Here is a new ad put out by the Clinton campaign. You must see the video to believe it. The presentation comes in the guise of innocence and earnestness, but it has a powerful political meaning, one applying not only to the current campaign, but to the essence of human nature.
A sweet voice begins, “My name is Olivia. I’m a little feminist growing up to help all women with equal rights. I have two dads . . .” Olivia’s appearance is gender-neutral—if you were just looking at the image, you couldn’t be sure if she is a girl or a boy. Her clothing is, in fact, boyish preppy. The Brooklyn bridge appears as her fathers drive her to school, putting her squarely in the northeastern elite. She has dyslexia and attends a school for kids with learning disabilities. As she speaks, a child-like script appears on the screen, as if she were writing an endorsement for Ms. Clinton. She wants Hillary to become “the first woman president of the whole United States!” And she is “real glad that there is gay marriage legal all around the whole 50 states of America.”
What makes this ad so creepy is not the cheap sentimentality of it—which certainly isn’t confined to any political party and which should prompt us to ban children from all political advertisements and all political stages and ceremonies. Nor is it the policy positions implied.
The creepiness falls somewhere else: on the phenomenon of a twelve-year-old child defining herself so firmly with an ideological position. No youth on the cusp of puberty should acquire such a political identity. It says something deeply distorted about the progressive position that childhood should be politicized in this way, or in any way. One wants to object, “Wait, can’t we let the twelve-year-old just be a twelve-year-old?”
But the progressive position runs politics all the way down to infancy, or rather, all the way to the moment of conception. There is no pre-political condition, they would reply, and gay marriage and parenthood only makes explicit the politics of the family that have been operative from the start.
If the Republicans were smart, they would distribute this advertisement as widely as possible.
Mark Bauerlein is senior editor of First Things.