Reality is starting to sink in – one of the folks polling at the top of the candidates’ “field” is actually going to run against Donald Trump, and this excites exactly nobody.
Then I said the magic word:
Immediately, everybody perked up, looked at me, wagging their tails, all smiles, barking, chasing each other around. It was like the whole park lit up, turned from winter to summer; night to day, from despair to absolute joy.
Let's call it The Michelle Effect.
When folks hear her name, read about her, catch a glimpse of her on TV, to say nothing of seeing her in person, they pay attention. They listen. They clap, laugh, cheer. Stand up. Sign up. Show up. And vote.
Michelle Obama can beat Donald Trump.
Take it from her best pal, Barack, who put it this way when asked the question in 2016: “There are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes and Michelle is not running for president. That I can tell you.”
Michelle has said it over and over and even in her autobiography, “Becoming,” which is the best selling book of 2019, hitting the top of the New York Times list 15 times this year and five times last year, to give you just a little hint of how incredibly popular she is.
And I can hear Cat saying: “Phoebe, you’re an idiot. Leave the poor woman alone. She’s done her part. Eight years in the White House. Raised two beautiful kids. All the while, living with a guy with enormous ears and a weird name. If anybody deserves a break. I mean, she's (only) 55 and can make up her own mind."
Actually, I’d be interested in what Cat would think now, given how things are shaping up with the election less than a year away.
The horror: Less than a year!
ANYWAY, I WAS SAYING about our focus group at the park....
You’re saying: “It’s not a focus group, just a bunch of dogs at a playground, no less.”
My response: Try it at home. At the office, around the water cooler, (if they still have those in today’s Gig Economy). Try it at a store, at Sunday dinner, at the casino, the beach cleanup, the Christmas party, the supermarket check-out line, at a park of your choosing, wherever. Just say it.
Conversation stops, people look at you, pay attention, wanting to know more, demanding to know more. Tell us what you know.
You don’t need to be a professional campaign consultant, a scientific pollster, a pundit, a poet or a prophet. You just need to make sure there are other people in the room. Then say it and see what happens.
A softball, even that wasn’t his intent. Princeton undergrad. Harvard Law School, snotty sounding law firm, posts in the administration of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley (the son, not the mean father of the1960s), executive director of the Chicago office of Public Allies, (it lures idealistic young people into low-paying careers at non-profits and government agencies), associate dean at the University of Chicago and executive positions the University of Chicago Hospitals.
And, of course, she was First Lady of the United States from early 2009 to early 2017. That would be eight years in the White House. Eight years in which she learned how that place really works, which is something you can’t know until you’re actually there. So, she'll get right to it, cleaning up the Trump disaster, to rescue the environment, foreign affairs, immigration, education, housing and respect for democratic ideals and institutions.
Want to know what else works for Michelle Obama as the nominee? She’s Most Admired Woman in the World. She’s also the Most Admired Woman in the USA.
That’s from a survey by YouGov, a research group out of London, which reported this past July that Michelle replaced Angelina Jolie for first place in the ladies' world category. To put these kinds of surveys in perspective, here's who it found to be the World’s Most Admired Man – hold still for this - Bill Gates! Who knew?
But you get the point. People know who she is.
You might remember a speech that Michelle gave in the closing days of the 2016 election – Oct. 13, to be specific – when she was campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Manchester, N.H.
It was about a week after the tape surfaced on which Trump is heard boasting to a guy from the “Hollywood Access” TV program about Trump’s long history of abusing women. Trump says:
You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them, It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for president of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign, has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can’t believe that I’m saying that a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women.
She talks for nearly a half-hour, never missing a word, sentences complete, even though it’s obvious she’s not using a Teleprompter, but she speaks from deep within, as her indignation, her outrage, her disdain and anger sweeps through the room.
This is a speech for the ages, but as eloquent and seamless as it is, a transcript hardly does it justice. You need to watch it and hear her speech as it happened. It’s easily found on the Internet, and I’ve LINKED to a version that’s on the website of the Guardian newspaper.
You will be transfixed, and you’ll have two thoughts. One is that although Michelle was campaigning for Hillary, it's impossible to miss the point that Michelle would have been the better candidate.
And two, that if you change just a couple of references about the 2106 campaign to apply to an imagined 2020 election, that speech will be as fresh, insightful and relevant now as it was then.
Because here’s the truth: either Hillary Clinton (Michelle Obama) or her opponent will be elected president this year. And if you vote for someone other than Hillary (Michelle), or if you don’t vote at all, then you are helping to elect her opponent. And just think about how you will feel if that happens. Imagine waking up on November the 9th (November the 3rd) and looking into the eyes of your daughter or son, or looking into your own eyes as you stare into the mirror. Imagine how you’ll feel if you stayed home, or if you didn’t do everything possible to elect Hillary (Michelle).
Speaking for myself, if Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar or others currently and officially in running is nominated, each is talented and capable of running the country, and I will do anything possible to make it happen, as will lots of others.
But the chances of winning are so much better if Michelle is the candidate. