Kid President: Children’s Status in the Age of Trump

Authors: Tran Templeton*, Teachers College, Columbia University
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: critical childhood studies; popular culture; media; representation
Session Type: Paper

The figure of Donald Trump incites any number of gestures and smear words. Mainstream media portrayals position him as an idiot (Adams, 2017), a slob (Shephard, 2017) and yet most objectionably, a child (Brooks, 2017). So salient is the last identification that Comedy Central's Daily Show (2017) created a browser extension that would turn any of Trump's tweets into "their rightful state: a child's scribble". More recently Republican Senator Bob Corker referred to the White House as an "adult day care center" in which someone "must have missed their morning shift" (Rucker & Demirjian, 2017), the presumption being that a caregiver had not been present to temper Trump's irresponsible tweets. These provocations, however jocular and warranted, double as a sentiment around children's status and position in Western society: as adults-in-the-making, in need of taming and adults to manage them. While we romanticize childhood, children themselves "are leaky: they do not respect established boundaries. They wet the bed, spew up their food, have no respect for tidy kitchens or hoovered carpet" (Holland, 2004, p. 6). While Trump's policies have undermined the status of immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, Muslims, etc., our own responses to his office have simultaneously reified children’s lower social status. Our outrage at the oppression of others in turn works to oppress our youngest. In this work, I examine the child-adult dichotomy, in light of Trump’s presidency, as a boundary constituted and re-constituted through our social media and sociopolitical spaces and that needs serious consideration.

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