Political campaigns

This bizarre practice is now a staple of political campaigns

The custom of kissing babies on the head is now a key practice during political campaigns. In fact, it’s so common that we wondered how this strange act happened. Surprisingly, there is a long history associated with politicians kissing babies on the head. We’ll break it down here.

A beautiful specimen of American childhood

President Barack Obama kissing a baby, circa 2012. (Photo credit: Chip Somedevilla/ Getty Images)

According to Alan Lowe, director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library Museum, the first recorded instance of a politician kissing a baby was in 1833 during a campaign stop in New Jersey. Presidential candidate (and future president) Andrew Jackson stopped to greet a mother and her baby. Jackson stopped and, seeing the child, said “Ah! This is a beautiful specimen of American childhood!

Instead of President Andrew Jackson kissing the baby, he asked his Secretary of War John Eaton to kiss the child before returning him to his mother. Although a very quick move, the tradition of kissing babies during the election campaign has solidified.

Governor Hayes kisses babies, circa 1900

Cartoon of Governor Hayes kissing babies during an election campaign in Steubenville, Ohio. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

In 1886, kissing babies was so common that it was considered an “official duty” for candidates on the campaign trail. In fact, an article in “Babyhood: The Mother’s Nursery” magazine noted that “Henry Clay, Tom Corwin and Van Buren have done a lot in this line [meaning kissing babies]; and I believe it was Davy Crockett who bragged about kissing all the babies in his district.

Although it seems like a strange practice, politicians first started kissing babies to win the favor of mothers and women who came to watch these campaigns. Indeed, in October 1920, The nation noted that Democratic nominee James Cox was the only “presidential candidate who got to kiss other people’s babies like he liked it.” That has made him almost invaluable to female voters, one of whom was overheard remarking last night: Surely a man who kisses babies like he does could never break the hearts of the world. Strange statement, but apparently an effective tactic!

Not everyone liked

Bill Clinton holding a baby during his 1992 campaign

Bill Clinton campaigning in the 1992 presidential election, holding a baby. (Presidential Campaign » Peter Turnley/Getty Images)

Not everyone was a big fan of smooching babies. In the 1890s, feminist activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton disapproved of opportunistic baby kisses. She thought it was both the rights of children who could not object to being kissed, but also poor hygiene. She once praised President Benjamin Harrison for refraining from kissing a baby given to him.

Another president who avoided kissing babies was President Grover Cleveland, who is said to have avoided kissing babies. However, he may have avoided this practice because he did not want to remind crowds and reporters that he fathered an illegitimate child.

Jimmy Carter kisses a baby

Jimmy Carter kissing a baby in 1979, while visiting Elk City, Oklahoma. (Photo credit: Wally McNamee/Getty Images)

Similarly, in 1968, presidential candidate Richard Nixon declared LIFE magazine that he “won’t wear a stupid hat, kiss a woman or a baby. I’m not going to ski down a hill or do stunts like that – I’ll look like a jerk.

In 1984, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro said at the time-New York Times political correspondent Maureen Dowd that “people give me their babies, and as a mother, my gut reaction is how do you give your baby to someone who is a complete stranger to kiss, especially with so many colds going around? And especially when the woman wears lipstick?!” Nevertheless, while Ferraro may have disagreed with the practice, she inevitably did so during the election campaign.

So what’s the point?

President Bush kisses two babies

President Bush kisses two babies on the head about a rally at the Onalaska Omni Center, October 2004. (Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

It’s important to remember that women didn’t get the right to vote until 1920. So what’s the point of all those male presidential candidates kissing their children before women can even vote? Alan Lowe suggests that candidates perhaps engage in baby kisses, as it can help them connect with voters. He suggests that “the campaign trail can be a tough place, and it shows a softer, softer side to candidates. Voters want to elect someone who is a decent person and makes them easier to understand. »

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Whatever the reason for baby kissing, politicians around the world continue to practice it to this day. It may sound outdated and unsanitary, but the fact is, it could… work?