Rebecca de Winter
The other day, my 13-year-old daughter came home from school, plopped down on the couch, and asked if I had some time to talk. We usually chat about her day after school, so this seemed somewhat significant.
I said, “sure, what’s up?”
There was an awkward silence. She fidgeted, looked down, seemed nervous. Oh, no, I thought. Here it comes. It’s the question parents today fear the most from their children. No, not that one. THIS one:
“Mom, how did we end up with Donald Trump?”
I couldn’t help it. I bust out laughing. I almost couldn’t stop. It was the ideal reaction because then she started laughing, and we laughed together for quite awhile. This was a good start!
I’m not going to go into details of our discussion. The list of reasons we ended up with Trump is a mile long, intensely debated, and has been covered in depth for months. Suffice it to say I feel positive about the ground we covered, and I hope one lesson she takes from it is that voting out of anger is rarely a prudent action.
One thing that surprised me was her revelation that the election is a hot topic amongst her peers. When I was in middle school, politics as a subject of discussion would have ranked somewhere between “brands of toilet paper” and “geography of East Asia.” Apparently, at her school (these are sixth through eighth graders), it is not uncommon for the lunch table talk to frequently turn into raging debates about which “side” will win. They are mostly oblivious about third party options, but I’m still impressed with their level of interest.
The history and social studies teachers often play clips from the news, which perhaps explains some of it. I was amused to hear her anecdotes about how certain soundbites from both Clinton and Trump induced howls of derisive laughter from the students. They may be young, but they aren’t stupid.
And they are paying attention. As much as I despise Hillary Clinton, her ad about the impact of children watching Trump was brutal and spot-on. (Yes, the same could be said about her own corrupt, craven, fraudulent political career)
Sure, they aren’t yet sophisticated enough to grasp the nuances of policy positions and “evolutions,” but then neither are most adults. There’s no doubt the majority of them parrot what they hear at home (my child included), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When they test the waters with their confident pronouncements, fellow 13-year-olds with different opinions push back, and hard. Will that lead to introspection and further research? That might be too much to hope for, but it’s possible.
While our conversation had plenty of laughs, there were sad moments as well. I was particularly emotional about my heartbreak over “what could have been.” I described various candidates that, in my opinion, could have ushered in a positive sea change for the conservative movement.
My daughter is well aware I am crushed that our party ultimately chose Trump over so many decent people, so many qualified candidates, so what she said as we wrapped up our talk was touching.
“Mom, if it makes you feel any better, none of my best friend’s parents voted for Trump,” she said, and she hugged me.
Yes, it did make me feel better.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.