On the First Lady’s Speech


Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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77 Responses

  1. Avatar Michelle says:

    For the record, I can’t imagine Romney driving a junker or staying at a Motel 6. Romney’s always lived on a different plane than most Americans; all attempts to portray him as anything different invariably ring hollow.

    I read the linked article and was struck by the reactions the author’s family had to Obama. The older woman could easily be my mother, who’s hatred of Michelle Obama is so visceral it took her months to remember that the First Lady and I share a first name. I’m pretty sure that, if she watched the speech at all, she didn’t see the same speech I saw. Ditto for my father. I’ll spare you their commentary, but their inner racism has emerged with a vengeance. My father’s even talked about buying a gun if Obama loses, as he expects violent race riots to erupt.

    I suspect you’ll get the usual responses from the usual subjects about racializing the election. But to pretend that race is not an issue for some not insignificant portion of the population is to put on blinders. It’s been a Republican trope to present Democratic candidates as somehow less than American (e.g. the “Frenchness” of John Kerry) but the attack on Obama has been far more vicious than in past elections because of his color.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Michelle says:

      Obama reeks of cool. The republicans distrust cool, particularly the backwoods sort. It’s not always about race, per se.
      If Obama acted as rich and stately as an old lord, you’d see less viciousness.
      He acts smart — and a lot of people got a problem with that.

      This is not to say that a good deal of thsoe people don’t also have a problem with race — but to limit it to race is to miss the big picture.Report

      • Avatar Michelle in reply to Kimmi says:

        I think they’d have an even bigger problem if he acted rich and stately.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Michelle says:

          And that’s where the Ivory Tower misses the peasants’ mind completely. Peasants know precisely how much obeisance is due a king, and their respect is given solely due to the person’s hereditary status.

          Such things, I’m certain, are far more important in some parts of America than others.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kimmi says:

        So Romney lives on a higher plane from most Americans and that’s bad.

        But Obama lives on a higher plane than most Americans and that’s good.Report

        • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to DensityDuck says:

          As Benjamin Franklin intimated, we don’t exist on any one plane, but are constantly in a state of traversal.

          The point is where did you come from, and what does that say about what you understand of people and their circumstances, and the degree to which one’s compassion and ability for empathy can be predicted based on their life experiences.Report

  2. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    In comparison, I thought Michelle’s speech was better than Ann’s, but I think this was partially because Ann had a different job.

    For appealing to the base, they both did equally well. For appealing to the middle, I thought Michelle did a better job of making her and Barack seem like “just folks” than Ann did, but I think that’s because they’re a lot closer to being “just folks”, so the comparison isn’t really fair.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      Just folks.

      “She spoke movingly about their early years–about how a young Barack Obama drove a car that was “rusted out” and found his furniture “in a dumpster,” how they both came from families that had to “scrape by.” Her fairy tale–however well-delivered–was one great, big, colorful lie.

      Both Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama began their adult lives with a leg up on the rest of America. They attended elite schools: Michelle went to Whitney Young, the public magnet school for Chicago’s upper class, while Barack attended Punahou, the private prep school for the top stratum of Hawaiian society. They were accepted to Ivy League schools despite undistinguished credentials, and both attended Harvard Law School.

      “[B]elieve it or not, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage,” Michelle said. That sounds like a raw deal–but in fact reflects their fortunate circumstances. They had both just graduated from a very expensive law school, and their combined income from cushy law firm jobs dwarfed the repayments. Barack also soon enjoyed a second salary from the University of Chicago.
      They had expensive tastes, reflected in the $277,500 two-bedroom condo they bought in 1993–a high price even by today’s standards. Several years later, they moved into their $1.65 million mansion in Hyde Park–with the help of fraudster Tony Rezko. Barack often told a story of hardship on the campaign trail in 2008 about having his credit card declined–once. The fact that he thought this counted as real hardship speaks volumes.

      As her husband moved onto the national political stage, Michelle Obama began to enjoy a lavish lifestyle at taxpayer expense, directly and indirectly. When Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate, he obtained a $1 million earmark for the University of Chicago Hospital–and his wife’s salary as Vice President for Community Affairs jumped from $121,910 to $316,962. Her job: pushing poor, uninsured patients to other hospitals.

      As First Lady, Michelle Obama has lived high on the hog while the rest of the country has suffered through an extraordinary recession. In 2010, she and her entourage decamped to Spain for a lavish vacation. That summer, the Obamas encouraged Americans to visit the Gulf coast after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which threatened tourism in the region. They promptly jetted off to Maine for their own summer holiday.”


  3. Avatar Michelle says:

    Ann would have done better had she simply acknowledged that she and Mitt never really struggled; they were blessed and extended their blessings through hard work and a bit of good luck. I don’t think there are too many people out there who begrudge them their privileged start in life. Thus, pretending otherwise didn’t ring true and detracted from the rest of her speech. Of course, it was also quite the uphill battle for her to humanize Mitt. Not quite sure she succeeded.Report

    • Avatar ktward in reply to Michelle says:

      Spot on point.

      Obama (Mrs. too) has long campaigned upon and opined an appreciation for his own blessings as well as the privilege that his own daughters enjoy, all in advocacy of working towards equal opportunity.

      There is such a stark contrast in Obama’s and Romney’s narratives. In theory, I’d be flummoxed that this stark contrast weren’t more obvious to a whole lot of folks, except that the particular whole-lot-of-folks it’s not obvious to happen to be either partisan ideologues or [old?] peeps carrying sad baggage.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Michelle says:

      You can’t acknowledge luck. Luck means that success in life is not wholly on merits. If success in life isn’t wholly based on merit, then things like a social safety net are not just the moral thing to do — but the intelligent thing to do.

      If bad luck (ie: No fault of your own) can bankrupt you, cripple you, cost you your home or businesss — then very obviously you’d want something like “bad luck insurance”. You know, pay a little when times are good as a hedge against that bad luck. (We call it ‘unemployment insurance’, ‘social security’, ‘Medicare’, ‘food stamps’)

      Which is why you often see conservatives stretch and reach to explain how someone obvioiusy unlucky (say, bankrupt and jobless due to sudden case of cancer) is not unlucky, stretching to point to some decision, some act, that makes them “lazy and shiftless”. Their countertops are granite (to name a famous example) which means they’re really not bankrupt.

      If merit and merit alone makes success — then helping the poor, the sick, and the downtrodden is just rewarding sloth — and showering the rich with praises is rewarding virtue. If luck is involved, well….then you have to ask questions about “What should the lucky do for the society they lucked out in?” and “Should the lucky pay for things they might one day need, if bad luck strikes them”.

      Basically, it leads straight to liberalism.

      “Luck” means the free market does not, in fact, fart magic unicorn pixie dust over everything.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Michelle says:


      It might work better for a liberal or Democratic President (FDR strikes me as a prime example) but I wonder why few politicians say something like: “Yes I grew up with a lot of advantages that many people do not have. I am very grateful for these advantages but realize that many were an accident of birth. I would like to help even the playing field or make sure that people do not struggle with basic necessities.”Report

  4. Avatar ktward says:

    Relative to the CRA days when droves of southern Dems morphed into Republicans, the racist DNA of the GOP has evolved: it’s measurably less ugly today (as in less overt) and we really do need the insights of folks like Ta-Nehisi Coates to better understand the insidious nature of it.

    The GOP’s sexist DNA, otoh, pretty much remains just as obvious as ever.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to ktward says:

      Which is as I’ve said elsewhere, that the goal of progressives is not to mitigate the harmful effects of racism, but to eliminate the very mode of thinking that leads to racism. Thoughtcrime ungood.Report

      • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to DensityDuck says:

        A thought or feeling is different than a sentiment.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to E.C. Gach says:

          Yes, thoughts and feelings are something that individual people have. Sentiments, on the other hand, don’t have to be held by anyone, meaning that you can never disprove their existence. It may be that no Republican voter you’ve ever met in person has had a racist thought in their head, but you’re still fighting against the sentiment of racism that all Republicans hold as a matter of course.Report

      • Avatar ktward in reply to DensityDuck says:

        the goal of progressives is not to mitigate the harmful effects of racism, but to eliminate the very mode of thinking that leads to racism.

        Huh. I’m not entirely sure what to make of your comment, Mr. Duck.
        But, it sounds like you’re admitting that the GOP is full of peeps who employ a “mode of thinking that leads to racism”, and on its face I’m inclined to mostly agree with that point.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Some questions:

        1. What is this “mode of thinking” that leads to racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia?

        2. What is morally objectionable or wrong about eliminating racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, etc?

        Yes we liberals want to mitigate the effects of racism but there is nothing morally wrong with going for the root of the cause and eliminating the beast itself. Just like the best way to fight crime is to attack the causes of crime (like poverty and lack of opportunity) instead of just locking people up.Report

  5. Avatar MikeSchilling says:

    That’s a nice dress the First Lady wore. It is a Versace or a Stokely Carmichael?Report

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