If, last August, you asked someone to name Missouri's female senator, chances are they wouldn't have known. But Senator Claire McCaskill (D-M.O.) earned her place on the national stage after the media firestorm that erupted when Missouri Rep. Todd Akin spoke about "legitimate rape." One year and a reelection victory later, it's evident McCaskill is a politician for our generation. Here's why.
Claire McCaskill is aware of something that few other sexagenarians recognize: that social media is an incredibly powerful tool. McCaskill has active Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter pages, which she manages entirely on her own. For her 60th birthday last month, McCaskill posted a Spotify playlist titled, “Hell Yes, I’m Sixty." In her words, having a voice on social media “helps humanize all of us." The fact that the senator realizes that social networking is just as — if not more — important than traditional means of relating with constituents shows that she’s a congresswoman of the digital age, something Washington’s aristocracy is supremely lacking. She has a sense of humor, to boot.
Military issues are near and dear to McCaskill’s heart, as her father served in World War II. With her love of the military comes a dedication to preserving its honor. McCaskill is actively seeking to address the military's sexual assault epidemic, an issue that deeply troubles millennials. In addition to being a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, McCaskill has ruthlessly grilled those who don’t take sexual assault seriously. She's also proposed legislation that would make commanders more accountable, and make a dishonorable discharge mandatory for any soldier convicted of sexual assault.
McCaskill is also dedicated to helping our military members once they leave active duty. She is a founding member of the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus and cosponsored 2011’s Hiring Heroes Act, which, along with much more, provides companies with tax credits to incentivize the hiring of veterans. Lastly, she worked to pass the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which provides veterans who served after 2001 (many of whom were young people) with massive financial assistance to pay higher education, another issue that's in McCaskill's wheelhouse.
As last week’s drama proved, Congress is eternally divided on education, especially when it comes to how to handle student loans, something incredibly important for the millennial generation. Throughout all the finger pointing, McCaskill has been a vocal advocate for increasing educational opportunity by making it affordable to all. She fought for student loan resolution for years, even proposing the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) , which served as a template for current congressional resolutions.
McCaskill also helped pass the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2007, which increased the value of Pell grants, and made them available to more low-income students. Her efforts also funded professional development for teachers specializing in early education and provided loan forgiveness for public school teachers after 10 years of service.
"If we're going to compete globally," McCaskill said at a meeting at the University of Missouri last month, "then we have to make sure that even that next degree is possible for young people who don't have the financial resources to fund it."
Another issue facing young people today is that of affordable health care. With 77% of millennials believing it's very important to have health insurance, McCaskill's stance on health care has solidified her status with young people.
For starters , McCaskill is concerned with the threats facing young women's reproductive rights. She has repeatedly supported Planned Parenthood, and voted for legislation that provides cost-free contraception to women. Her support for the Affordable Care Act also helps young people, as it lets them stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26. The act also ensures that many millennials will qualify for subsides, so they can pay for health care without breaking the bank.
Last, but certainly not least, Claire McCaskill is a senator for our generation because she's one of us — a PolicyMic user. When he wrote her first article for PolicyMic, she responded personally to many of the comments, and even she started a whole new post where she wrote in-depth replies to the most-Mic'ed comments. McCaskill gets what PolicyMic is all about: civil discussion, sharing your opinion, and learning new things all the while. It's safe to say her innate understanding — and 115 Mics, thank you very much — 100% qualifies her as a senator for this generation.