Michelle As First Lady: General Election Edition

They both did well in fulfilling their ascribed duties. One was supposed to explain why her husband and the family they’ve made together are just like everybody else’s, as American as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a plate of mac-n-cheese. The other was supposed to explain why her party’s latest change agent is the guy who deserves your vote.


Both women are lawyers, well educated at marquee schools. Both are mothers who have politically ambitious husbands. Both are smart and possess reputations for intensity and being no-nonsense. Both put their careers on semi-hiatus, stashed away their personal opinions and wrapped themselves in motherly and wifely goodness when their husbands became the official presidential nominees of their party.


There, in a tangerine pantsuit, Hillary Clinton -- no longer a first lady wanna-be -- addressed the Democratic national convention in Denver. A U.S. senator and freshly defeated Democratic contender for president, Clinton was no longer tethered to the role of the doting, supportive spouse who was supposed to make undecided voters feel all warm, fuzzy and unthreatened by witty, powerful woman. Clinton, now a politician and political leader in her own right, was free to speak clearly and strongly about her views and positions on issues. Her views, not someone else’s.


And, there, in a teal dress, was Michelle Obama, first lady wanna-be. Despite her intelligent, thought-provoking speeches of the past 18 months, at the Democratic convention she stuck to the story of her life as a daughter, sister, mother and wife. While it’s true that her speech was preceded by a lovely biographical video narrated by her proud mother -- which told Michelle Obama’s story and lightly touched upon her career achievements -- the bulk of the video was about the softer side of the “South Side Girl,” a lot on her romance with Barack and her relationship with her family, with her mother noting that Michelle had been like a mom to many people throughout her life.


Michelle Obama’s speech, executed warmly with aplomb, was a Hallmark card to the voters. (“. . . I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president. And I come here as a mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world. They are the first things that I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night.”) And, although I’m as much of a sucker for bittersweet, touching family stories as the next gal -- I adore watching the Obamas with their two spunky daughters -- as I watched the convention, I felt as though some of the regalness and the strength that we saw from Michelle: The Primary Season had been replaced by a new version, Michelle: The General Election Edition. While the color of her dress was bright, her tone was somewhat muted. She’d been Lifetime-televisionized.



Very well-thought out piece, Meredith. Thank you.