Political spouses are usually little more than trophies and/or eye candy. They are usually so shielded from the public eye that unless there's the obligatory shameful post-affair-outing press conference, most people forget they even exist. I would venture to guess that 75% of the American public couldn't name the First Lady, and 95% couldn't pick the Second Lady out of a police lineup.
Much like Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama seems to buck this trend a bit. She's hardly reserved. She's bold. She's polarizing. But perhaps best of all for Barack, she's black. Very black. Undeniably and unapologetically black.
As much fuss as has been superficially made of whether or not black folks are voting for Barack solely "cause he Black", part of me wonders just how much extra credit Barack gets from the Black community because he's married to Michelle Robinson.
Think about it: despite his backstory of community organizing in Chicago, most of Obama's media presentation is crafted by white folks, for white folks, and presented by white folks. All of his major campaign advisers and surrogates are white. Sure, there's boatloads of celebrity endorsers, but none of these folks are ever on Meet The Press speaking on his behalf. Outside of his security detail and that ex-Duke basketball player who serves as his body man/manservant/weedcarrier, he isn't surrounded by any blacks folks on the daily.
It's almost like me at my last managerial retreat.
Michelle and those two adorable kids are really the only tangible everyday "black" connections that many blacks folks can tie to him. And Michelle, by virtue of being so accomplished, so poised, so "fierce" in my opinion gives dude plenty of "street cred" that he'd otherwise lack.
[Editor's Note: I hate the term "street cred" just as much as you do, but I'm sure you get the overall sentiment. If you've better term, let me know and I'll change it.]
I'm not saying black folks wouldn't vote for Obama if he'd gone the Harold Ford route. By virtue of being a Democrat, and not being named Bush, he'd prolly get 90% of the black vote merely on GP. But you'd be hard pressed to tell me that the level of "don't nobody say nothin' bad bout' my Barry!" fanaticism that the black community holds for dude would be so fervent if he'd not been married to Michelle.
[Editor's Note: I'm sure some of my readers of a lighter complexion might think this convo is veering dangerously into some level of hard-to-label racism. It's not, trust me. If you're at a loss for why this is the case, I'm sorry, but like those tacky 1990's t-shirts s aid, "It's A Black Thang, You (Prolly) Wouldn't Understand". Don't try to over-analyze and make sense of it. Just nod in agreement and sit this one out.]
Black women, who are a large portion of the black electorate, absolutely love Michelle, which in turn helps them love Barack. They love her clothes. Her hair. Her kids. Her loving (at least publicly, cause don't know anyone's private life) husband. I'd argue that black women draw more inspiration from her than him. That doesn't mean that these women don't also care about the issues, they certainly do. But the endearing image of a beautiful Black woman from humble beginnings being on the precipice of sleeping in the White House legally for the first time ever certainly is certainly worth some extra sympathy points. I see this pride reflected in the faces of my wife, sisters in law, and Mom, all of whom are more than knowledgeable about the issues at play this year. Many black men undoubtedly view his wife as some co-sign of his authenticity. That he's married to a sista so he's gotta be "one of us".
The net result is a black politician who can not only pull in registered black voters, but turn black voter registration into some new urban pastime. Black folks will flock to the polls in record numbers come November 4th, and the magnitude of these new (or newly energized) black voters could very well be the difference in states like North Carolina and Virginia, which could very well be the difference between returning to Capitol Hill or moving over the 1600 Penn Ave.
And Michelle gets plenty of points for giving Barack this "street cred".
That said, in the interest of fairness, I suppose I'm beginning to understand why folks sometimes seem to blindly support other candidates in ways that defy my comprehension. The elderly and Vietnam vets flock to McCain. Ambitious soccer moms whose lives are a constant struggle for work/life balance are drawn to Palin. White dudes with bad hairplugs and mullets love Biden. Multimillionaire heiresses who don't bake cookies at any of their dozen homes dig CindyMac.
Uh okay, maybe that last one was a bit of a stretch.
Still, if this election season's taught me anything, it's that the increased diversity of primary players has opened my eyes to why folks Ryde Or Die! with certain candidates, even when logic dictates otherwise.
Color me enlightened.
Question: Do you think the Black community would be as gung ho for Barack Obama if he weren't married to Michelle and had pulled a Harold Ford number? Does she give him "street cred" or am I taking too much Benadryl yet again?