When it Comes to Presidential Politics, Kids Can Say the Darndest Things

You don’t typically see children at political conventions – events that once upon a time were filled with high drama and swirling second-hand smoke, not to mention backroom horse trading that often went past midnight into the wee hours of the next morning.

In 1948, President Harry Truman had to wait till after 2 a.m. to offer his acceptance speech, navigating 48 pigeons flying above him in the rafters of Philadelphia’s Convention Hall.

But as the Democrats’ virtual convention ends this week and the Republican edition kicks off next week, there’s been more political talk than usual in our home these days, including some insightful comments from our three boys.

I love the unfiltered and unvarnished talk from kids. There’s a charming purity to it.

Political correctness? What’s that?

Alex, who is eight, asked last week, “How can somebody be against killing trees and animals – but be okay with abortion?”

Our son’s birthmother, Jennifer, rejected abortion and very deliberately chose to make an adoption plan for him – something we’re all so grateful for, most especially little Alex.

Ten-year-old Will said he finds the whole campaign very exciting.

“There’s so much anticipation. Will Donald Trump win? Will Joe Biden lose? Will you let me stay up to find out?”

We like to make political viewing a family affair, but don’t always know what sticks or what goes over our younger boys’ heads. During President Trump’s address at Mount Rushmore, Alex asked about 300 times when the talking would end and the fireworks would begin.

Riley, who is 15, quipped that some of President Trump’s remarks were the political equivalent of fireworks.

My first solid political memory was the 1980 presidential election featuring Democrat President Jimmy Carter battling former California Republican Governor Ronald Reagan and John Anderson, who ran as an independent.

My school, St. Christopher’s in Baldwin on Long Island, held a mock election with select 8th graders assuming the role of the respective candidates.  I was only in the 3rd grade, but we all listened to the speeches, wore campaign buttons, made signs and then voted.

I remember our gymnasium being filled with balloons and streamers as they announced Ronald Reagan’s victory in the mock contest.  I cheered loudly and proudly.

Imagine – a school in New York tilting Republican!

As Edith Bunker sang back at the beginning of “All in the Family” – “Those were the days.”

I grew up watching the political satirist Mark Russell, the bow-tied, bespectacled funny man who would riff on both parties in song as he sat at his piano wrapped in stars and red, white and blue stripes. We watched as a family in the living room, and we all laughed together.

Remember when politics used to be fun?

In retrospect, Russell’s comedy was somewhat timeless, as evidenced by his crack during the 1984 campaign that the difference between Republicans and Democrats was that when a Republican says we’re in a recovery, the Democrat is bound to say, “Yes, but you shouldn’t enjoy it.”

He also joked Republicans and Democrats were fighting over a date for the Cinco de Mayo holiday.

I asked Will the other night to describe the differences between political parties.

“That’s easy,” he said while making a LEGO robot, never even looking up from the project.

“One party says something – the other party actually tries to do something.”

Years ago, television personality Art Linkletter made a mint from children’s candid responses to his simple questions. His show was called “House Party,” and one of its most popular features was Art’s conversation with kids.

When he asked one girl what the significance was of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana, the youngster responded, “The more wine, the better the wedding.”

There’s probably not much wine at virtual conventions these days, though lots of whining still takes place on both sides, I’m sure.

My wife, Julie, and I have tried hard to talk about our opposition or support of candidates in terms of the issues and not the personalities themselves – but that’s becoming more difficult in this era of big personalities.

Riley recently told me his earliest memory ever – not just of politics but across the span of his 15 years, was Election Day 2008. He was 3, and he said he recalls it being all about “the reds versus the blues.”

Then-Senator Obama’s theme, of course, was all about change, which may have helped explain Riley’s comments last week when he sat down to write about politics – a subject he enjoys very much.

“There is no reason to enter politics if you are a hundred percent happy about the current system,” he wrote. “You enter politics to make your change. I don’t believe in career politicians. I believe our founders intended the government to be made of men and women who rose to the occasion to advocate for their change, and when they were successful to let another step in to make another change.”

Time will tell if the electorate wants more of the change President Trump promised back in 2016 or whether they’ll vote for more change with former VP Joe Biden in November.

Either way, though, both parties should remember that today’s kids are tomorrow’s voters – and many of them are listening more than they may expect.

Photo from Shutterstock

 

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