Promises and politics... grade school style
The mudslinging has begun.
Alliances are being formed. Debate strategies are being sharpened. Bold promises are being made - promises of leadership, reform… and candy.
I’m not talking about Mitt and Obama, Paul and Joe. I’m talking about Student Council.
“Back-to-school” means student council elections. As parents, this is the perfect opportunity to teach our children about the importance of the election process, the role of public servants, and how to run a clean campaign. And, if you're me, how to lose gracefully.
Both of my twins ran for 4th Grade Homeroom Representative this year. I suspect they wanted to be elected not so much to “serve the people” but more for all the groovy perks – like getting out of class for meetings, free snacks, and getting to tell people you’re more important than they are. Just like real politicians!
Our first lesson in politics came when Livi made her campaign sign. She covered her cardboard billboard with vague statements, like “I will try my best to be fantastic!” and “I will try to go to all of the meetings!”
Note the sincerity in these campaign promises. Nowhere does she actually promise anything other than that she’ll give it a whirl. I appreciate her honesty, but I was skeptical about its effectiveness.
I suggested she put down something more definitive – something like: “I WILL make this a great school year!” or “A Vote for Livi is a Vote for FUN!” But she was reluctant.
“I can’t promise to do that. What if people don’t have fun?”
She is clearly not grasping this whole "politician" thing.
Next, she learned about campaigning as the kids hit up all of their friends to vote for them during recess. The campaign trail made stops at the swings, the 4-square court, and the jungle gym.
“Mommy, at recess today, I asked Sierra to vote for me and Paris said 'No, vote for me!' It wasn’t fair. I asked her first.”
I explained to Livi that this is campaigning – it’s not about who asks first. You have to win over your voters.
I know Sierra, and I know she carries a lot of clout on the playground. I said, “Sierra is like a lobbyist. You want her vote because she can bring a large constituency with her to your side. You need to be able to give Sierra something she wants.”
Livi asked. “What’s a constituency?”
Ugh. This was harder than I thought. “Just bring her some Oreos.”
When election day came, Livi was ready with her colorful poster and a thoughtful speech about all the things she’d “try” to do. Ben was totally ill equipped. He didn’t bother making a poster and he completely improvised his election speech, no doubt going on and on about what a great guy he is (on second thought, maybe he is equipped after all).
Both kids lost.
“It wasn’t fair, Mom! Paris said she’d get a yogurt machine in the cafeteria!”
“Yeah! With all the toppings and stuff! Everyone voted for her.”
Wow, a yogurt machine. I’d vote for her too.
Well, it was a good run, and there were lots of important lessons. I suggested she congratulate Paris on winning and invite her over for a playdate. After all, it’s good to have friends in high places.
I’m sure they’ll run for office again next year - wiser and better prepared for this experience. They’ll be ready with inspiring speeches and achievable promises that will entice and sway voters.
And that had better be enough to win an election, because there is no way in hell I’m buying a yogurt machine.
Sarah Maizes is a writer, blogger, comedian, founder of www.MommyLITEonline.com and the author of “Got Milf? The Modern Mom’s guide to Feeling Fabulous, Looking Great and Rocking a Minivan.” Come share a daily giggle with her on Facebook at and follow her on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/SarahMaizes.
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