Photo: Matt A.J. through WhoWhatWhy Candidates
Author: Dr. Jennie Sweet-Cushman
I know, an odd proclamation, right? Hang in there with me, though, because there is a story here.
For me, politics has been my whole life, well, my whole life. I began attempting to sway voters to see my point of view at the grocery store with my mom when I was three years old. Later, at age four, I briefly refused to accept the results of the 1980 election when my candidate lost his presidential bid, emphatically telling everyone I met: “Ronald Reagan is not my president.”
I assume I was exceptionally cute (think pigtails and freckles) when I did this, so probably my revolutionary tendencies were not alarming to anyone.
So imagine my horror as a mom when my first-born child, Christopher, showed no interest whatsoever in politics as a toddler. Then, imagine my horror when this lack of interest persisted past the exact moment he could register to vote; imagine it when he did not vote in the 2012 presidential election. Sadly, I had somehow completely failed as a parent.
Couple this with my professional life as a political scientist where one of my primary objectives is to inspire young people to understand and proactively participate in civic life. If I was not able to do this for my own college-aged child, what credibility did I have attempting to encourage my students to be a part of the process?
Fortunately, this is a story of redemption. Fast forward to 2016. Christopher is, as he would say, “adulting hard” these days—living in Chicago with a big-boy job in a big-boy world. Apparently, he also is starting to have big-boy thoughts about politics. It began during the primary when he softened the blow of that latest addition to his tattoo arm sleeve (below the elbow, we swore we wouldn’t go below the elbow!), by reporting that he and the tattoo artist were watching the Republican primary debate as the design was etched into his forearm. (This will not work on your mom, so I suggest other strategies) He became increasingly vocal about his opinion about the Republican nominee as the campaign continued.
Finally, in September, the night of the first debate, I received the text from him that a political scientist mom longs for from her child: “Watching the debate. F*ck this guy. #I’mWithHer.” Accompanying this was a close-up photo of his Illinois voter registration, in an envelope, with a stamp.
Thanks, Donald Trump. My baby boy is now a registered and “extremely likely” voter, and I have you to thank for this validation of my parenting. Now, about my 12-year old….