Posts Tagged ‘ 2012 election ’

Parental Voting Predicts Kids’ Future Participation

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

The single greatest predictor of whether a child will vote when he or she reaches age 18 is whether or not the child’s parents voted in the most recent election, a new study has found.  More from The Washington Post:

The single best predictor of whether a person will vote when first eligible and will later become a lifelong voter comes down to one discreet action by that person’s parent: Whether that parent voted in the presidential election just before their child could vote.

That’s one of the takeaways from a long-term study of families nationwide that has shed some of the only light political scientists have on parent-child political influence.

Laura Stoker, a political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley who co-directs the study, told me that a parent’s vote at the time of adolescence is the only consistent variable in any analysis of predicting whether a young adult will vote.

The study, which Stoker joined mid-way through, began in 1965, when another political scientist, Kent Jennings, interviewed more than 1,660 high school seniors and their parents about their political leanings, participation and affiliation.

Researchers then reinterviewed the group in 1973, when the younger subjects were 26; in 1982, when they were 35; and in 1997, when they were 50. The last year, researchers also interviewed the third generation.

Image: Election ballot, via spirit of america / Shutterstock.com

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Mister Rogers Wouldn’t Approve of Obama’s Lena Dunham Ad (OPINION)

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Nancy French

Call it the Mister Rogers Effect: Moms want their kids to grow up in a neighborhood where the adults are virtuous. Whether it’s the baker, the postman, the mayor, or even the President, we want our children to have role models who are kind, generous, truthful. The kind of people your children could safely emulate.

During the most recent debate, some of us sat down with our children to see President Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney discuss foreign policy. They disagreed on many things, particularly on Romney’s auto bailout position. For a few uncomfortable minutes, one accused the other of lying, until Romney suggested people at home should simply look it up. They did. For the days following the debate, Romney’s 2008 editorial about how he’d handle the Detroit automakers was the most-read story on the NYT’s website. So, who was telling the truth? Romney was deemed more accurate, but his success in this particular exchange is hardly earth shattering. What is significant is that voters, rather Americans, are realizing the President is not who we hoped he was.

“Here’s what upset me last night, this playing fast and loose with facts,” David Letterman said on his show. “Now, I don’t care whether you’re Republican or Democrat, you want your president to be telling the truth… And so when we found out today or soon thereafter that, in fact, President Obama was not telling the truth about what was excerpted from that op-ed piece, I felt discouraged.”

“Discouraged” is a far cry from the sunny optimism that at one time characterized Americans. Even those who disagreed with the president’s politics were a little misty eyed at seeing the first black man to sit in the Oval Office. When my husband and I later adopted a toddler from Africa, part of me was delighted by the fact that she was immigrating to a country with an African-American leader. But since those moments of hope, something strange happened.  Obama—and consequently, our neighborhood—somehow managed to get smaller, more crass, more cynical.

The most recent example is when his campaign released an ad featuring hipster Lena Dunham comparing voting to Obama to surrendering one’s virginity:

“Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy… someone who really cares about and understands women…  It’s super uncool to be out and about and someone says ‘did you vote?’ and [you reply] ‘no, I didn’t feel—I wasn’t ready.’ ” The Weekly Standard wrote, “The President of the United States running a campaign ad implying that young women who don’t let themselves get pressured into sex are ‘super uncool’ is more than enough to make any normal person’s head explode.” Of course, Twitter did erupt. “Is it too much to ask that the President’s campaign ads be workplace safe?” someone tweeted. Parody ads popped up. But the damage was done. The President had released an ad mocking sexual purity, just to win votes among the college age demographic.

We wanted him to be great. To inspire. To soar. Instead he became smaller, almost bent on taking us down with him.

Recently, a friend’s first grader was assigned a biography of the president for Great Americans Day. “How bad would it be for me to ask my child to switch books?” the mom asked me. There was a time in the very recent past when I would’ve responded with a gentle reprimand. “Come on,” I would’ve said. “He’s our President, he’s a good man, he’s accomplished a great deal.”

