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Political campaigns are wrought with cliché.

From the red, white, and blue banners to stump speeches in local coffee houses and coal plants to ceremonial balloon drops triggered by victory announcements. (What happens to the balloons if they lose though?)

But one image has survived longer than any other as the reigning champion of pander-y political campaign PR.


This one:

Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images.

The hero politician gleefully planting a smooch on the head of a baby who has been offered sacrificially by a nearby parent. The baby stares listlessly or crankily into the distance, wondering perhaps if this kind puckering stranger is their new dad.

Really, every politician does it. Republicans ... Democrats ... Russians...

Well, he tried. Photo by Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images.

If you're running for elected office, or trying to keep your current post, kissing babies is the name of the game.

Kissing tiny humans for political gain actually goes back quite a ways.

No one knows for sure who the first politician to do it was, but the act is believed to have originated with an incident involving Andrew Jackson. While touring the Eastern states in 1833, he was approached by a woman with a baby in her arm.

Jackson campaigning in 1829. Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images

"Ah! There is a fine specimen of American childhood," said Jackson. "I think, madam, your boy will make a fine man some day." He then handed the boy to nearby secretary of war saying, "Eaton, kiss him?"

That boy's name? Barack Obama.

(Just kidding. Even if the timelines worked, Jackson would never be seen with baby Obama because he was a racist genocidal maniac who profited off slave labor and kicked 46,000 Native Americans out of their homes.)

Dick. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Anyway, by 1886 the act had become so widespread that "Babyhood," a 19th century magazine for mothers, covered it in one of their columns:

"History fails to record the name of the politician who first adopted the above method of gaining the favor of mothers. Henry Clay, Tom Corwin, and Van Buren did a good deal in that line; and I believe it was Davy Crockett who boasted that he had kissed every baby in his district."

Since then, it's been the go-to act for politicians looking to earn the favor of their constituents.

The George W. Bush Presidential Library's "Path to the Presidency" exhibit even has a section on the political history of baby kissing from Jackson to Hubert Humphrey.

Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Why do they do it? After all, it's not like babies can vote.

And don't forget, before 1920, neither could their mothers. So who exactly are they pandering to?

The fact is, what we look for in a leader is ... complicated.

A president or any other elected official has to have many qualities and represent many values at the same time. You have to convey strength, leadership, and modesty in different and often contradictory ways.

On the campaign trail, you can score political points by touting yourself as the strongest, toughest, not-gonna-take-this-bullshit-anymore-est candidate in the race. But you score votes by being relatable, by shaking hands, and by being a candidate of the people.

Mitt Romney tried to overcome his "elite" status in 2012 by taking off his tie, rolling up his sleeves, and campaigning more with people on the ground. It wasn't enough. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The "perfect candidate" is strong enough to take on our enemies, but gentle and caring enough to pick up a baby and hold it. The perfect candidate is ... apparently ... a man.

Or at least society's image of a man. You know: a strong, upright, broad-shouldered gentleman with a sensitive side. A down-home guy with perfect teeth who's willing to lay down his life to protect yours but still enjoys long walks on the beach.

Admit it, America. It's not just a dating site trope. It's who we've elected pretty much every single time.

Needless to say, that macho-man-with-a-soft-spot-for-infants image makes the entire electoral process significantly harder to navigate if you're a woman running for office.

You might want to put her down, Hil. Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

When voters see displays of stereotypical femininity from a female candidate (like kissing babies), they don't register it positively.

According to research from Nichole Bauer at the University of Alabama,voters associate those "feminine" actions with all kinds of negative, outdated, and backward female stereotypes, like being overly emotional, sensitive, and weak. Which, in turn, hurts their campaigns.

"Attributing stereotypical feminine characteristics to women candidates does tend to activate gendered concepts that reduce people’s support for women running for office," writes Bauer.

So while men can steal a quick political boost off every infant's forehead, this gendered double standard means women running for the same office risk hurting their political careers.

It's a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the "motherhood penalty."

Need I say more? Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

If you haven't noticed, one of the current frontrunners in the 2016 president race is a woman.

A woman who has spoken time and time again about the particular complications and unique double standards women face when navigating the political landscape.

It's absurd that next time a female candidate is handed a baby on the campaign trail, unlike her male opponents, she'd be better off handing it back without a kiss (just imagine how that would play out in the press). There's no way for a female candidate to "win" when it comes to this bizarre tradition of kissing babies. She kisses the baby and she's too weak; she hands it back and she's too cold.

Please, folks, stop giving presidential candidates your babies. And let's leave this gendered double standard in history, where it belongs. For everyone's sake.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

This article originally appeared on 08.21.18


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