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Harrington: Soccer Mom Update

09/25/12 7:55AM By Elaine Harrington
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(Host) Political analysts always look for the demographic that will swing a presidential election. College English instructor, former newspaper editor and commentator Elaine Harrington has been thinking about soccer moms - who once were supposed to have this important role.

(Harrington) Remember soccer moms? They were the educated, minivan-driving women who were raising children in suburbia - and the demographic that was going to tip the 1996 presidential election for or against incumbent Bill Clinton.

In 1992, U.S. Senator Patty Murray won her Washington state election as a "soccer mom in tennis shoes." And by 1996, The Washington Post reported the term, as "the overburdened middle income working mother who ferries her kids from soccer practice to scouts to school." She was on the cover of Time Magazine. And the Wall Street Journal called her "the key swing voter who will decide the election."

So far, the soccer mom hasn't been invoked as a force in this November's election - but I'm here to report (somewhat impartially) that soccer moms still exist. Soccer dads do too, and this summer I spent a week as a soccer grandma.

I was the driver, food supplier, equipment manager, photographer, and cheerleader for my young grandsons as they attended soccer camp in Montpelier.

I also have some soccer mom history - thanks to a daughter who played the sport in junior high.

Since then, some things have really changed, and others haven't. The mini-vans of the 1996 stereotype still tote children and sports equipment. The parking lot at soccer camp was filled with Expeditions, souped-up Outbacks, and Grand Caravans. My Jetta seemed out of place, but it did carry two boys and all their gear.

Soccer parents still watch their children on the field, while chatting about school issues and local politics. Playdates are still being arranged. Nothing new there.

But there were lots more soccer dads, healthier snacks, vigilant sunscreen use, and electronics everywhere.

Soccer moms and soccer dads were busily coordinating arrivals and departures, and meetings that they had to attend. Many were answering e-mails on their iPhones. Most wore Patagonia or Vermont business casual. One man wore a tie, and a few women tottered on high-heeled sandals over the grassy field. Others relaxed in the sun.

Official snack and water breaks were frequent - so out came the healthy munchies. Apples and baggies of cheesey, whole grain little Goldfish were big. Parents dabbed more sunscreen on their children, if they didn't wiggle away. All sensible ideas.

We can now document everything and electronically share it - almost before it finishes happening - and that was the mode for some parents. "Dude, you were so cool," called a dad to his son from the sidelines, holding up his iPhone. "Look at that awesome goal." Many of us took photos but waited until camp was over to share them with our players.

Technology also helps today's soccer parents in other ways. My brother Ron, who owns a software business, is often at the soccer field in Shelburne with his son and daughter while still keeping in touch with work - something the 1996 soccer mom could never do, with her either/or choices.

But so far, soccer moms and dads don't have the responsibility of choosing the next president.


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