Should babies wear political propaganda?

The year was 1980. I was two, so the legend goes, and sitting on my uncle’s lap while he read the newspaper. I pointed to a picture of Ronald Reagan and said: “That man’s a pig.” Everyone was so proud. 

More than twenty-five years later, we’re in the midst of another election year. The “pigs” are out in full force and, as a grown-up, I’m well-versed in who they are. I should be. Since birth, I’ve been deeply indoctrinated by my liberal family.

I remember trying to catch red, white and blue confetti on my tongue during a Walter Mondale rally. I remember carrying signs for Dukakis around my neighborhood and making calls to pro-choice voters on his behalf when I was eight. If my father or mother believed in God, She was in the ACLU.

I loved carrying signs, shouting my beliefs and debating my third-grade classmates. So why did I flinch the other day when someone offered my one-year-old a “My Mama Loves Obama” onesie? After all, her mama does, indeed, love Obama. But the thought of seeing my politics on my toddler’s chest gave me pause. I may shout Obama’s name from on high, but should it be one of my child’s first words?

Babies have been making the rounds this campaign, as always: wearing slogans, holding signs and being kissed by candidates. One writer for Slate managed to get his infant daughter photographed with each of the candidates at the New Hampshire primary. And it’s easy to see why: babies make politicians look good. What’s more endearing than a teary-eyed politician embracing a sweet little infant, his man-paw made more tender and gentle by its proximity to a feathery-soft baby? The theory: “If candidate X loves that baby so much, he must love mine, too.”

David Shuster’s recent comments regarding the Clintons’ “pimping” of Chelsea Clinton may have made poor use of the term, but that is exactly what I fear I would be doing should my daughter receive a kiss from a candidate. Still, I am not immune to a precious photo. I never really mind seeing a baby who supports my candidate or my causes. But nothing makes me sicker than a small child espousing, say, homophobic rants. When I see a child stumping for a cause I abhor, my first thought is one of pity. That poor child must be so brainwashed. So, as a child who once protested, held signs and chanted “George, stay out of my Bush” in Washington, I have to wonder if the brainwashing goes both ways.