Michelle Obama's Role in Campaign & Reshaping Image of the Black Family

As I was thinking about the NON-controversy with Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, I thought about her role in this campaign, and how integral she has been for the Obama campaign.

First and foremost, Michelle Obama humanizes her husband. Her teasing and chiding in the beginning was a signal that Barack Obama is a very gifted man, but he's not the Second Coming, so don't see him that way, because he can't do anything but disappoint you. But, if you see him as a man with gifts, talent, service and inspiration, then he's your man, and stick with him.

While much has been written about Barack Obama's 'appeal' to the White community, because of his non-traditional background (growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia), you can't run a campaign across racial, ethnic and religious lines, if you don't have a narrative that those White audiences can relate to.

And, that's where Michelle Obama comes in, and that has been her major task:

To show the common universality of the ' American Experience', and point out that we're not all so different. Using herself as an example, not only within the context of how SHE, was skeptical about Barack Obama in the beginning, not knowing what to make of this 'Skinny Black Guy with a funny name who grew up in Hawaii', thus relating herself to the general audience - both BLACK and WHITE - but, also by bringing up her OWN background.

Another important part of the challenge of the Obama campaign, in its quest to reach out to the General American populace, is that they have had to try and reshape the very IMAGE of the BLACK FAMILY.

From the Black Point of View, when Michelle Obama tells the story of her family and talks about her father, as I have written before, I see the Black men that I grew up with in my life. The Black men who never get stories written about them in the papers, and certainly never make the news. And, she seems to have been talking about the Black community in which I was raised. As a community, we've not had someone talk about the Black Family in the way that Michelle Obama is doing. We've not had those hard working, Black men and women, especially of that generation, acknowledged in what they did, and what they demanded of their ' striving' children. For those in the middle class, we all know Michelle Robinson's family, because they were our neighbors. A generation ago, this was the family of the working class.

As Mrs. Obama has said herself, she finds nothing extraordinary in how she grew up; people like her and her family have ALWAYS been there - they've just been ignored by the MSM. And, because the Obamas are running, they can't ignore that story anymore, because in order to tell the story of the Obamas, you have to tell Michelle Robinson Obama's story, and thus the story of an entirely ignored swath of the Black community.

To the White community hearing this rarely told story, they can relate to it from their end; how many of them had fathers who weren't professionals, but worked to put food on the table through adversity, and had mothers who stayed at home, keeping the house together and the children in line, stressing education and hard work as the keys to achievement in society. To be able to relate to Michelle Obama's upbringing is a way to reach over that divide and show that we have fundamental values in common in this country, and if we can work through those, we can make this country a better place.

It's a daunting task for the Obamas - to try and counter the massive denigration of the Black Family that the MSM has done, but they have to do it, in order to be competitive. And, it's just another example of what Barack Obama has to do as the BLACK Candidate in this race that just doesn't apply to the other candidates.

Cross Posted at Mirror on America and Jack and Jill Politics

Tags: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, The Black Family (all tags)



21st Century Huxtables

Didn't you coin the Obamas, "the 21st Century Huxtables"? I read a posting in which you call Michelle Obama the real life Clair Huxtable. So true! America will embrace Michelle like they embraced the other made for TV professional working mom, Clair Huxtable.

I wish you cross-posted this on DailyKos. Positive postings on Barack Obama are much needed on that site. And, Rikyrah, you are one of my favorite bloggers. Keep it up.

by hanna 2007-08-26 01:35PM | 0 recs
Re: 21st Century Huxtables

Yes, I do believe I used that phrase in another post. I'm glad you liked this diary. I don't know why it hit me yesterday that THAT was Michelle's role, and what a battle it is, and makes me admire her even more.

I went and posted at DailyKos, per your suggestion.

by rikyrah 2007-08-26 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: 21st Century Huxtables

Michelle seemed to cut down on that "he's not God" stuff lately.

That's smart. It was OK for awhile, but it was starting to become a negative.

I saw on a couple cable shows where they were saying "Why is she always running him down?"

I know she was just bringing a human, real touch to things, but a little of that goes a long way.

by Bush Bites 2007-08-26 10:49PM | 0 recs
Re: 21st Century Huxtables

The comparison to Claire Huxtable is an apt comparison in more ways than one, not the least of which is the not "black enough" argument that the Cosby's faced during their first few seasons on the air.  Americans by-and-large were incredulous to the fact that a significant percentage of African Americans were educated professionals.  And it wasn't just White folks who lived in states and communities with small to non-existent minority populations questioning the authencity of the Huxtables.  The MSM press was perpectuating this non-sense, some even questioning the existence of colleges and universities as was portrayed on a Different World.  Watching these "conversations" from my dorm room at Howard University at the time was all too surreal!

by Dee 2007-08-26 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Michelle Obama's Role in Campaign &

Polls are now showing Obama leading among AA voters in S.C and this is probably because of the stepped up campaigning of Michelle who would make hard for Hillary to retain some of her black women support.

Im hearing the Obama camp are saving Jesse Jackson for now and will throw him out there when Hillary decides to use bill in S.C

Jesse Jackson is extremely popular among AA in S.C and actually won the state in 88 by a 90% clip even though he did not do well in IA and NH.

by JaeHood 2007-08-26 02:07PM | 0 recs
Jackson and the working class

Interesting that you bring up Jesse Jackson's '88 campaign. He had much larger crossover appeal than was expected, especially among working class whites. Obama's appeal does not extend to the working class, he appeals to professionals.

Obama will not do as well in the primaries as Jackson did, even with Jackson's campaigning or Michelle's humanizing. His appeal is not broad enough.

by souvarine 2007-08-26 05:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Jesse

Jesse will probably help him in South Carolina, but hurt him most other places.

I hope he doesn't get too close to Jesse. He has almost as many negatives as Hillary.

by Bush Bites 2007-08-26 10:42PM | 0 recs
Michelle Obama is a great speaker

I saw her earlier this month in the Des Moines area, and she did an excellent job, even with lots of people supporting other candidates in the crowd.

by desmoinesdem 2007-08-27 09:09AM | 0 recs


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