Individual responsibility made America great, and a message based on individual responsibility can sell conservative ideas to young voters, business owners, and Tea Partiers alike, according to Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill.
“I believe in individual responsibility over collectivism,” Schock told Doublethink during a June 26 interview in his office on Capitol Hill. “Our country is great because of individual responsibility: the ability to succeed or fail based on your own efforts, energy, and determination.”
At 32, Schock’s own effort, energy and determination made him the youngest congressman and the first millennial in the U.S. House when he won a seat representing his state’s 18th congressional district in 2010. He came to Congress in the district Abraham Lincoln represented after being the youngest member of the Illinois legislature. Schock previously served as the youngest member of his school board, after winning write-in campaign.
Schock initially preferred business and finance to politics, starting his IRA at 14, his first business in middle school, and his first full-time job at five years old, where he answered a phone for his family’s berry-growing business. But when government blocked his personal initiative in high school, he entered public life.
“Government got in my way,” he said. “I wanted to graduate high school early and go to college, and government, in this case the local school board, said we’re not going to let you out.”
“And so I ran against the school board president and I beat her,” he grinned.
He sees government getting in the way of a lot of Americans, using hand-outs to take away incentives for responsibility and self-sufficiency. “If you have free health care, free education, free food, and free retirement, what more do you need?” he asks, measuring out each word slowly. “The growth of the welfare state in our country over the last five years has only hurt the entrepreneurial spirit and the incentive for people to go out and work, save, invest, and act responsibly.”
But this message will only resonate if conservatives explain how policies based on individual responsibility can help Americans personally. “When people can’t pay their rent, that’s far more important than theoretical debt in their head that they don’t see a bill every month for,” Schock said.
Especially when it comes to young voters, the Illinois lawmaker believes his fellow Republicans must make a better positive case for how their policies make life better, he says, “talking to young people about what our party is doing to help them get a job, and why our country is unique, and why people have been more successful here than any other country in the world. It’s about freedom.”
Delivering this message also means using less conventional means of reaching young Americans. “The subscriber-ship of Good Housekeeping and Men’s Health is equally as important as the subscriber-ship of Newsweek, particularly when you’re talking about a demographic of 18- to 30-year-olds.”
Schock takes his prescription seriously: he was featured on the cover of Men’s Health, where he was dubbed “America’s Fittest Congressman” and pictured – shirtless. He says he is “pretty religious” about using the House gym with a group of other congressmen, including former Vice-Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (who Schock jokes is “doing pretty good for 42, for being an old man married with three children”).
His daily exercise seems necessary in light of his extreme sports pastimes, which include snow skiing, water skiing, and white water rafting. He also has other hobbies: “If I’m somewhere where there is nice water, I will go scuba diving. I’m a certified scuba diver. Last summer I went parasailing. I’ve been hang gliding. I’ve been skydiving. Anything adventurous.”
Despite the weakening of America’s entrepreneurial spirit, Schock said he is encouraged by the expansion of Tea Party movement.
“People are starting to wake up,” he suggested. “The Tea Party has grown from people who have the time to show up for the meetings, to people who share that view who are busy with their young children, who are busy running their small businesses, to college students who finally get it.”
Schock said he will always be driven by a sense of personal responsibility for the fate of his country. “I’ve visited 30 countries and there’s not one I’d rather live in,” he said. “We live in the best place on earth, and if we don’t save our country, there’s no place I’m going to move to.”
T. Elliot Gaiser is a graduate of Hillsdale College and a freelance contributor to Doublethink Magazine. He’s also the host of ConservativePrivateRadio.com and an incoming law student at The Ohio State University. Aaron Schock image from U.S. House website.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire