Monday, August 25, 2008

I *heart* Michelle Obama

I just finished listening to Michelle Obama deliver her speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, CO, and I teared up, especially at the end when her daughters joined her on stage.

[This is a photo from a campaign stop in New Hampshire with three generations of Robinson women--Marian (grandmother), Sasha, Malia, and Michelle]

I have a crush on Michelle Obama. She is an amazing speaker. She seems, from her biography and her life as described by both herself and others, to be an intelligent, charismatic, dedicated, motivated, inspiring, beautiful woman.

Michelle Obama for president in 2016...2020?


Evan Carden said...

I gotta I was a big fan of Hillary Clinton, but on thinking about it with a bit more distance, I'd prefer that the first female president was elected for who she was, not who she was married to. Nancy Pelosi for example, or, locally (I'm in WA) Christine Gregoire.

Still, her speech was excellent and I think it may well have gone a long way toward countering the 'Obama is an elite, foreign pansy who doesn't understand people like us' argument that John (I don't know how many houses I have) McCain is using.

Genepool said...

Don't even get me started with these teleprompter addicted candidates. I can find little in either that raises more than the little hairs on the back of my neck. "change is a'comin!" "I bring hope in a handbag!"

I do look forward to the debates, however. Since the debates are more or less impromptu, it gives me a little better perspective on their abilities on the fly. I am still a fan of Ron Paul, although he has his moments as well.

Michelle Obama did very well with her speech, no doubt she rehearsed it until she was ready to scream. She did well convincing everyone of her blue-collar upbringing and the whole pro-family sentiments. I know I'm an awful person for saying this, but... so? I mean this is pretty much what every potential first lady does. Throw out the emotional back story, establish your "regular person" background and parade the kids around to show that you have a vested interest in America's future. Then you gush ad nausea about your husbands ability and commitment to running the country and the little people who populate it.

That said, I am not downing the woman, she may be everything she is trying to project and convey. But I can never forget that its an ELECTION YEAR. Its like the stores and malls putting out Christmas stuff in October. Maybe they really DO have the Christmas spirit...

Has Cindy McCain made a speech yet? She is 18 years younger than her husband (54) so she may be too young for that whole "grandmotherly" image Barbara Bush was able to adapt. Still, I'd love to see the heiress trophy wife try to establish herself as a woman of the people. Ha!

But again, I am one cynical spud. Pity my children.

Jennifer said...

It's actually a tried and true tradition around the world that women in politics, particularly our world leaders, have gotten their start in politics through a male relative (father, brother, uncle, husband), which in many respects makes sense in terms of thinking about the way that patriarchy has run rampant throughout the world and prevented many women from achieving their own political success on their own terms.

Still, I do agree that it would be nice to feel like we are electing a woman based on her own "credentials" rather than her husband's...and yet...we elect men all the time whose credentials come through their time spent under the tutledge of other men in public office or through various forms of patronage (and I mean that in the dictionary sense rather than the negative political sense) and we don't bat an eye.

I suppose one could make the argument that getting credentialed through your time as a VP and getting credntialed through your marriage to someone who holds a political office are two different things, but I also think there are some striking similarities--we don't pick the VP, the Pres. nominee does, just like we didn't pick his/her wife/husband. And the VP/first spouse plays second fiddle to the Pres, although s/he is also supposed to support this person, even if his/her views may differ in terms of policy and other political issues.

At any rate, to get back to the specific woman in question, I still *heart* Michelle Obama and believe that if she wanted to, she could have a career in politics--she is saavy and intelligent and is a political beast, which I think her speech showed, and her career and training in law and hospital admin. certainly shows she has leadership and management abilities that would lend themselves well to politics.

But perhaps what I like most about her is the sense that she is *real*--I suppose, given Genepool's comments (and my, you ARE cynical Genepool, but I've always found that endearing about you in a curmudgeonly way, as I'm sure your children do too) that we are only being presented a certain *image* of Michelle Obama.

And yet...I think that there are moments when she has been unguarded, and maybe it's those unguarded and unscripted moments that I identify most with her. BEcause I know I'd be an AWFUL politician's wife/spouse/partner.

I would never take my husband's last name (big no, no in politics), I have no strong religious affiliation/belief (again, HUGE no, no), and I have a tendancy to speak my mind, even when it's not the most politically expedient thing for me to do within my own career (I'm pre-tenure and trust me--I've shot my mouth off at at least 2-3 different faculty meetings in ways where afterwards I think, "Hmmm...wonder if that will come back to bite me in the ass during my tenure hearing."

