Mimi Graham: If babies could vote in this 2016 election

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Dr. Mimi Graham

Dr. Mimi Graham

If babies could vote in this tough election, they’d want more than a kiss on the cheek. If they could talk, imagine what they would say about the issues that matter to them — to win their support.

These newest little humans would want parents who are ready to be devoted to their care — so they’d support leaders who value family planning. Unplanned parenthood means too many babies are born to parents who are too young, unstable, or too poor to take care of them. Since 62 percent of Florida births are paid by Medicaid, it’s clear that parents cannot even afford to pay for delivery. These babies often start out way behind when it comes to what they need to succeed.

For parents who struggle with addictions, babies would support leaders who recognize it as a public health crisis and offer therapeutic options for recovery, rather than locking up their moms and dads.

To win the baby vote, candidates need to support more than a modest minimum wage hike — because many moms and dads have to work two jobs to make ends meet and still face agonizing decisions about whether to pay the light bill or buy groceries and diapers. Baby voters would want their candidates to support affordable health care for everyone — so parents don’t stress out over hard-to-pay medical bills.

Babies’ little brains are doing big work, especially in the first 1000 days of life when they are hard-wiring the foundation for all future learning. They would elect officials who understand that “bright futures” begin in the high chair, not on college campuses. They’d support scholarships for high-quality early learning programs that teach their parents to sing, read, and talk to them at the time when their brains are most receptive to learning. They’d know that programs that encourage fair play and getting along with others are equally important to teaching ABCs.

Babies would want political candidates who will wisely invest in early learning programs so that every child gets the jump-start they need to succeed.

Babies would want their political leaders to ensure children everywhere experience the joy and innocence of childhood, without hunger; that every child gets a bedtime story and is kissed goodnight; that children don’t have to shoulder adult responsibilities or be exposed to an X-rated world.

If babies could vote, they’d support candidates who had common sense gun regulations so that their innocent curiosity doesn’t lead to more gun tragedies that continue to kill at least one child every other day.

If babies could vote, they would choose leaders who take climate change seriously – or the planet they inherit may be largely uninhabitable.

Babies would want leaders who guide their path to adulthood in a society that allows them to share in the nation’s promise of opportunity and the pursuit of happiness. They would want to vote for leaders who leave them a world where every child gets enough love to build a lifelong foundation of security so that they, too, can become nurturing, productive grownups who contribute to our nation’s economic growth.

If babies could vote, they’d tell our leaders to “use their words” to find common sense solutions to any and all of our truly big problems. The babies would support construction of a HUGE bipartisan sandbox where there is plenty of room for everyone to play nicely together.

We all know, of course, that babies can’t vote in this election. But that truly makes each of our votes even more important – to embrace candidates/leaders who will be dedicated to improving the kind of communities, country and world that we are responsible for preserving, improving and protecting as their stewards.

Perhaps the best way to keep the babies in mind during this divisive election season is to remember the oft-quoted wisdom of Native Americans: “Treat the earth (and our country) well. It was not given to us by our parents. It was loaned to us by our children.”

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Dr. Mimi Graham, Director of the Florida State University Center for Prevention & Early Intervention Policy, may be reached at mgraham@fsu.edu.

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