Romney, Etch A Sketch, and the National Toy Hall of Fame

I’m always interested when one of the classic toys in the National Toy Hall of Fame earns its share of media attention, and this time Etch A Sketch had its moment in the spotlight. When one of Mitt Romney’s aides recently compared the fall presidential campaign to the timeless drawing toy, my ears perked up. Eric Fehrnstrom was quoted as saying, “It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.” Whatever you think about the political sense or senselessness of that remark, I think it proves once again how much Etch A Sketch deserves its place in the National Toy Hall of Fame.

Toys and games inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong have to meet three key criteria. First, they have to demonstrate their enduring qualities with significant longevity. Second, they need to promote play that encourages creativity, learning, and discovery. And, finally, they need to be widely recognized, a quality I sometimes describe as “iconic.” So when a political staffer wanted to create an immediately familiar image of starting over, he turned to Etch A Sketch. Bingo—icon status proved! Given that Romney’s competitors and television news anchors everywhere could immediately brandish their own Etch A Sketches, that shows how the toy has remained popular and available long after its sensational debut way back in 1960. Creativity? Etch A Sketch has it in spades.

Much as I loved drawing when I was a kid, I never mastered the Etch A Sketch. Everything I tried to illustrate turned out to look like a geometry textbook diagram (Is that a rhombus?) or like an outline of the state of Texas. So I probably wouldn’t choose the Etch A Sketch as my personal favorite among the 49 classic toys in the National Toy Hall of Fame. But I can hold out hope that the 2012 political season will produce more toy analogies that bring the discussion back to the National Toy Hall of Fame. A candidate like a jack-in-the-box? Gas prices like a kite? The economy like a Hula Hoop? My message to politicians and spokespeople nationwide: Etch A Sketch has been used but you have 48 more National Toy Hall of Fame inductees ready to fit your metaphor.