Military troops and federal employees, to varying degrees, cannot use their roles, positions, uniforms or jobs to support or demean any political party, movement or elected official at the federal and state level. Basically, what it means is that troops can’t say they support or oppose someone while in uniform.
But where does that leave the spouses of military personnel?
Can Military Spouses Be Vocally Politically Active?
Quick answer: yes. You, as an American, citizen have the right to exercise your First Amendment right to free speech during election season.
You can speak out about your political views, support your candidates of choice and join any political marches or protests you’d like.
There are also limits to what you, the non-serving spouse, may display at your home or on your car.
For example, bumper stickers on cars are totally fine, according to an article on The Balance Careers. However, military members, and their families by extension, should avoid large signs, posters or banners on cars, in yards or in homes are not allowed.
Military spouses who also hold a federal job, like a DODEA teacher, also fall under the Hatch Act. The rules regulating political speech and activity are similar to those that military troops must follow. Basically, don’t use your role or position as a federal employee to promote anything politically.
Many Military Spouses Fear Repercussions for Political Views
While military spouses can be visibly politically active, it seems that many abstain out of fear.
Articles on MilitarySpouse, NextGenMilSpouse and Military Families all noted that many spouses avoided being political in order to maintain the status quo. Some have felt that their politics were outside the “norm” or might prevent their spouse from being promoted.
However, your political activity should not impact your spouse’s career since you do not fall under the same political speech regulations as active duty troops.
If you feel more comfortable avoiding political discussions, that is your choice to make. You should not feel as though your political views will impact your spouse’s military career.
Ways You Can Get Politically Involved
Military spouses can get be politically involved in whatever way feels comfortable to you.
Before you jump into the fray, do a little research. Know your political views and research your positions. The Pew Research Center has a comprehensive assessment to help determine which political views, and candidates, match your opinions.
Then reach out to the local organizing committee in your current area. It’s as simple as searching for “political party + location” online. Send an email or use their contact form to get involved. Political organizers are always looking for volunteers!
Finally, follow through. Stay involved and up-to-date on the issues surrounding the upcoming election. Reading newspapers and watching news broadcasts from across the political spectrum can be useful in helping to create an informed opinion.
Military spouses can even run for local office wherever you are stationed. Homefront Rising is a grassroots organization associated with the Military Spouse JD Network to help facilitate this process.