No one under the age of 25 can be a member of Congress. But according to some of the rhetoric of the shutdown debate, lawmakers aren’t even out of elementary school yet.
Nearly two weeks into the government shutdown, Republicans and Democrats remain locked in a game of sandbox politics, telling each other to stop acting like petulant children and throwing tantrums because they can’t get what they want. The general public appears to agree with them: 69 percent of Americans say the GOP is acting like spoiled children; 58 percent say the same for Democrats, according to a CNN/ORC poll.
The children of America, it seems, don’t mind being compared to members of Congress. But they do think lawmakers should stop acting like them.
“I think it’s really stupid and that the Republicans should just put their big-boy pants on and come to a compromise,” said Sean Levitt, 13, who was visiting the nation’s capital from Los Angeles for a class trip Wednesday. “I feel like the Republicans are just mad at Obama because they’re not getting what they want right now. They just don’t have enough control, so they’re just mad.”
Calling lawmakers’ behavior childish can be useful, said 12-year-old Lincoln Smith, because it could make them realize they need to start “talking it out and listening to other people’s ideas, not just your own.”
“It is dumb that they’re all fighting about — wait, what are they fighting about again?” said Smith, who was in town from Utah for a family vacation this week.
“Debt limit,” his mom Katie reminded him.
“Oh yeah, the debt limit,” he said. “That’s dumb.”
Eight-year-old China Beaulieu, visiting from Georgia, was also running out of patience with lawmakers.
“I don’t like it at all,” she said of the shutdown. “Because I thought Washington, D.C. would be fun.” Her grandmother, Brenda Palmer, said Beaulieu’s mother was furloughed from her job at the Internal Revenue Service.
Smith and Beaulieu were among a number of children roaming the National Mall on a windy Wednesday afternoon with their parents, their long-planned family vacations poor victims of bad timing. Jarren Heward, 17, could only cup his hands around his eyes and peer through the glass door into the closed Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. “It sucks that the government is doing this now but I guess it’s needed, I don’t know, because of the debt ceiling,” said the Arizona teen, whose family had been planning the trip for five years. He had one thing to say to Congress: “Stop acting like kids.”
His brother Don, 16, called the shutdown “maddening” to many people, and said it’s time to start to negotiate. “I don’t like how Obama is acting like a little kid like everybody’s saying,” he said. “He’s not talking to the Republicans and negotiating.”
The youngest Heward, 14-year-old Brenton, agreed. “I’d tell them to — cause this has happened, before right? And they’ve had to negotiate. But they’re not trying. They’re not working at it. So you’ve got to work with each other to put this back in order.”
The congressional gridlock is enough to turn off 4-year-old Brent Appleton from becoming president himself. “I don’t want the bad guys to be doing what they’re doing to, trying to do to the president,” said Appleton, who is from Maryland. “They’re trying to hurt him.”
Appleton declined to do his signature President Obama impression, which his mother Lisa said is spot-on. Obama, he said, has to “fix” the shutdown “by sharing.” As for what he would tell lawmakers, Appleton shrugged. “I can’t say anything.”