Michelle Obama did what any good wife does – made her husband look like he needed her. By default, America needs her. Apparently, her speech at the Democratic convention was a huge hit. Political spouses play a major role in US politics.
So, did her human interest angle make sense? As someone from a different part of the world where the wives of heads of state/government tend to tag along and rarely, if ever, need to speak up for their husbands, this public display of matters private comes across as no different from following a wifely duty. Is it only a strategy to entice women voters?
“When people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, I can honestly say that when it comes to his character, and his convictions, and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago.”
Obviously, “change” was just another word. Seriously, if the idea if to suggest that power has not gone to his head, then is it not logical to ask why he wants to run for another term? Has there been political consistency?
Bill Clinton had said, "A few years ago, this guy would have been carrying our bags”. No doubt it is a racist comment, and people reacted to it as much. But had it not been the President would people who carry bags be considered unacceptable? There are jobs that require menial labour and societies would come to a halt had people not rendered such services.
Michelle played to the ‘racist’ gallery, in a way, when she spoke about her husband “working in struggling neighborhoods where a steel plant had shut down, fighting to rebuild those communities and get folks back to work – because for Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives”.
The idealism of rejecting well-paid jobs is ironical when you consider where he is now, and where he wants to remain. Did anyone in the United States hear about the difference Barack Obama made to their lives when he was not the president?
This statement is also charged with a ship-out clause, given the level of unemployment. It tacitly conveys that Americans should just put up with a bad economy if they want to make a difference. Does she think that janitors, cooks, gardeners at the White House are making a difference?
The statement about money was supposedly a dig at Mitt Romney and his cushy choices. Romney’s politics aside, why do politicians use guilt about wealth? I find this devious, for many people do need money to survive. They cannot even go on dates in rusty cars with a hole through which they can see the pavement or wear shoes a half size too small. Do they charge less for half a size?
She described the early years of marriage with a “Yeah, we were so young, so in love – and so in debt.”
This is romanticising debt and poverty. It might work as political arm candy, and may even garner votes. Her being “mom-in-chief” is very nurturing – a nurturing of ambition. It is good to be ambitious, but how will it help America?
She sold Barack as the man who would “give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed”. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton are probably not other folks.
Why are the US elections important to the world? Because for many countries it gives an indication of who will make the next move to use their citizens' vulnerability and talk tough, not about policies within but outside. Obama did not reverse George Bush’s policies.
It is just different methods for the same madness.
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On another note, expat Indians usually root for the Democrats. I found this photograph rather telling.
Michelle and Kal Penn, actor and Obama’s man, are embracing. Their hands do not touch the back, as though akimbo. I am aware that this is probably a split-second before they completed the hug, but photo-analysis, like pop psychology, sees what it likes to see. And I like to see that for all her warmth and involvement, Michelle Obama is essentially a hands-off lady. She knows the value of distance. That’s how most people travel, and get, far.
(c) Farzana Versey