Last night I picked up Kyla and George from their after-school program. Kyla got into the car and announced that they were having a mock election at school tomorrow, and that she was going to vote for Mitt Romney, because Barack Obama would raise our taxes!
To which I responded, “What!”
I was surprised because my daughter is Barack Obama’s biggest fan. She has been since before 2008. Whenever she would hear someone on the radio criticize the president, she would shout, “Aw! Come on!” I would try to explain how Obama was not a perfect president, and he had done some things I disagreed with, but Kyla would not have it. She was with Barack all the way. So I was shocked that she would so quickly change her “vote.”
The deeper I dug into her logic, the clearer it was to me that my daughter had succumbed to a lot of peer pressure from her classmates and at least one teacher (not her homeroom teacher). We talked a bit more about the facts, about how the tax increases Obama was proposing would not apply to our family. She felt she had been deceived, and she was more than a little miffed. So was I.
I am a political person, but I am not all that partisan. Whenever Kyla and I talk about politics and civics, I try to use the opportunity to help her learn how to reason and to recognize spin and manipulation. Thus I told her last night that I did not care whom she voted for, as long as she understood why she was doing it. She needed to study the facts and issues for herself.
My talk last night affected how I voted today. A couple of weeks ago, I confessed that I was thinking about voting for Mitt Romney because perhaps the only way to bring actual systemic change is to make our plutocracy official. Yesterday, I was still an undecided voter. I was undecided this morning, too, all the way up until I made the choice to take the kids with me to the polls. It is something I try to do when I vote (but this was the first time I have attempted it with three little ones in tow).
As Kyla stood, looking over my shoulder, I cast my vote for Obama. I did it because it was the clearest way I thought she could understand that other people do not tell her whom to vote for (not even me). She is free to make up her own mind. Voting for someone her friends and teachers said to avoid was the best way I felt I could help her understand that just because her peers say something – just because an authority figure says something! – does not mean they are right.
In other words, I voted for Obama because, in that moment, it was the best way I could protest against “the system.” My daughter does not know Marx yet. She would not have understood the rationale behind my decision to vote for Mitt. To her, it would have looked like I was going along with the crowd.
But there is another reason I voted for Obama. It is not that I think we will be better off. At best, I think we will be putting off the inevitable. The economic and social injustices prevalent in our society are not sustainable, but I would be a bad daddy if I told my kids what they had to worry about. I do not tell them that bad guys actually could break into our house and steal our stuff, I assure them that the nearby tornado will not hurt us, and today I voted for Obama.
“There, there, little ones. Everything will be alright.”