Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Michelle Obama, Opportunity, and America

I'm proud of America. But you already knew that. Cindy McCain is proud of America, and I'm glad to hear it. I believe that Michelle Obama is proud of America as well -- for as much press as her gaffe last week has gotten in the media, I understand the campaign's explanation -- she meant to make a larger point about political involvement and participation these days. And when you're on record speaking in public all day, you're bound to make a few mistakes. Good copy all around. Check-roger.

But here's what I don't get -- why is the 'narrative' from Michelle Obama always about these undefined 'people' (guidance counselors?) who kept telling her not to apply to Princeton and Harvard Law because of low scores? If she had not attended those schools I guess I'd have an easier time seeing her point about opportunity, class, and race in America. But she did! So instead of proving how bad America is, and how conspiratorially elitist it must be, doesn't her personal story show that not to be the case? Doesn't the fact that someone from the South Side of Chicago could get that education, and then go on to make a very healthy six-figure salary in corporate law, show the 'art of the possible?' And shouldn't the message to young people then be, "You can do this --learn how the system works and follow my example" as opposed to a narrative about unfair media portrayals and these undefined 'others' who want nothing more than to see you fail?

I understand there is plenty of time between now and the election. Obama currently beats McCain head-to-head, but voters are fickle and polls can be unreliable. Between now and November, I think one thing that is just not going to resonate with the average American voter is what seems to them like someone coming from the top (and by top I mean a seven-figure net worth and an annual salary several times the median) having (or at least appearing to have) a large chip on the shoulder -- it just doesn't add up. People of all backgrounds who legitimately struggle to meet their families' day-to-day needs just won't buy it, so to speak.

I also understand that we're voting for the candidates and not their spouses. But again, I'm talking about people's perceptions, which will naturally cause the two to meld together. If the Obama campaign doesn't spin this well enough and allow themselves to be the ones to 'frame the perception' it could spell their doom by autumn.

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