With Dubya making new and more flabbergasting gaffes by the day, I've decided it's time to stop being ashamed of my strategy for increasing the number of people in the U.S. disposed to vote against him and his ilk: I'm brainwashing my 11-year-old daughter to be a Democrat.
I started about three years ago. My one vote, cast in California, hadn't counted. The dollars I contributed to the DNC hadn't made much difference, either, given that my chosen party hadn't spent them on the liberal equivalent of Karl Rove. So I did the only constructive thing: I started making a new Democrat from scratch, using materials found right here in the house.
I began by explaining to Olivia that Daddy and I don't believe the same things that the President believes.
"What does he believe?" Olivia asked, all big eyes and trust. She was about eight at the time.
"He thinks that science could be wrong about things like global warming and evolution," I said.
"What do you mean?" Olivia said. "If science is wrong, what does he think is right?"
"The Bible," I replied. "The Bible says that God created Adam and Eve and that's where we all came from."
"But the Bible is just a bunch of stories," Olivia said, rolling her eyes. Olivia wasn't merely being raised by Democrats. She was being raised by agnostic Democrats.
"I know," I said, "But he takes it literally. He thinks that's what really happened."
"He's an idiot," Olivia said firmly.
Bingo. The world now had one more Democrat.
As Olivia understood more about items in the news I tried to achieve a bit of objectivity, but since I lacked it myself I was having trouble conveying it. When Olivia heard that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, she came home from school in a lather.
"Why did George Bush invade Iraq then?" she demanded to know.
I took a big breath and delivered the following terrifically objective explanation: "Because his father was President before he was, and his father invaded Iraq and tried to kill Saddam Hussein and, after he failed, Saddam Hussein tried to kill him back, and now the son is trying to finish the job," I said. "Also, Iraq has a lot of oil and Bush wanted to make sure we'd get to use it cheap."
"And everybody just let him get away with it? How did that happen?"
Now I felt guilty. Wasn't I one of the everybodies who let him get away with it? Maybe I should go to a peace march or something. But people sometimes get hurt at those things, and with three daughters I couldn't take the chance. I mailed a check to MoveOn instead.
When Olivia was in the fourth grade and the grown-ups were headed for the polls, her class held a mock election between Kerry and Bush and each child cast a vote. This would be interesting. For one thing, I'd get to see how the other parents in the class were brainwashing their kids. For another, I'd get to see how these people--many of whom were exceptionally wealthy--were really voting behind their closed liberalish San Francisco doors.
"Kerry won," Olivia reported. "Twenty to two."
I was heartened. Then Olivia said, serious as a heart attack, "Alexandra voted for Bush." Alexandra was Olivia's best friend and my husband and I were friendly with her parents. They were Republicans? Didn't see that one coming.
"No way," I said.
"Way," Olivia replied.
"Oh, don't worry about it. I don't think Alexandra knows enough about Bush to really support him."
"But she does, Mom! She's in favor of the war and everything. She says Bush is doing a good job!"
A year later, Alexandra and Olivia's differing party affiliation was the source of daily friction. It threatened to ruin their friendship.
"Alexandra loves The Shrub," Olivia said, using her preferred moniker for him, dripping 11-year-old condescension. "I don't want to be friends with anyone who loves The Shrub."
Then it hit me. I could hear myself talking back in college, telling my roommates that I could never have sex with a Republican, solely on principle. I flushed with shame. Olivia wasn't just turning into a Democrat. She was turning into me.
"You know," I said earnestly, all big eyes and trust. "That's the great thing about the United States. We can disagree about things like who should be President and what the President should do, but we don't blow each other up over it. We just wait until another election and vote for our candidate the next time."
Olivia was sitting at her computer, where I saw from her email string that she was in the middle of an online fight with Alexandra. They were sending angry messages back and forth about Bush's merits or lack of them, an 11-year-old war of ideas.
"I know what," Olivia said, brightening. "I'll write back with a list of everything Bush thinks that's stupid and convince Alexandra that she shouldn't like him anymore. Then everything will be okay."
But before Olivia could finish pecking out her two-finger harangue, Alexandra pinged again, asking Olivia to drop the subject once and for all. Olivia's shoulders fell, but I was secretly relieved. It's one thing to have an agenda to populate the world with liberal progeny. It's quite another to see your progeny lose friends because of your little agenda.
Much as it galls me, I now plan to start talking to Olivia about Things We Discuss Outside the Home versus Things We Don't. That is, until 2016. That's the first election Olivia will be old enough to vote in, and as far as I'm concerned, it can't come fast enough.