There’s one aspect to the rise and possible election of Barack Obama that I have not read a lot about: the form and function of a First Ladyship filled by one Michelle Obama. What exactly are we going to get from her if Mr. Obama is elected to the presidency? Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes at The Moderate Voice gave voice to what I find, considering Mrs. Obama’s politics, a disturbing thought:
First Ladies of our times are going to be more like that; an updated version of ‘iron fist/velvet glove’ way of thinking and acting publicly.
The difference in First Ladies in these times is going to only be this: the iron fist will no longer hidden.
We haven’t been given a lot to go on in this regard. The focus of the Obama campaign has been, for the most part, squarely fixed on Barack and the issues surrounding the possible election of a liberal, black man as President of the United States. This is as it should be; we’re electing, or not electing, him.
But would we also be electing a shadow (vice-)president in Michelle Obama just as we would if Hillary Clinton dragged Bill back into the White House?
Judging from a recent MSNBC segment in which Mrs. Obama sat fuming silently while her husband uncharacteristically bumbled his way through a Keith Olbermann interview by fumbling an easy question from K.O. about Hillary’s "Big State" argument, the answer is yes.
When Barack finally ran down, Michelle immediately leapt into action, angrily and articulately talking about how her husband has empowered a new, youth-powered demographic that shouldn’t be ignored.
Because we also don‘t want to discount the new people that are engaged because they don‘t fit into the old paradigm of how polls and pundits sort of review these states.
So it’s polls and pundits that are discriminating against Barack Obama, making his ascension to the presidency more difficult than it should be?
Reading the transcript is not the same as seeing the segment live; the sharpness of Michelle Obama’s anger has been sterilized as a result of her words being distilled to print. But it was unmistakable and I can only speculate as to its cause, but I suspect it was at least partly based on the fact that she’d had to remain silent while Barack stammered through his reply. Missouri is a big state now? Please.
This is quite a bit of extrapolation but I think it galls Michelle Obama to be muzzled as she’s been through the campaign to-date. Herein lies Estes’ assertion, that if elected the velvet glove Michelle has worn so far will come off and we’ll be treated to the rough side of her tongue and her rather suspect political ideology.
Michelle Obama says things like this:
"We know where we’re living, this is where we are right now, and this has been the case for my entire lifetime: that trajectory of hope has gotten more difficult for regular folks."
This statement, and much of the rest of her rhetoric about the failure of American society to empower the lower classes, makes little sense to me. It’s as though the Obamas live in a different country than I do.
They do, of course, exist on an entirely different plane than I do. But the privileged lifestyle they lead has only served to make them more pessimistic than is warranted.
Of all times and places to be alive and living in America, the 21st century is the best of all, our present difficulties in Iraq notwithstanding. Yes, it would be better if our military had been spared that debacle, but the fact is that there is more equality, more hope, more opportunity abounding in today’s America than ever before. Indeed, more blessings have been given to this generation of Americans than to people in any other country in the world.
Michelle Obama doesn’t see things that way. Yuval Levin quotes her thusly:
What happens in that nation is that people do become isolated, they do live in a level of division, because see when you’re that busy struggling all the time, which most people that you know and I know are, see you don’t have time to get to know your neighbors, you don’t have time to reach out and have conversations to share stories, in fact you feel very alone in your struggle because you feel somehow it must be your fault that you’re struggling that hard, everybody else must be doing ok, I must be doing something wrong, so you hide…What happens in that kind of nation is that people are afraid. Because when your world’s not right no matter how hard you work, then you become afraid of everyone and everything, because you don’t know whose fault it is, why you can’t get a handle on life, why you can’t secure a better future for your kids.
Our fear is helping us to raise a nation of young doubters, young people who are insular and they’re timid, and they don’t try because they already heard us tell them why they can’t succeed.
This last paragraph is, frankly, unbelievable given the massive amounts of financial resources that are spent empowering the nation’s youth. Today’s young people have to opportunity to reach heights that their grandparents could only dream of. That’s not indicative of a nation built on fear; rather, it’s one that hasn’t yet discovered that it has definitive limitations of any kind.
To the extent young Americans doubt their society it’s largely because of a bloated, unresponsive, overreaching federal government that places too many artificial constraints on freedom, competition, and achievement. They know that they could do better if they weren’t being held back by the homogenizing policies that intrude into much of American life without providing compensatory value in return.
Barack Obama has done a great job of tapping into that feeling, one he calls hopelessness. But what he hasn’t defined yet is what it is that causes that feeling to well up in the hearts of his countrymen – frustration at the constant presence of an over-large government that constantly taxes, robs, and limits the best and brightest the nation has to offer, stifling the very people who the Obamas are courting.
An angry, iron-fisted Michelle Obama is someone to be feared by conservative voters. She is, of course, free to do exactly as she pleases with her life and reform the office of First Lady as she sees fit, should her husband triumph at the polls.
However, voters should be aware that they will be electing Michelle Obama into office along with her husband and what that might mean for all of us.