Rather, that’s how I would’ve answered it. She happened to ask me six weeks after extremists murdered four American diplomats in Libya, and the President had still not told us what really happened. In the second debate, when Obama defended his lack of military response to the attack, his focus was all on semantics. He parsed his words, he covered his legacy. It was tragic and disappointing, because we wanted justice. We wanted to understand. We wanted honesty. We didn’t want a President to assign blame, before heading off to Las Vegas for a fundraiser.

In fact, it was Fred Rogers who said, “You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”

Moms know this: a complex world requires nuanced responses to terrible events, but we want our leaders to be honest, courageous, and responsible. We are raising children to become adults, to build families, to create businesses, to serve this country in uniform. Sadly, none of us really live in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood, with its astroturf lawns and closets full of perfectly pressed sweaters. Life is complicated and dangerous and sometimes scary. We want leaders who rise above it and illustrate how to navigate the complexities of this world with as much virtue and grace as possible.

The problem with this campaign season is not that moms are realizing Obama is not the President we wanted him to be. Much more tragically, he’s not the man we wanted him to be.

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Everything Our Politicians Need to Know They Should Have Learned in Kindergarten (OPINION)

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Amy Julia Becker

“Use your words.

“You can’t always get what you want.”

“Take a minute to think about it, and then tell me the truth.”

“Remember to share.”

 “Instead of grabbing, please ask nicely.”

I repeat these phrases throughout the day, pretty much every day. I want my children to learn how to be kind to one another, how to think about other people’s needs in addition to their own, and how to work out problems. I want them to know how to compromise.

As I watched the second Presidential debate on Tuesday night, I wondered whether President Obama and Governor Romney remembered the lessons their parents had taught them in their early years. The debate heated up at times, with each man accusing the other of misleading or untrue assertions. They interrupted each other. They raised their voices. They gave us reasons to be disappointed. NPR called it a “town brawl” instead of a “town hall” meeting. According to the New York Times, both men exaggerated or misrepresented the other’s position (or flat out lied). And yet I also suspect that these m­­en–both pragmatic leaders with track records of centrist positions and a willingness to work with the opposition (Romney in Massachusetts, Obama as President)—would both be willing to compromise, to work it out civilly. If we still had a system in which the loser of the Presidential contest became Vice President, I could imagine it working out between these two.

            When it comes to civil government and common courtesy, it’s not Obama or Romney who need reminders. The people who need a reminder of putting the common good ahead of self-preservation, a reminder of compromise, a reminder of telling the truth and sharing, are our representatives serving in Congress.

President Obama, as he stated in the debate, inherited a mess. The economy was headed towards depression. The unemployment rate was on the rise. The deficit had soared as a result of fighting two unfunded wars. And Obama was prepared to tackle the problems through centrist solutions. He reached out to the Republican opposition. He advanced a health care plan based upon the conservative Heritage Foundation’s proposal (which, incidentally, served as Governor Romney’s blueprint for health care in Massachusetts as well). He initiated conversations about tax cuts for the middle class, a return to Clinton-era tax rates on the wealthiest individuals, and reductions in spending. He tried to pave a middle way.

And then the Republican opposition forgot what they had learned as little children. Instead of deciding that their job as elected officials was to serve the people of this nation, they decided to serve themselves. They decided that their primary goal was to defeat Obama. They worried that compromise would make him look good. They assumed that economic change that benefited us all would ensure his reelection. And so they nearly shut down our government on multiple occasions.

As an independent voter with moderate views on both social and economic policy, I believe the best situation for our country is one in which the President and the majority in Congress come from opposing sides of the aisle. At least in theory, this scenario forces compromise, forces each party to give and take, to listen, to allow the ideas that serve all people to rise to the top. Instead, the Republicans have decided to take their toys and go home, and our nation has continued to wallow in a place of high unemployment, low growth, and increasing poverty.

Whoever wins this election is probably going to be lauded as a great leader, simply because the economy is poised to turn around no matter who holds the highest office in the land. But the mark of true and meaningful leadership in the service of our nation will come only if our president—whomever he may be—can figure out how to bring our nation back to a place where Republicans and Democrats alike can sacrifice their party’s ideology for the common good of the American people. If only our leaders could remember those basic lessons we try to teach our children every day.

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Investigating the Single Mom-Gun Violence Connection (OPINION)

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Sharon Lerner

Oh, it was good to hear the candidates mention gun violence last night! I feared the subject might get lost amidst the binders full of women.

