I know. You’ve had enough. You’re absolutely OVER the Presidential campaign of 2016. You’re sick of him. You’re tired of her. But, the fact is, your kids are still watching.
Your children see the video clips of screaming candidates. And, whining commentators. They hear the radio hosts poke fun. They see the memes, the viral videos and the virtual cyberspace mess that portrays our ailing political system. And, your children need something better… from you… their parents.
In fact, American Founding Father, John Adams, once advised parents like you and me, “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” And, that is exactly why I want my kids to know more than they see on their screens this year.
As a former political press secretary, who worked for various campaigns in southern California (before I knew better), I’ve come to know a bit about political messaging. And, as a former TV reporter who interviewed politicians for a living, I know a bit more about political media coverage. So, below are the four things I will tell my kids about this year’s Presidential campaign. I’ll tell them because I want them to have respect for our political past and hope for our political future. We need our children to grow up and do it better… than this.
- Remember our Forefathers While they were flawed men, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, Paine and Adams had altruistic ideals that weren’t completely mired in power-brokering, agenda-setting and wooing the donor base. Ironically, George Washington once warned: “Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.” Hmm. Remind anyone of this year’s election? And, this quote from Thomas Jefferson is chilling, considering what’s unfolding in 2016: “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that His justice cannot sleep for ever.”
- The Media can be Malicious There is a commonly used phrase about TV news (and now web-based news)… “if it bleeds, it leads.” When I was in TV, this was mostly true. If I had to “tease” a story I was covering for the evening news, I was told to think of what would “scare people into watching.” If the media is paid to scare us by showing us the worst, then by default, it’s not giving us the best of both candidates (some would argue that several stations show only the best of her while one other station broadcasts mostly the best of him). The news folks usually lead with the most lascivious, salacious, lecherous and outrageous. While the 2016 candidates have made this kind of coverage easier, we’re not getting the whole story. We’re getting the horse race. We’re getting the scandal count. We’re getting the boxing match.election
- Don’t Act Like Them I fear my kids will witness the unfolding campaign of 2016 and think it’s OK for adults to act like this. These candidates regularly utilize slander, gossip, lies, lewd references and verbal warfare like it’s normal. I want my children to know it’s not OK to talk like that. It’s not acceptable to gossip about people. It’s not right to spread something negative about someone that might not be true. I want them to know that it’s better to choose kindness over cruelty. election
- Political Promises Spring from Political Dollars In the end, so much of what modern politicians say springs from the well that quenches their thirst for campaign dollars. While not every political position can be tied to a political dollar, there is a provable connection. If this teacher’s union gave a hefty donation, follow the money trail to the promises the politician makes about educational reform. If that gun lobby gave a huge contribution, translate that into the candidate’s stance on the Second Amendment. If Planned Parenthood made multiple donations, look at what the candidate says about “reproductive rights.” Sometimes, I’m not even sure the candidate had a political stance that inspired the donation from a particular cause… instead, I’ve come to think some candidate positions are born purely from money. Avid supporters of Donald Trump claim he’s immune to the influence of money because he isn’t as reliant on campaign donations. That may be partly true; however, we must remember “the Donald” has corporate interests and friends just as Hillary has influential, high-dollar donors. By the way, I will NOT tell my children that all lobbies, unions or corporations are bad… but I will warn them that their money has tainted our system. Sam Adams, cousin of Founding Father, John Adams, had this to say about the money trail: “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
I am happy to admit that not all politicians require the parental warnings I suggest above. But, I think most would agree this particular presidential campaign requires parental guidance, whether your kids can vote or not.
By Jenny Dean Schmidt
Wife of Mike
Mother of two teenagers, Otis and Georgia
1 Corinthians 13 Team Member
Executive Director, ChannelMom Media & Outreach and Host of ChannelMom Radio on 94.7 KRKS FM in Denver and also at channelmom.com.