WASHINGTON — At 31, Aaron Schock is the elder statesman of the youth movement in Congress and he’s got a message for his older, entrenched colleagues: work with us or get out of the way.
“I think if you gathered the 40 members under 40 and locked us in a room, we could solve this Nation’s problems in 24 hours,” the Illinois Republican bluntly said in an interview with Buzzfeed this week.
“[The younger members] are much more focused on solving the problem than preserving the institution and we are less bogged down with process and more focused on the finished product,” the 31 year old Republican said.
“Every new member of Congress that was just elected came here to solve problems and are genuinely interested in that and I think too often those that have been here for decades are less motivated to resolve the issues.”
When Schock first came to Washington four years ago, he was the youngest member on the House, a mere babe of 27 years surrounded by aging men decades his senior.
“When I came to congress there were a handful of us under the age of 40 … I was the only member in my 20’s. Four years later, we have 40 members under the age of 40, twenty republicans and twenty democrats. So despite me getting older, I would like to think that’s progress,” Schock said.
“There has been extraordinary turn over in a body that traditionally has had little turnover,” Schock noted, adding that “I’m on the Ways and Means Committee. So typically you wait for 20 to 30 years to become chairman of the committee, in one term I am half way up the seniority.”
This is a big deal for a member like Schock, with most of his political career ahead of him. But he sees huge deficits to be overcome in the public’s abysmal opinion of Washington DC and party politics.
“DC is at an all time favorability rating of, what 9%? Something pathetic.” Schock lamented, “So if you don’t like DC and you have three old guys and a young guy running; whom are you going to nominate? Probably the young guy, probably someone who says ‘you know what? Lets shake things up. We need some fresh blood.”
Schock proudly notes that last election there were more votes cast from people under 30 than from senior citizens. “That’s the first time that’s happened in our country’s history” Schock says, “I think it’s high time for congress to get younger; to better represent the voting age population and the demographics of the country.”
Schock is also part of a select group of lawmakers, particularly on the Republican side, who have found success using social media, which he said has proven valuable both to himself and his constituents. “I post something on my Facebook page, I would say and my likes and comments will often times equal if not exceed the number of phone calls or letters I get. So I may get 200 comments on the State of the Union, I don’t know if I get 200 phone calls.”
“Some of that is a convenience factor right?” Schock argued. “It’s a lot easier to say, ‘This speech sucks’ or ‘I agree with this immigration position’ than it is to dial the phone and talk to an intern.”
However, he warns against crediting twitter and Facebook for the influx of new, young members.
“I don’t think candidates are all tweeting their way to Congress.” Schock said. “I think the electorate, the middle aged, senior citizens are saying ‘We don’t like DC, we don’t like Congress and I am going to go with the young woman or young man who want’s to change it.”