But, finally, after all those folks — including a six-year-old — were shot in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater; after so many students — including those at Chardon High School in Ohio, at Walpole Elementary School in New Hampshire, at Millard South High School in Omaha, not to mention the kids at Virginia Tech — died, the moment arrived when we can have a serious discussion about how to rein in guns.

Or at least we could have.

Gun control did come up at the town hall style debate last night, thanks to Nina Gonzalez (one of the regular people who guided the debate with questions as good and pointed as those of any professional moderator). Gonzalez asked the president what he would do to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals — a fair question, given that Obama had said he wanted to do just that during his last presidential campaign.

Happily, the President went on to give families reason to hope that he might actually put some muscle behind an assault weapons ban in his next term. He said he supported the ban passed under Clinton in 1994, which expired after eight years and made it illegal to sell the military-style weapons now widely available in guns stores and gun shows. Though he didn’t work to reinstate it in his first term, he could in his next.

Banning the guns like the AR-15, the type of rifle that was used to shoot off as many as 50 shots a minute in the Aurora massacre, would be a good first step. (Why exactly does the general public need access to a gun that can carry 100 rounds of ammunition and can shoot bullets that can go through two people?)

But Romney was clear he has no intention of banning assault weapons. Despite the fact that he supported similar legislation as governor of Massachusetts, he now stands — or perhaps, lies — with the National Rifle Association.

The flip-flopping should come as no surprise. But what came out of his mouth next on the topic of gun violence was a shock. In search of a culprit for the numerous shootings that have plagued our country, Romney came up with — not weapons makers, social alienation, or even shoot-em-up video games — but single moms.

Romney said he’s not in favor of “new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away and making guns illegal,” agreed with the President about the importance of good schools; and then went on to say this:

“Let me mention another thing — parents. We need moms and dads to raise kids. Wherever possible, the benefit of having two parents in the home. That’s not always possible. Lot of great single moms and single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids, before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone. That’s a great idea.”

Americans should be alarmed about gun violence — parents especially. At least 5,740 children and teens were killed by guns in 2008 and 2009, according to a Children’s Defense Fund report that was put out this year and dedicated to the memory of Trayvon Martin. That number includes 173 preschoolers, double the number of police officers killed in the line of duty.

But single parenthood is not the cause of our problem. And, whether getting married to someone is a “great idea,” it probably won’t affect the number of children gunned down in our country.

In an effort to be charitable, I can imagine that Romney was trying to say that gun violence is linked to urban poverty — and it is. Gun violence hits minority kids hardest, and most of the kids who die from gunshots live in cities.

But his leap to seeing single mothers as the cause of that poverty — and thus, if I understand his bizarre segue correctly — as the cause of gun violence is illogical and downright offensive.

Sure, single mothers’ kids are more likely to live in poverty. But there is plenty of evidence that being poor is what leads to the single parenthood — rather than the other way around. Kathryn Edin, a professor of public policy at Harvard, provides perhaps the best exploration of this relationship in “Promises I Can Keep,” her book on why poor women put motherhood before marriage.

If Romney really wanted to stop gun violence, he could support an assault weapons ban, as he did in Massachusetts. If Romney were really concerned about poverty, there are plenty of good ideas about how to address it directly. But he doesn’t support raising the minimum wage (at least not clearly); his tax plan would help the rich and hurt the poor; he’d weaken social security; and he wants to shrink — rather than expand — the safety net.

So instead of taking on the gun industry or the roots of inequality, he blamed single moms. It was a strange tack — and one that not only did nothing to help solve our nation’s gun violence crisis, it managed to offend a huge chunk of the voting public.

Read more opinions from Sharon Lerner

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Moms Know Romney is Right: It’s Time for Big Bird to Fly By Himself (OPINION)

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Nancy French

In the first debate between Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, the GOP nominee ruffled some feathers by saying that he’d cut the budget by eliminating non-essential costs, like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Because the debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, is employed by PBS, Romney added:

“I’m sorry Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things,” he said. “I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too.”

