Claudia Conway Is the Internet’s Political Hero—But She Deserves Better Than That
This 15-year-old shouldn't have the world placed on top of her shoulders.
Claudia Conway, the 15-year-old daughter of former Counselor to President Trump Kellyanne Conway, is being hailed as an anti-Trump “resistance hero.” She told the world on Monday, October 5th, that her mother had tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), thus joining a growing list of White House staffers and Republican power players who’ve reportedly contracted the deadly virus from the SCOTUS nomination Rose Garden event that took place on September 26th. Claudia alleged that despite Trump administration talking points, the president is not on the road to recovery after being hospitalized for four days and three nights for COVID-19, posting on TikTok, “he is so ridiculous. apparently he is doing badly lol and they are doing what they can to stabilize him.” Now, she’s being compared to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the journalists who broke the Watergate scandal in 1972.
Claudia is also living in what she has previously described as a toxic and abusive household. She doesn’t need virtual high fives because her disdain for the president and those who enable him mimics our own. She needs help. She needs support. She needs someone to assure her safety. But as fatigued Americans forced to stomach a global pandemic, family separations at the border, a climate crisis, attacks on abortion and reproductive justice, systemic racism, a rise in hate crimes, school shootings, anti-LGBTQ legislation, and much more, we’re so desperate for a savior, we’re even willing to put our hopes on the shoulders of young people, no matter the cost to their mental health.
We want someone, regardless of who they are or how much they are themselves hurting, to tear the current political chaos down so badly that we refuse to admit that we are part of the problem. It was us adults, not young people who are not yet eligible to vote, that ushered in an extremist president that in less than 10 months has presided over the deaths of over 210,000 Americans. It was us adults, not young people, who failed to pass common-sense gun legislation when a shooter killed 20 6- and 7-year-olds in a school classroom. It was us, not our children, who destroyed the planet, forcing our children to grow up in a world with severe weather, raging fires, and record-breaking heatwaves.
Our actions, and inactions, have contributed to the very mess we’re now looking to the youth to save us from.
Claudia claims she has suffered years of “childhood trauma and abuse.” In August she announced that she is seeking emancipation from her parents as a result. And in the same month, she said she’d be taking a “mental health” break from social media because it was “all too much.” On Monday, Claudia posted and since-deleted TikTok videos of her mother cussing at her. She also claimed that her mother lied to her about her positive coronavirus test, and was to blame for the teen contracting COVID-19, too. In a follow-up post, Claudia stated that she was afraid of her mom.
This young woman doesn’t need “yaaaaasssss queen!” tweets and “welcome to the resistance” nods—she needs support and access to adequate mental health care if she is, in fact, suffering from childhood trauma. And if her allegations of abuse are true and she is fearful of at least one of her parents, a safe and loving environment where she can begin to heal from the trauma and abuse she says she has been experiencing since she was a small child.
In holding Claudia up as some kind of political hero, we’re failing her in the same way we’ve failed countless young people before. After years of failed efforts or outright inaction to pass substantial gun control laws that can protect our children in school classrooms, on college campuses, in movie theaters, on the streets, and in their homes, we left the responsibility to fix the issue to traumatized school shooting survivors. We threw young people like Emma Gomez and David Hogg who were survivors of the Parkland school shootings to the conservative wolves; allowed them to get picked apart by the gun lobbyists and conspiracy theorists; shared their tear-filled speeches far and wide, and then told ourselves “my work here is done” and “I did my part.”
We did the same thing to young climate change activists like Greta Thunberg and Autumn Peltier and Nyaruot Nguany. We’ve collectively accepted the harrowing fact that our children will inherit a dying planet, then made it their responsibility to fight for and fix it. While they miss school and travel the planet in order to plead to the elected officials we, continue to vote and keep in the office, we do nothing. Instead, we just whisper to ourselves “the children will save us” so we can sleep soundly at night, assured that our failures will be countered by the next generation. And the next. And the next.
We did it to Mari Copeny when we poisoned her community’s water in Flint, Michigan.
We did it to Malavika and Kenyatta and Hilaria when we allowed anti-abortion politicians to steal their constitutional right to make their own decisions about their own bodies.
We did it to Malala Yousafzai when we failed to ensure every young woman had access to quality education.
We did it to Quannah Chasinghorse and Makaśa Looking Horse when we allowed the federal government to desecrate their sacred, Indigenous lands.
And now we’re doing it to Claudia, who is not a political activist but a young person posting her way through what is at best a difficult time for her family and, at worse, a traumatic childhood allegedly filled with verbal and physical abuse.
We should stop viewing Claudia’s social media posts through the lens of politics. We should do whatever we can—be it voting early, sending postcards to potential voters, phone banking, and volunteering on Election Day (to vote out the man sitting in the Oval Office); the same man who has defended men accused of domestic violence and sexual assault, and who has incited violence with his hateful, sexist, racist rhetoric. We should talk openly about child abuse and provide our children with the tools and language to better recognize when they’re being physically, mentally, financially, or verbally abused. We should recommit to holding our elected officials to a higher standard—one that makes it possible for all of us to create a world that’s safer, more equitable, and actually sustainable for our children.
Instead, we’re failing.
Young people like Claudia deserve better than our tote-bag politics and social media grandstanding. They deserve better than our callous indifference to the traumas they’re experiencing—many of which we, as a collective, are responsible for. They deserve action—dedicated, consistent, steadfast, and swift action—that makes the world a better place for them to learn and evolve and thrive in.
Young people like Claudia deserve better than us.