrifices of everyone who takes the oath and puts on the uniform to serve the greatest country on earth. — John Mackey, Veteran and NDTC learner
This Veterans Day, we honor and celebrate all of the brave service members who champion American freedom, security, and democracy. Our veteran community is woven together by the courageous individuals who answered the call to defend our country.
At NDTC, we commit to helping veterans and military families win elected office at the federal, state and local levels. We also aim to promote the voices of veterans in Democratic politics. This includes making sure campaigns account for different perspectives on the trail and among campaign staff.
Here’s how Democrats can honor the service of veterans, as well as encourage them to become involved in Democratic politics.
Understanding Your Audience
Veterans have a unique perspective when it comes to politics. As Americans who sacrifice so much at home and around the world, every campaign must take their viewpoints into consideration.
When speaking with veterans, understand what drove them to serve, but also what their needs are. Learn how the position you’re pursuing can help address those needs. There are a multitude of issues pervasive in the veteran community, from access to healthcare and good-paying jobs to homelessness. When interacting with veterans on the campaign trail, discuss those issues genuinely and actively work to understand their perspective.
Veterans often decide to serve out of a desire to help others, and an urge to uphold America’s core values. But they are also voters with distinct hopes and dreams for themselves, their families, and everyone in your community. Speaking to those hopes and dreams in an honest, genuine way will go a long way for your campaign.
Take our mini-lesson, “How to Talk to Voters: Values-Based Conversations,” in order to learn more about speaking on the issues that matter most to voters.
Leading with Empathy
The decisions our government makes impact the veteran community every day. However, their voices are too often left out of the decisions of campaigns and elected officials.
Veterans can see when a candidate is trying to turn their service into capital. Veteran outreach using veteran candidates or operatives can work, when done right, on a small, intimate level.
— Shawn McCarthy, Veteran and NDTC learner
Take time to understand the frustrations of many veterans. It is important that Democratic candidates and campaigns hear their voices and viewpoints. This is why voter contact and relational organizing programs, in particular, are so important. They allow Democratic campaigns to be inclusive of all perspectives, including that of the veteran community.
Why not spend more time recruiting veterans to volunteer and to support causes? Many of us were in leadership positions at 20 years of age. We know how to operate under pressure.
— Christina M. Watkins, Veteran and NDTC learner
Help Veterans Engage With Democratic Politics!
Veterans are a constituency that often do not have their interests directly represented in politics. As Democrats, we can and must change this.
If you are a veteran considering running for office, look no further! NDTC offers courses on everything you need to know to run for office, from how to start your campaign, fundraising, and voter outreach. Check out our “Run For Office” page for more information and help getting started!
Veterans often choose to continue to serve, even after they hang up their uniform. It’s in our nature. I believe the party, and quite frankly, the entire government should make it easier for Veterans to run for office by providing candidate training, reduced filing fees and other resources.
— John Mackey, Veteran and NDTC learner
If you are a leader or volunteer with your local Democratic Party, consider recruiting veterans to run for office. If someone seems like a viable candidate for office, encourage them! Take our course, “Political Candidate Recruitment,” in order to learn our strategies for persuading great candidates to run for office.
Veterans Day should be spent appreciating all that service members and their families do to keep our country safe and free. As Americans and as Democrats, we must engage them and give them the space to become more involved in the political process.
For more information, check out VoteVets, their mission, as well as their list of endorsed candidates. Additionally, head over to New Politics Leadership Academy, whose mission is to recruit and help veterans serve their communities through politics.
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