This far into the Trump presidency, we’re all used to jokes about politicians being little more than big babies. But Mayor Charlie McMillan is different.
He’s literally a baby. He’s seven months old. And he was just inaugurated as the mayor of Whitehall, Texas.
It started off as a playful tradition: Every year, the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Department auctions off the role as part of their annual BBQ fundraiser. This year the highest bidder was Charlie — or, more precisely, his parents. That’s a very important distinction to keep in mind, because while a literal infant is not cognitively able to have a political agenda, Chad and Nancy Jane McMillan can and do.
At a glance, Charlie’s image seems apolitical and downright wholesome. His motto is “Make America Kind Again.” His mother positions him as a politician beyond party affiliation:
Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent, Charlie loves ya. We’re promoting kindness and Making America Kind Again. He is equal with any political leaning and a unifier.
But underneath the cuteness, there is a very distinct partisan position underpinning the McMillan mayoralty. There’s just a hint of it in his oath of office, in which he promises to “promote life, adoption, and good, clean country living.”
In fact, when you visit his website, which features a “Pregnant? Need Help?” page with contact information for local “crisis pregnancy centers,” the anti-abortion emphasis comes through loud and clear.
Charlie’s platform — which, once again, was designed by the adults around Charlie, because Charlie is a literal infant — lists “Life” as its primary issue, asserting that “life begins at conception and is worthy of protection.” The author justifies that position with a Bible quote, which is explicitly identified as “evidence.”
The circumstances of Charlie’s birth are intimately connected to the anti-abortion beliefs he’s being held up to represent, according to the site’s “Meet Charlie” page:
In early fall of 2018, in Houston, Texas, a young woman in the midst of very difficult circumstances learned that she was pregnant. She knew that she did not have the ability to raise another child and contemplated terminating this pregnancy. Several trusted friends and family members encouraged her to consider the choice of life for her unborn child, and when she saw him for the first time on an ultrasound machine and heard his heartbeat, this young lady knew that her son’s little life must continue. She very bravely and courageously chose life for her child.
Fast forward a few months and on April 18, 2019, Chad and Nancy Jane McMillan were introduced to this amazing young woman through a mutual friend. At a booth in the back corner of a Chick-Fil-A in Central Houston, this brave, courageous, and amazing young woman told the couple that she wanted them to adopt her son. The McMillan’s prayers to have a child together were answered on April 29th when they welcomed William Charles McMillan, known as Charlie, to the world.
… Charlie’s story is not unusual. There are thousands of women and men in crisis pregnancy situations every day who have to make a choice between life and death. One of the hopes in sharing Charlie’s story of going from death… to life… to Mr. Mayor is that it will encourage and promote the choice for life and the choice for adoption.
It would take an extraordinary amount of political naïveté to see abortion as a non-partisan political issue, or to suggest that the values presented by his mayoral website (right down to that little nod to Chick-fil-A) as politically neutral.
What makes this more noteworthy — and more upsetting — than your average anti-choice billboard is the fact that Charlie McMillan is not an anonymous stock image being thrown up next to a slogan. He is a separate person. Being an infant, he does not yet have political opinions or personal values. Adults are taking advantage of that developmental lack to put words in his mouth, attaching their values to him, and making him a mouthpiece for their religious and political convictions.
There is a vast difference between choosing to stand for the values of one’s parents and being made a spokesperson for those values before gaining the ability to understand what’s going on. How will Charlie feel about the values he’s been made to promote when he’s 10? When he’s 15? When he’s 25? If he or those he cares for face circumstances that might necessitate abortion?
Chad and Nancy Jane McMillan got to freely choose to associate their names with the anti-abortion cause. That choice was taken away from Charlie when his parents used his name and likeness to push their own political positions.
The “anti-choice” label has never fit more perfectly.