Meet Aaron Schock, a Modern Early Riser

James Di Palma-Grisi, Columnist

If there ever were a modern early riser, Aaron Schock equals or surpasses the archetype. Elected at the age of barely 27, having won the primary at 26 and having served as a school board president at 23, Schock also served as a state representative for Illinois (also at 23, tied for the youngest).

In the span of four years (only two of which saw him eligible for Congress), Schock became a national representative for the people of his district, which includes Peoria, the famous “middle-of-America” cultural exemplar. While Schock’s views may represent what Peoria has become, his personal story diverges considerably. Schock tried to graduate high school early, and when he was prevented he ran for the school board. When he was prevented from appearing on the ballot, he created and managed a write-in candidate campaign and won a seat on the board.

“I think I’ll bring a much different perspective than someone who’s two-or-three times my age. I think our country would look different, and certainly our government and its programs would look different, if more people were here that were in their 20s and 30s,” he said.

Whatever the relevance of the representative’s age, Schock has taken his personal perspective to Washington, receiving special permission to serve on multiple committees. Echoing several articles on Generation Y in the workplace, Schock has little use for seniority and “the way things are done,” preferring instead to make his own path through Congress. In this respect Gen Y will change the workplace—through its own special cases like Schock.

Although Gen Y is seen typically as distrustful of both parties, Schock has taken a decidedly partisan path, becoming a party whip for the Republicans. “I’m not only getting to do the job that I ran for office to do, but I think I’m also getting to participate in the new D.C., if you will.” It seems Schock still possesses that generational naiveté, believing he is part of a uniquely positioned “pulley group” that can drag society alongside it by pulling on a single mental and verbal rope.

Indeed, the Heritage Foundation describes Schock as a “staunch conservative,” but interestingly enough, in the same article he appears to possess fairly liberal positions filtered through conservative ones. This may appear nonsensical, but bear with me. Schock represents Gen Y by taking a liberationist view of government and politics, rather than the stodgy, fuddy-duddy republicanism of the past 100 or so years. When asked his idea of “earthly happiness,” instead of replying in a spacey, vague, David Brooks-style mode, Schock replies simply “the freedom to do whatever it is I want”. Simplistic though this explanation may be, it represents an ideological break from…ideology.

Schock does not escape the generational strainer unscathed. With an eye towards the future, he replies that his greatest achievement “hopefully…hasn’t happened yet.”

So what will Schock do? If he has his druthers, taxes on new renewable energy technologies will be eliminated, which will force two things to happen: companies will innovate, and companies will match those innovations to what consumers are currently or will probably enjoy consuming. He finds this superior to university funding, though it is unclear how comprehensive the tax cuts will prove—for instance, if the basic research is needed, which companies will be able to afford the research even if they aren’t taxed on it?

But, that doesn’t mean he won’t push for the issue, among others. In the Illinois State House Schock recounted: “I have one of the most conservative voting records in the state house. I’ve got a 100 percent pro-life, pro-family, 100 percent with the Second Amendment.” Despite these credentials, and in spite of his posited “new Washington,” he takes the same talking points as his predecessors—on his first Meet the Press appearance, Schock takes credit for a stimulus project in the ARA, while simultaneously (although not necessarily in the same breath) makes it clear he did not vote for the project. This much is politics as usual–playing fast and loose with the facts in the hopes that those listening cannot follow.

Schock may have been taken in by the ways of Washington already, but one instance cannot draw our opinions one way or another. However, it can inform them of a working hypothesis.

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