I’m sure moms everywhere have seen the clip a dozen times.  As soon as Romney said those words, the social media universe exploded. Immediately, a fake Twitter account for Big Bird was set up.  The first tweet was, “WTF, Mitt Romney?” and another was, “Yo Mitt Romney, Sesame Street is brought to you today by the letters F & U!”  Celebrities also chimed in. In one of the 17,000 tweets per minute, Whoopi Goldberg lamented that Romney wanted to “kill Big Bird.”  Calls were made for a “Million Muppet March” on Washington.  A photoshopped picture of a forlorn Big Bird sitting on the Sesame stoop holding a “Will Work for Food” sign flew into inboxes across America. The next day, the President, still reeling from the previous night’s debate debacle, made fun of Romney for “getting tough on Big Bird.”  Even PBS sent out their own press release, which read, “Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation’s debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating.”

More than anyone else, moms have affection in our heart for lovable Elmo, the mysterious Snuffleupagus, and even the garbage-dwelling Oscar the Grouch.  But would a change in funding be “devastating?”  PBS’s self-importance is a little much for Americans who are struggling to pay the bills and find work.

So why does the government subsidize this show anyway?

The Public Broadcasting Act was passed in 1967 to address the paucity of quality children’s programming.  Now, however, moms know television is brimming with vibrant, entertaining, and educational offerings.  Is Gordon more educational, for example, than Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer?  Does Maria provide more diversity than the Disney Channel’s Doc McStuffins? Are the Sesame Street writers more clever than the ones who create the hilarious Phineas and Ferb?  Children’s television has come a long way since everyone had platform shoes, bell bottoms, and pet rocks. Sesame Street is no longer the only game in town, so is it really so vital to the republic?  If so, couldn’t this important cultural institution thrive by itself?  Michelle Malkin addressed this issue in National Review:

According to the 990 tax form all nonprofits are required to file, Sesame Workshop president and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 — nearly a million dollars — in compensation in 2008. And, from 2003 to 2006, Sesame Street made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales.”

Moms might not know these specific figures, nor do we precisely know how many Sesame Street books, stuffed animals, and lunchboxes we have in our homes at this moment.  But we do know this show created the “Tickle Me Elmo” mall riots and that the show can survive without us reaching into our own pockets.  (After the debate, the new unfortunate name for the formerly in-demand doll is “Subsidize Me Elmo.”)

Even the President realizes that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is bloated beyond reason.  His Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction commission said “the current CPB funding level is the highest it has ever been.”  Malkin writes, “Doing away with the appropriation would save nearly $500 million in 2015 alone. Over ten years, those savings would total $5 billion (or roughly ten Solyndras). In these tough times, that’s more than chump change and child’s play.”

To make matter worse, President Obama released an official campaign ad mocking Romney’s promise to eliminate funding to PBS.  He also sent out a campaign fundraiser telling voters that Romney “wanted to kill Big Bird.” 

But the public didn’t respond like he anticipated. On Twitter, people said they wished Obama was as serious about protecting our embassies as he is about protecting Big Bird.  Then, Romney said, “You have to scratch your head when the President spends the last week talking about saving Big Bird,” he said. ”I actually think we need to have a President who talks about saving the American people and saving good jobs.”  Worst of all, Sesame Street asked the President to take down his ad.  This prompted a Drudge headline with a photo of Big Bird saying, “Leave Me Alone, Obama!” and a NY Post cover of Big Bird in the Oval Office over the headline “Cheep Shot!” To top it all off, the Washington Post said his fundraising letter was incredibly misleading by writing, “How did ‘I love Big Bird’ turn into ‘kill Big Bird’? Only through a spin machine going on hyper drive.”

Recently my four-year-old asked me if we could get her face painted with silver glittery paint at a high school football game. 

“I don’t have a dollar,” I said, realizing I’d spent all I had at the concession stand.  She looked at me with huge tears in her eyes, unable to understand why she couldn’t have her face painted like her friends.

It’s a hard lesson. But since Sesame Street prides itself to teaching lessons to children,  PBS and the President should use this momentous occasion in history — when America has a national debt of over $16 trillion — to teach children a lesson about money.  When it runs out, you stop spending. 

As much as we love you, Big Bird, it’s time to fly by yourself.

Read more blog posts from Nancy French

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