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October 15, 2004

My 1st Amendment Rights Are Being Trampled « Politics As Usual »

...but by the Air Force.

I just found out that I cannot volunteer to do any work whatsoever in any way, shape, or form for the Republican Party.

The Air Force's regulations are more restrictive than the Army's, which is more restrictive than the Dept of Defense.

My original understanding is that the guiding thought is: the military must remain non-partisan. Thus, you can do anything political that does not damage that impartiality. You may never do engage in political activities while in uniform, you may not identify yourself as a military servicemember, you may not run for office, and you may not hold any significant position in any campaign.

Fair enough. That all makes sense.

You can even have a political sticker on your car, which I still feel is uncomfortably close to lending the weight of military association to a partisan expression.

But I fail to see how volunteering to drop off literature at houses, in civilian clothes, without ever making contact with a single human being could ever harm the military's impartiality. And yet the Air Force Regulations specifically prohibit that activity. This seems so at odds with the spirit of the guiding principles that I don't even know what to think. If anonymously dropping off literature (but not actually soliciting votes) is wrong because there might be too much association with a specific party, isn't actually voting just as bad?

Reading the rules, you cannot have anything at all to do with any party beyond attending a meeting or convention in civilian clothes, voting, or putting a sticker on your car.

I understand that I am in the military 24/7, whether I am wearing the uniform or not. I understand that being in the military means making sacrifices. I realize many of the rights you civilians take for granted were surrendered the day I signed up (like getting to choose where you live, or being able to quit, or to be able to criticize your boss). But I didn't think I had to absolutely separate myself almost entirely from the political process.

If our only allowed political expression is to vote, how can we be a part of the process if we are disenfranchised at the voting booth, like when the Democrat Party actively attempted to discard military votes in Florida in 2000?

I'm a little unhappy today.

Posted by Nathan at 02:50 PM | Comments (9)

Gee, what do the regs say about blogging? That's reaching a lot more folks than the literature.

Posted by: cowboy blob at October 15, 2004 10:03 PM

Well, blogging isn't actually distributing literature, and I haven't actually asked anyone to vote for a specific candidate.
But, yeah, I've skirted some blurry lines here and there, blatantly crossed a few others.
On the other hand, it's why I blog anonymously and don't actually harp on my military service all that much. It makes it harder for anyone to actually tie me to this blog.

In the final analysis, however, it's probably safe to assume that blogging falls into one of those areas that it would probably be punished if someone was truly blatant and offensive and clearly identifiable, but it's not worth the effort to try and track down and prosecute individuals for speaking their mind.

Posted by: Nathan at October 15, 2004 10:27 PM

Sheesh, the powers that be at your side of the street are touchy aren't they. Remembering back to my APAO days (Navy), the word put out on the street was you could NOT even think about being in uniform at any sort of political activity. Conversly, you could not have any sort of political paraphinalia on your uniform. We allowed for folks working for political parties....but you could not speak, in or out of uniform, at a convention or party event where there might be any connection between your military service and said political event. You could work behind the scenes if memory served, answering phones and the like. Now this was about 10 years back, so things may have been redefined since. Then again, you know any notice or article or order can be amplified on as long as the orgininal tennents are followed from the next senior level of command. So perhaps your problems are from command level taking an over zealous stance on directions received from above.

Posted by: Guy S. at October 17, 2004 10:20 PM

Well, I read the regulation myself, and it's the USAF that is being so zealous.
It's frustrating to me, because I told myself that this was the year I wanted to back up my political principles with some actual campaign work, since I was convinced that it was okay as long as I didn't compromise the impartiality of the military.
Sure, I could still go out and do it; who's gonna know?
...except that my integrity won't let me. It's a rule, that rule has been clearly expressed, and so it is legal.

I wish I could figure out how to fight this...maybe a letter to my congressman?

Posted by: Nathan at October 18, 2004 05:22 AM

quick reality check for Cowboy two hour lit drop will reach far more undecided households than any blog, period. Plus, you're influencing your own community when you lit drop, not random anonymous people over the internet.

I'd say on average I spend at least three times as much time lit-dropping than blogging or commenting on blogs per week. There's a reason for that. Absolutely, positively, NOTHING is more powerful than front-door face-to-face candidate endorsement, for the average neighbborhood guy or gal. The statistics are readily available from any coordinated campaign office. Phone banking comes in a distant second.

Posted by: Jo at October 18, 2004 07:14 AM

But that's the thing: I wasn't going to be doing any face-to-face contact. It was people who had specifically requested the literature, and I was to drop it off on their doorstep/doorknob.

Posted by: Nathan at October 18, 2004 07:22 AM

That's even worse to disallow, IMO.

Posted by: Jo at October 18, 2004 07:51 AM

Well here's a wrinkle nathan, what about these candidates claiming military service? ok, aside from the fact that say, Kerry pushed heavily on his navy Career, couldn't that be considered along the same lines? I felt from all his talk that he was associating himself not just as a vietnam vet, but also from your point of view, he seems to cross that line. Nothing wrong with stating..yes i was in the military..enough said. But my dad and I always believed that the military is a dictatorship used to protect a democracy. But I always have known that republicans have always been the militaries choice party.Please don't beat me up on this, but wouldn't the fact remain that in the 2000 vote, Bush would've won the election hands down? isn't that the reason the democrats wanted those absentee votes stopped from the military?

Posted by: Chris J at February 12, 2005 12:37 PM

Why would I beat you up about that? It's a well-stated point.
Unfortunately, there's little chance anyone else will see this, at this late date...

Posted by: Nathan at February 12, 2005 04:56 PM
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