So while Michelle Obama's credentials seem to be solidly through her political husband, I think we don't give spouses/partners enough credit (and I'd include Cindy McCain in that mix--I mean, yes, she's a rich heiress who looks like she doesn't have an intelligent thought in her head, but I also wonder to what degree that is a subtle prejudice against blondes and/or that she seems to have been overshadowed by her more voluable partner over the last few decades--I mean, the poor woman resorted to prescription drugs to cope with her life--doesn't suggest that she knows herself or feels like she has many options, which makes me feel sad for her, although it doesn't make me want to vote for her husband, just makes me want to hand her the number to a woman's shelter and tell her that if his PTSD ever gets out of control again and he is violent towards her, verbally or physically, she has the right to get out, because lets face it, the man who calls his wife a "cunt" in public is also someone who his going to yell this at her at 3am.

Woo! LONG political rant in the morning!

Evan Carden said...

On, the subject of Cindy McCain, she's more impressive than you might thin, having given substantially (of her time, as well as her money) to a bunch of charitable organizations. She also published a book on possible treatment of children with Down's Syndrom after graduating with her masters in special ed from USC. Though, she was also a cheerleader and a sorority girl...

Anyway, what I was going to say, before I got distracted by Mrs. McCain was that yes, a lot of cantidates of both sex get their start working for, or with another, older cantidate. This patronage (okay, I'm going to call it mentoring, because patronage is inextricably linked for me to the Roman Patron-Client system which this emphatically isn't) can help people get a start, but usually then they have to break away, demonstrate to their mentor, their constituants and whichever body they're in, that they aren't just X's man, or else they aren't going to be getting anything done. The spouse can't do that, without having one of them look like a giant dick.

With electing political wives, it seems like we're trying to go half way. Sure we'll elect a woman, but only one whose husband was president and will be standing right there next to her to keep her from blowing up the world because it's that time of the month.

And that's putting aside the concern about political dynasties, which are starting to make me a bit uncomfortable. It seems like, even in my lifetime, (I was born in 87) I've seen the political system become more closed, more oligarchical. Joe Biden's train riding aside, it seems like personal wealth is becoming more a prerequisite for government service than ever.

This isn't always a bad thing, when listing presidents by greatness and goodness (two not at all similiar things) Franklin Roosevelt comes out near or at the top of both my lists (Japanese internment camps notwithstanding. Yeah, I couldn't bring myself to call them concentration camps...) but he came from serious money.

To sum up the above verbiage, money shouldn't be a prerequisite, but it also shouldn't be exclusionary. Political dynasties make me nervous. Cindy McCain, shockingly, not a dumb blonde, though a cheerleader. Entering politics through the spouse is tricky.

Jennifer said...

I really hear you on the class issues. I do think it's interesting if we think of the last 2 Democratic presidents, Jimmy Carter (my personal favorite ex-president, living or dead--I'll be posting about President Carter later) and Bill Clinton. Both came from very rural, working class backgrounds--and Clinton, like Obama, was raised, at times, by a single mother. Carter and Clinton both worked their way up into their party power base--and both (like our current presidential candidate) were VERY INTELLIGENT people (Jimmy Carter studied nuclear physics in grad school, Bill Clinton was a Rhodes scholar, and of course we have all heard about Obama's credentials from Harvard and his teaching stint at U of Chicago's law school).

The Bush's on the other hand, that's old school money. And I suppose if we look at the current Clintons as well as the Obamas, they aren't working class anymore.

So money is clearly an issue that we need to be thinking more about in terms of politics in this country--and how we can give voice to those who don't have access to power and money--the working class and the poor. And I don't mean just how do we speak for them but how do we find forums and platforms that allow them to speak for themsleves?

I don't have an answer--I also don't want a dynastic system in politics (I really was being giddy when asking about Michelle Obama as a candidate in 2016--I'm guessing she wouldn't want to get herself mixed up with that sort've thing, but who knows, crazier things have happened and I do think that she has the saavy and smarts for politics), but I'm also not sure how we are going to get around the mentorship and patronage (and I mean that in all sense of that word) that we seem to have established in U.S. politics.

Evan Carden said...

If you did have answers for those questions, I'd suggest that you run for president, but I'm actually a bit more worried about the rampant anti-intellectualism of about half the US population than about class (if I see one more person making a claim that it's class warfare, than I'm going to force feed them Oman's 'The Great Revolt of 1381' until they understand that class warfare is when the plebs storm your mansion, steal all your stuff and put your head on a stick to decorate their hovel).

