Walking through the neighborhood today on my way to pick up a much-needed cup of coffee, I came across the homemade sign above. I couldn’t help but smile at this display of unironic passion, and I could picture the scene as the family put together this example of rousing partisan support. Dad patiently spelling out O-B-A-M-A, while Mom cuts out big pieces of paper. “What color should the ‘O’ be?” asks one child, while his sister carefully paints a big, blue M. The letters, and a couple of attendant stars and flowers affixed to the windows then outside to view the result.
And it was then I was struck with the idea of where our political identities come from. For many people, their college years are the first time they think about politics or political affiliation. For others it may be when they get out into the workforce and, as a result of their particular job, are exposed to the political influence of one party or another. For many of us I suspect it starts much earlier than that. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say your party affiliation is influenced by your parents.
Ours was a union household, and much of the kitchen table talk revolved around construction job sites and paying bills. I grew up in the era of Watergate, and I can remember watching some of the 1976 Democratic convention with my mom. Even though my parents never told me to vote one way or another, and even though I don’t remember asking them what party they belonged to, I’m pretty sure my party affiliation was secured at that kitchen table. In that way, party identification works just like advertising. If a given company can hook us into using their product or service when we’re young, they’ll have a customer for life.
Will the tots who put together this sign with their parents turn out to be lifelong Democrats? The answer may lie in the little extra sign they attached to the right-most window.
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