Tweens And Elections
Though my daughters were old enough to remember my two local school board campaigns, they were too young to really care what that all would mean, or politics in general. They knew that I was away a lot, talking to a lot of people about how I wanted to represent students and the residents of our school district. And that was all that mattered. They were shielded from nearly all of the negative stuff that comes out during election season. And since those elections, politics have not been brought up.
Until Monday night. A phone call from my youngest daughter mentioned that a robo-call had come from the school district, but that she was unaware what the message was about. I told her that it was most likely because on Tuesday, Pennsylvania was holding its primary election, and since the district decided as usual to make up a snow day (kids always celebrate getting the day off for snow, not really understanding they will make the day up later – it does not matter to them), the district was probably calling to explain to parents the special procedures in place to make sure the children were safe, while adults would enter the school to cast their votes. I had always been against this, but the district assured that everything would be alright, sectioning off the gym, allowing voters access to the building through one door going straight to the gym.
Of course, the children are inconvenienced during their school day, access to the gym, entrance and exit procedures different, and, even though elementary age, having to deal with conversations about candidates.
And so with that, I had my first official political conversation with my daughters, at their request. There are certain things as they have grown up, that I have insisted upon, things that I have encouraged, and things that I have left up to them to decide. I made sure that they learned good eating habits. I taught them that respect, honesty, and loyalty are three of the most important values they can have and give.
But when the conversation turned to individual candidates, my preferences, and the chatter among their friends, though they are way to young to vote yet, I want them to know just how important the process will be to them in the future, and as they learn about our election system, to pay attention.
I know how I am perceived, and wrongly so. I do not believe in the whole “you are either a conservative or a liberal” thing. I want to vote for someone who will represent the things that I consider important. I want to vote for someone that is not going to try and cram their ideals and morals down my throat. There are some things that I accept from both major parties, but there are a lot I detest in both parties as well. This election cycle is going to go down in history as one of the most bizarre and embarrassing elections. And it was difficult to explain to my children that what they were witnessing in politics is something none of us have ever seen before, and then explain all the efforts do not follow the will of the majority of voters.
First we talked about the primary process itself. In Pennsylvania, it is very confusing as it is, because only those committed to the two major parties are allowed to vote, ignoring anyone registered as “independent.” I was asked why they cannot vote. And of course the follow up, “then why don’t they just sign up for one of the two parties?”
But it is more complicated today. Because they have heard about the front runner of one party, and how the political party is doing everything they can to prevent that candidate from being the nominee, including bully tactics as seen on playgrounds (ganging up). And the other party is no different with the popularity of one candidate simply being ignored, and a delegate system being advertised repeatedly to discourage voting for a particular candidate. And then finally, to explain to my daughters, that even after the primary elections are over, the two parties are prepared to ignore the will of the voters.
Thought we did talk about some of the issues of each candidate that they asked about, I did not discuss who I will vote for with my daughters. And when they are old enough to vote, I will not ask them who they will vote for. Along with eating right, behaving properly, they have to make the decision on the candidate that will best represent what they expect from a government. And unlike our leaders, if they grow up more left or right, or even meet in the middle, I will at least respect them for wanting to be informed, and getting out to vote.