Congress at War: The Capitol Hill ranks on why they enlisted and what it means now
Elected office and military service have always been closely linked in American politics. But increasingly, when issues like sending troops to Syria or making deals with Iran come to the floor in Congress, they’re decided by a majority of members who have never served themselves. In the late 1970s, as the World War II generation reached the peak of its political power, nearly four out of five members of Congress had served; today, it’s fewer than one out of five (which is still far more than the single-digit rate in the general population). Who are the 102 members of Congress who have served in the military, why did they enlist and how does their experience change the way they govern? Politico Magazine asked the ranks on Capitol Hill to tell us.
“Like tens of millions of Americans, my parents were immigrants. They were poor and did not speak English well. They went to flea markets and sold gifts to make ends meet. Eventually, through hard work, they opened six gift stores in shopping malls. My parents achieved the American dream; they went from being poor to a home and gave my brother and me an amazing education. I wanted to serve the country that gave so much to my family.” —Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)