The sort of class system we have is more open than most, and can be both good (ala the Kennedies) or bad (ala the Bushes), but the anti-intellectualism results in voting for the guy you'd like to have a beer with, not the one who knows what he's doing. I realize you didn't really bring that up, but it's been making me crazy anyway.

Jennifer said...

The anti-intellectual dilemma in this country. It does seem to take on partisan dimensions. Lets look at the last few Democratic presidents: Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, LBJ, John Kennedy.

I have to admit that I don't know much about LBJ, but Kennedy had published a book by the time he was in office (a sign of intelligence? Perhaps nowadays we would put this as a matter of doubt. But I've read PROFILES IN COURAGE in high school and thought it was a good read/intelligent, certainly informative). As for Carter and Clinton, we already know what their credentials are.

But I think intellectualism isn't about having a college degree (or multiple college degrees). Let me rephrase or put in my own words what worries me sometimes about the direction of our nation: people don't seem as curious as I want them to be.

I think a key ingredient to being intelligent or espousing an intellectual mindset is to be curious. Maybe I should amend and say intellectually curious (I mean, certainly there are many ways you can express curiosity--sexually, physically, etc...). I fear that intellectual curiosity is either in short demand or tamped down/dumbed down by popular culture and popular discourse.

Which may have to do with pleasure. Our pursuit of pleasure to the degree that we let our television sets and the internet mediate our intellectual curiosity instead of doing the work of talking to people, reading books, or searching out multimedia (like documentaries or blogs that aren't just crammed with pop up ads) that really spur and feed that intellectual curiosity.

That's my 2 cents on the topic.

And Evan, if I had the answers to how to get people who have no voice a forum to voice themselves, I probably would run for office, or at least share this secret tidbit with someone who could go out and make a difference (I think I'd be an AWFUL politician for many many reasons).

Evan Carden said...

I agree to a certain extent, but inellectual curiosity without the tools to know how to find the answer, how to figure out which of the various answers is correct, leads not to greater understanding, not to greater knowledge, but to greater confusion and misunderstanding. You don't have to have a BA, MA, MD, JD or PhD and it certainly doesn't make you a better person, but it does certify that you have gained an understanding of how to find the answers to your questions...

Given the gamble of electing anyone president, I'd like as much certification of competence as possible, for them, their VP and everyone else in the line of succession.

In other news, Senator McCain's VP cantidate graduated from University of Idaho, which I find amusing, but I was wondering how effective their blatently obvious courting of the PUMA crowd would be, and what effect it might have on the general election.

My two cents are that it's a bit exaggerated, but Republicans have proven adept at wielding wedge issues in the past. Women are a big part of the party base, if they can snip off even a portion of them, then we're all in deep. Over our head deep. Sink or swim deep. Deep, in other words.

Jennifer said...

I think we're going to agree to disagree about the importance of degrees. If we really believe that only people with a BA or higher are "intellectual" that means we are relegating the rest of the 75% of the nation to being intellectually suspect.

As the child of parents who did not have the economic opportunity to go to college, I would not want to consider my parents or the aunts and uncles and some cousins who either through forced choice or their own choices have decided not to pursue higher education as people who lack tools to satisfy their intellectual curiosity.

I can see part of your point--that it seems as if people are choosing bad sources to get their knowledge. I guess, again, I think this is the pleasure ethos of our nation. How to combat this? I'm not sure, but certainly I'd put my money on cultivating intellectual curiosity and reading--and increasing money to public libraries since public libraries are a great egalitarian place where people can satisfy their intellectual curiosity, regardless of the degrees they hold (or lack thereof).

Evan Carden said...

Well, we're definitely in agreement on the subject of library funding, but I wasn't trying to say that a degree is a prerequisite of intellectualism, or that it should be a prerequisite if you're running for president. I certainly know college graduates who I wouldn't describe as intellectuals and non-grads who I would. However, if you've graduated from college, then you either have the tools necessary to satisfy your intellectual curiosity, or you're remarkably good at faking it.

However, the instinctive reaction a lot of the American public seems to have to a college degree (he thinks he's better than me) worries me. I'dd add an addendum to your pleasure principle. We don't merely seek pleasure, we avoid displeasure, which intellectual curiosity certainly will occassionally lead you to. An example: