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White House

America Doesn’t Need a Helicopter-Mom-in-Chief

Kirsten Gillibrand announced last week — on Stephen Colbert’s show, of course — that she’s running for president. She’s gotten some deserved grief, including from Trevor Noah, for saying this:

As a young mom, I will fight for other people’s kids as hard as I fight for my own.

The thing is, she’s not young. She’s 52, which is not necessarily “old mom” age, but it’s not “young mom” age either. It’s just mom-aged. Hillary Clinton was 45 in 1992 when she entered the national stage. I don’t recall her being called a “young mom” at the time.

But that’s not the only think that vexes me about this line. She says that she will fight for other people’s kids as hard as she fights for her own.

She won’t. She shouldn’t. She can’t.

It’s almost obligatory to mention the Phil Gramm story here. Roughly, it goes like this: Phil Gramm was talking to a group of voters. He was asked what his educational policies were. He replied, “My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do.”

A woman interrupted and said something like, “No, you don’t. I love your kids too.”

Gramm replied, “Okay: What are their names?”

Leave aside my questions about how much “hard” fighting the children of a U.S. senator and a venture capitalist really require (is their neighborhood plagued by bears?), the president of the United States isn’t the country’s mom any more than it is its dad. The notion that the head of one branch of the federal government can possibly care as much about my child as I do is insane.

Moreover parents fight for their kids in ways that cannot be universalized. Moms who fight for their kids, figuratively speaking, are often fighting off other kids (or their parents or their teachers) so that their own kids have comparative advantage. You can’t fight for all kids to have comparative advantages over other kids. And the idea of a Helicopter-Mom-in-Chief gives me the willies.


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