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COLUMN

And the children shall lead them: Romney for president

Republican gets JA vote Obama won four years ago

Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 8:20 am

Well, OK: You'd probably expect residents of a place called “BizTown” to support a union-busting, cold-hearted, tax-cheating vulture capitalist like Mitt Romney for president.

But when you remember that Barack Obama carried the same vote four years ago, maybe Wednesday's lopsided support of the Republican by participants in Junior Achievement of Northeast Indiana's program should be given just a little credibility. After all, nearly 60 percent of the 77 fifth- and sixth-graders from Avilla Elementary School voted – a better turnout than adults are likely to produce in less than two weeks.

And 25 of them voted for Romney, or nearly three times the nine votes Obama received. In fact, “other” received three more votes than the president.

Because adults tend to superimpose their preconceptions on children, some will conclude that JA's pro-business bent accounts for Wednesday's vote. After all, as President Lena Yarian explained, BizTown works with about 8,400 elementary students each year, teaching them “how important each citizen is in a successful working economy. The opportunity to vote for their mayor, the town's laws and the nation's president are additional important real-life lessons.”

Other results Wednesday also reflected what could be called a Republican or at least a conservative mindset. When asked what they would do with an extra $2, for example, 23 said they would put it in the bank and six would invest it.

Seventeen would spend it, no doubt to stimulate the BizTown economy.

But the weeks-long BizTown program is not political, Yarian said, and obviously did not even require all students to vote. Those who did cast ballots had to do so while also making time to operate one of 14 businesses, shop, cash a paycheck and perform other mundane daily activities.

Nor, said Editor Kaitlyn McFarlane and CEO Cheyanne McClure, did the BizTown newspaper accept any negative ads. “Sometimes kids hear it when their parents like somebody,” McClure said.

“Kids follow what they know,” Yarian added. “When the mayor pushes people (to vote), they will.”

And although BizTown Mayor Grace Erwin didn't campaign for Obama and thought he might win, she wasn't disappointed by the outcome.

“I think people want something new. And I don't like Obama that much,” she said.

Did the kids' votes Wednesday reflect how their parents will vote Nov. 6? Will a majority of voters really support Romney simply because he is not the incumbent? We'll know soon enough, and with Indiana expected to return to its red-state status after supporting Obama four years ago, it may not matter anyway.

But if Americans really are eager for a change after endorsing Obama's promise of the same thing just four years ago – a conclusion McFarlane also suggested – Obama may not be able to reverse the many polls that seem to be trending in Romney's favor.

Frankly, the na´ve innocence reflected in the students' actions and words Thursday was a welcome respite from a political season that has been long on distortion and personal attacks but woefully short on solutions.

Whether it's Republican Senate candidates' ill-conceived and inflamatory comments about rape and abortion or the resulting condemnations from Democratic leaders who have accused opponents of wanting to enslave blacks and make war on women, the race for high office has degenerated to the point that supposed adults too often behave like petulant children.

While real children, thankfully, demonstrate that economic literacy and the ability to disagree cordially somehow still survive. That's bad news for most politicians, but very good news for the rest of us.

I should also mention that, when asked what their favorite White House pet would be, three BizTown residents voted for a cat, 21 for a dog and 23 for a tiger -- spefically, a white tiger. That's fine for now, I suppose, but somebody should warn them that that kind of thing could get them accused of racism in a few years.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com, or call him at 461-8355.