Michelle Obama is as likely to run for office as Lil’ Kim is to present a lifetime achievement award to Nicki Minaj with a speech penned by Foxy Brown.
Or, as Obama’s former communications director, Kristina Schake, once explained to Politico in 2014, “She is as likely to put her name in contention to be the next pope as she is to run for political office.” President Obama echoed a similar sentiment recently in an interview on "Sway in the Morning." Despite the First Lady’s own long history of dismissing the idea of entering politics as a candidate, questions as to whether or not she should and what sort of reactions she could expect have followed her for years now.
It’s easy to peg why the speculation has never wavered: people know a natural when they see her.
FBI Director James Comey’s poor letter writing skills may have distracted many from the sight of our current First Lady supporting a former First Lady’s historic presidential bid last week, but white noise does not drown out another instance of Michelle Obama proving herself to be a gifted speaker and campaigner.
Beyond her eloquently expressed disdain of Trump, Obama has been effective in stressing the severity of voting to Black people without the sort of condescension we tend to hear from her husband. Whereas President Obama speaks of this caricature known as “Cousin Pookie,” the “lazy” person sitting on his couch who “hasn’t voted in the last five elections,” she speaks more empathetically. Some may not agree with her positioning, but it’s hard to argue that she is not at least more thoughtful and considerate in her explanation.
On why Michelle Obama has been so effective, political scientist William A. Galston, a former aide to President Bill Clinton and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Washington Post, “She has a kind of informality that comes off as very natural, and in a generation that is searching for authenticity and connection, I think that helps.”
There are obvious other factors behind Michelle Obama’s popularity – most of them rooted in her not doing much in the way of policymaking. Even when it came to the issue of tackling childhood obesity, Obama was attacked by the likes of Sarah Palin. Others, including Governor Chris Christie, Fox News host and Trump University varsity cheerleader, Sean Hannity, and other wastes of time have harshly criticized her through the years.
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If Michelle Obama opted to entertain a political career on her own, our current political climate suggests that the attacks on her would be as vicious as those on her husband. Actually, maybe even worse. See: Hillary Clinton’s life. That said, with her skill set, name recognition, and eager support from her party, she would be a formidable candidate. She could easily win a Senate seat. She could very well go on to become our first Black female president.
I imagine she’d rather go live in private, and have the likes of me go back to minding my business.
It’s understandable why Obama will never run for office, though it does highlight an ongoing dilemma. The Democratic Party, whose survival relies so heavily on the support of Black women, doesn’t have enough Black women on the national scene or elected office in general. There has been some progression in terms of visibility at this year’s Democratic National Convention and the likelihood of Kamala Harris quietly making history next week for being elected California’s first Black and South Asian female senator.
That isn’t enough, though.
Not when Carol Moseley Braun remains the first and only Black woman elected to the U.S. senate. Two doesn’t exactly scream progression. The unfortunate reality is, for many women, they enter public life through their husbands. While the party should be cultivating more female leadership – notably from Black women -– on all fronts, with Michelle Obama, it feels like a squandered opportunity on their part.
Of course, she herself will be more than fine. Power and influence can be cultivated in ways outside of the political realm. There are probably many boards already salivating at the thought of having her name attached and with a nice check to match. I wouldn’t be surprised if Michelle Obama already had her bags packed. She deserves a more leisurely life after such impeccable service as First Lady.
Nonetheless, Democrats being unable to convince her to even seriously entertain running for office speaks to the disdain many decent, honest people have with politics – a problem only worsening with millennials. Even if it’s in vain, many prod Michelle Obama about public life because she’s just so good. And though we absolutely understand why she will never, ever do it, it’s still, as that Sunkist-can colored conservative come lately with a crush on Vladimir Putin would say, “Sad!”