Too Young to Vote, But Not to Care
Most days when I wake up in the morning I’ll catch my son, Matthew, checking the previous night’s basketball scores or baseball standings. But lately my 9-year-old has a new favorite sport: politics. Since the primary season began, he has been following the development of both major party nominations with the fervor of a pennant race. He visits 270towin.com, which shows a tentative national electoral map for 2008, along with the history of every national election dating back to George Washington’s victory over John Adams in 1789). He wants to know why Mike Huckabee is staying in the Republican race when John McCain has all but clinched victory and who is winning the close race for Democratic delegates. He describes Barack Obama as being on an "eight-state winning streak." He doesn’t quite know how to pronounce "caucus" (I have to hold back laughter every time he says "cow-kiss," but it’s actually quite adorable), and it’s hard to explain the concept of superdelegates to him (in part because, frankly, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to put the fate of the nominee in the hands of the party bosses, rather than the people who actually vote for the candidates). But I have to admit, seeing him develop a sudden interest in our political system—and potential future leaders—has been a beautiful thing.
And I’m far from the only parent who has experienced this. Spurred by the controversial 5-year-old war in Iraq and a Democratic contest that is bound to yield an historic first—either the first major-party black or woman candidate—young grade-schoolers, like their parents (who are voting in record numbers in the primaries) are showing unusual interest and passion in the 2008 election. According to msnbc.com, first-grade classes are holding straw polls to determine class favorites. Matthew’s class gave the nod to Hillary (15) over Obama (11), with McCain (1) a distant third, but then we live in New York City, the bluest city in the nation.
And while their votes don’t count, kids are making their voices heard. They are asking to go in the voting booth with Mommy or Daddy, both to share in the experience and to make sure M and D vote for the right person (for the record, Matthew decided on a candidate well before I chose mine, which didn’t happen until the day before the primary). They are even getting involved in the campaigns. barackobama.com has a link for kids under 12. It offers suggestions such as setting up a Kids for Obama Group and hosting an Obama house party or sleep-over (including patriotic red, white, and blue balloons and candy). The 10-year-old niece of one of our editors even manned the phone banks recently in support of her candidate, embellishing the script with her own charming personality. If your state hasn’t voted yet, check out the issues of prime importance to parents at parents2008.org. And whether or not you’ve already submitted your ballot, upload photos to our parents.com campaign kids gallery and share your stories of your little politicos in action—wearing candidate buttons, holding flyers, cheering at rallies, etc.