I will give gay rights activists one thing: they certainly know how to use naked emotional appeals to score political points. Last week, the 8-year-old son of a lesbian mom approached Michele Bachmann at a book signing and said, “my mommy is gay and she doesn’t need fixing.” (The “fixing” part is presumably a reference to Bachmann’s husband’s involvement in questionable “ex-gay therapy.”) It’s unclear whether the boy did this on his own, or if his mother coached him.
If she did, shame on her. She clearly understood the emotional appeal of a little boy frowning at Michele Bachmann and saying she's attacking his mommy. If this woman wanted to confront Bachmann, she should have done it herself, not sent her elementary school aged child to do it for her.
This isn’t the first time gay rights activists have exploited children. Last year, a group called “FCKH8” released a video featuring elementary school kids dropping the F-word and flipping off the camera, telling the audience “don’t f---ing talk to me about f---ing family values” and “don’t f--- with my two gay dads.” I’m sure some people thought coaching small children to spout obscenities was cute. I thought it was disgusting. However, the strategy was obvious. When you use children to make your point for you, no one is going to argue back.
The left knows this well. Back in 1994, Democrats hauled a chronically ill 7-year-old, Jennifer Bush, before Congress to testify in favor of Hillary Clinton’s government-run health care proposal. In a tearjerker display, Jennifer handed President Clinton her lucky silver dollar, “to bring you good luck so everyone can have good insurance.” As the Florida Sun-Sentinel reported at the time, “Her mother gently urged her…Jennifer smiled, shrugged, and, at her mother's prompting, said, ‘I pray every night that I can get better—and that everyone can have insurance.’” (It turned out the mother who coached her daughter to appeal for “good insurance” was the one making her sick. Kathy Bush was later convicted of repeatedly poisoning Jennifer—and subjecting her to dozens of operations—for sympathy and attention.)
Few debate tactics are more manipulative than using kids to parrot your own political beliefs, because no one is willing to argue with an adorable child making sad faces. They can’t tear down a child’s talking points without looking boorish, which is why only cowards send in children to make their case for them.
The right isn’t completely immune to this tactic. Back in 2005, some pro-life demonstrators outside Terri Schiavo’s hospice allowed (or, more likely, directed) their children to carry cups of water across police lines, where they were arrested. Sure, it was ludicrous--Terri Schiavo was unable to drink from a glass and relied on a feeding tube—but it accomplished several of the parents’ goals. First, it was an emotionally manipulative demonstration: supposedly naïve, innocent children just trying to deliver water to a disabled woman and getting handcuffed by thuggish cops. It also put the police in the impossible position of either allowing trespassing onto private property or arresting children. These parents sent their kids to do their dirty work for them. The parents weren't willing to be handcuffed and booked themselves, and they knew a prosecutor would never press charges against a kid. The children were literally their human shields.
It’s never okay. I’m not saying you shouldn’t impart your values to your child. I had a child seven weeks ago, and I consider it my duty to do so. But I won’t being using her as a proxy to convey my political beliefs. I’m a grown-up. I can do that myself—and so should anyone else who considers using “the children” to rig debates.