By Sara Helfer:
Democrats must mobilize veterans and military families to ensure a successful democratic leadership ticket in the Virginia 2021 elections. Despite the myth, veterans and military families aren’t all conservative. In particular, veterans are more likely to vote, more likely to persuade other voters, and are more passionate about our democratic processes than other Americans. Veterans and military families are an idealistic group that believes the vote is essential in the fight for democracy, but we must engage in a genuine and ongoing way that shows Democrats care beyond a vote in the ballot box.
Naveed Shah, Government Affairs Associate at Common Defense, is an Army veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Fairfax Democrat who worked on the Democratic Party of Virginia’s 2018 “Mission First” effort to get veterans and military families involved in the political process. He believes that we must get veterans and military families registered to vote and aware of the 2021 gubernatorial election as early as possible.
Other things Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC) can do this year to improve GOTV with veterans and military families are:
- Partner with organizations who are already postured to reach veterans, such as Common Defense, VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, Serve America, and Modern Military Association of America. They have experience reaching out to veterans and can collaborate with us to improve our outreach. These groups can provide GOTV training to candidates and precinct leaders. For example, Common Defense contacted 50,000 veterans for the Georgia Senate runoffs this year with great success.
- Include efforts specific to veterans. As much as possible, we should increase veteran-to-veteran outreach, as this is a group that responds best to others who have served and “get it.” Visit VA hospitals, military child development centers, and veterans service organizations. Veteran organizing workshops are another great tool.
- Craft a Military and Veteran Families Platform. Veterans are a group who will want policy specifics on the things that matter to them, not platitudes. Some issues are veteran and military specific – pensions, VA healthcare, spousal employment support, and military education compacts. Other issues coincide with the larger population but must include the nexus to veterans and military families, such as labor, immigration, LGBT rights, environmental issues, and national and state security.
- Include veteran and military family questions on candidate questionnaires. This population will want to see themselves reflected in candidates’ answers.
Whatever we do, we will need a good ground game, however that looks in 2021.
Our military members, veterans, and their families are a diverse population whose needs often overlap with the rest of America, but with unique needs because of the nature of military service. Fairfax County has around 73,000 veterans living in our county plus a large military and military family population connected to the many active military bases in the area. We must show that Democrats are better on the issues that matter most to veterans.
The FCDC Veterans & Military Families Committee (VMFC) ensures that veterans and military family members have a strong voice and representation within the Democratic Party. We are here to assist with GOTV to veterans and military families now and at every step of the way! Please reach out to VMFC Chairperson Shyamali Hauth at email@example.com for more information.
Sara Helfer is a member of the Springfield District Democratic Committee (SDDC) of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC) and serves as the Burke Precinct Captain and the SDDC representative to the Veterans and Military Families Committee. Sara served in the United States Marine Corps from 1999-2007 and her husband serves in the United States Navy Reserve. She comes from a military family, with her brother serving in the United States Army and her father served in the United States Marine Corps.
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