How Trump Changed Childhood

Two years ago, in advance of the midterm elections, I interviewed eight families across the United States who’d had babies on or within days of November 8, 2016, the date of the previous presidential election. I had given birth to an Election Day baby boy myself, and I wanted to know how other parents like me were coping with raising young children during this unusual period in our nation’s history. At the time, many of the families expressed uncertainty about the country, but their kids were just toddlers, barely talking, and happily tumbling through childhood.

I could never have imagined that the world would change as it has in the 730 days since that story was published. With the global pandemic, the resulting economic upheaval and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests—plus, the next presidential election careening at us—I wanted to know how these parents and children were coping, and what their experiences might tell us about the moment America’s families are living through right now. How had their lives changed? Had their politics changed, too? And how were their kids handling it?

Over the past three months, I interviewed each family again, sometimes more than once. POLITICO’s M. Scott Mahaskey put on his mask and traveled the country, carefully, to photograph the families, outdoors and from a distance. The parents shared news about jobs and babies, separations and deaths, as well as their thoughts about the direction the country is heading in. Among them are supporters of Donald Trump and Joe Biden, including some who have decided to switch their votes this year and others who are voting for the first time. One former Trump voter told me she will vote for Biden because of the president’s handling of the pandemic, while another told me she will vote for Trump for the same reason. For many of these families, their political decisions are much more intimate—driven not by campaign narratives but by a brother’s drug-related death or personal encounters with racism.