“Chief of Staff Mark Meadows argued that ‘nobody outside of the Beltway really cares’ about ethics violations.” — Politico
Find a quiet place at home and tell your child that you need to speak with them about something important. As you begin, resist the urge to avoid eye contact; it’s crucial that your child feel supported and loved as you break this news. Tenderly take their hand, but don’t mince words: “Honey, you’re old enough to know the truth. The Hatch Act isn’t real.”
This will come as a devastating shock for many children, particularly very sensitive boys and girls who watch a lot of C-SPAN. Give them time to process the magnitude of the moment. Hold their hand or offer a hug, or give them a little space if they’re one of those kids who is clearly only a few summers away from getting really into Joy Division.
Your child’s first reaction will be denial. They may cry or faint. This is normal. Once they come to, they’re likely to launch into statements of disbelief like, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! The Hatch Act is a Federal Law, created in 1939 to prevent politicians and appointed officials from promoting their own partial political or business interests, named for former Senator Carl A. Hatch, Democrat of New Mexico. I sat on his lap at the mall! We took pictures!!”
Ignore your flaring concerns around your child’s clear inability to do basic arithmetic, as Carl Hatch died in 1963. Stay focused and take advantage of this natural segue to explain that the real Carl Hatch did exist, but after he went to heaven (or the other place, where most of the former Senators go), helpers sometimes stepped in to play Carl Hatch to keep the magic of the Hatch Act alive for generations of children raised on a 24-hour cable news cycle.
Your child will likely be sobbing, so guide them to their Big Political Feelings corner. Get them a damp washcloth to wipe their face as they choke out, “But, but — the Hatch Act restricts political activities by appointed federal employees and civil servants! It is enforced by The U.S. Office of Special Counsel! It’s real, it’s real — I hate you for saying it’s not!!”
Give your overly dramatic child a moment to collect themselves while you shakily reach for your hidden pack of emergency Mistys. Step out behind the backyard shed and wordlessly smoke three in a row while staring, unfocused, at a fixed point on the lawn. Let your mind drift to how close you were to moving to Chicago after college to follow your then-boyfriend, how his lips felt on your earlobe that time at that dive bar, how you would have joined an improv troupe together with a punny name like Saved by the Pell, where every scene was told through the lens of beloved comedy writer and character actor Paula Pell, and — oh right, this kid talk thing, dammit.
Return to your child, who will have calmed a little. Use your Statement Words, like “While the Hatch Act technically exists, and lower-ranked federal employees do sometimes face punitive actions, the decision to punish violators falls on the violator’s boss. So when Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act eleventy million times and the OSC recommended she be removed, guess who decided to let it slide…”
You will likely be sobbing now, so go to your own Big Political Feelings corner, and get a damp washcloth to wipe your face as you raggedly choke out, “In most instances, the Hatch Act specifically exempts the President and Vice President. Sure, using the White House lawn to accept the nomination is theoretically criminal. Still, those violations would likely fall on RNC planners or lower-level administration employees, not POTUS. So you tell me… is the Hatch Act real?” As they slowly shake their head, fire up another Misty and growl, “Welcome to hell, kid.”
Now is an absolutely goddamn perfect time to unveil the spite quilt you’ve sewn for the last three and a half years, a gift for your Republican mother-in-law, Jan, each square hand-embroidered with the name of a wholly unpunished Trump Administration Hatch Act violator: Betsy DeVos, Sonny Purdue, Stephanie Grisham, Chad Wolf, Nikki Haley, Dan Scavino, Raj Shah, Jessica Ditto, Madeleine Westerhout, Helen Aguirre Ferré, Alyssa Farah, Jacob Wood, Jared Kushner, Mike Pompeo, Lynne Patton, Lynne Patton, Ivanka Trump, Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway … take one final drag and put out your cigarette on the quilt, leaving a smoldering hole. “That burning hole? That’s what’s left of democracy. There ain’t no Hatch Act anymore. It burned down with the rest. Anyway, good talk.”
Light the last stale Misty for your kid, load them in the booster seat, and hit the highway to Canada.