Candidates are talking up family values, but advocates complain that style exceeds substance.

When Jerry Brown kicked off his dark-horse presidential campaign last October, the former California governor focused his announcement speech around the theme of “our children’s rightful heritage.” “If we, right now, are prepared in the spirit of our ancestors to join in common cause … then we can reclaim for ourselves and our children the idea and promise of America,” he asserted boldly. Of course, Brown was speaking of “our children” in a societal sense. A lifelong bachelor, he has no children of his own. Yet in election-year politicking, candidates across the nation are laying claim to the importance of appealing to the one constituency that does not lobby and will not vote this year: children.

Politicians have rediscovered children as an issue in recent years (CT, Mar. 17, 1989, p. 34). Indeed, today, observes Stephen Robinson in the Spectator, “No American political campaign would be complete without each candidate appealing to ‘family values.’ ” However, many child-advocacy and profamily groups say they are less than pleased with the level of debate that has occurred so far during this campaign. Groups from across the political and religious spectrum complain that there has been too much political verbiage and not enough substantive discussion or policy development. And many fear there is a grave potential for children to be crassly used as political pawns.

Kids ‘R’ Votes

In many ways, President Bush got the ball rolling on children’s issues in January with his proposal to increase federal funds for the Head Start program by $600 million. Announcing the plan during a visit to a Maryland Head Start center, Bush was making good ...

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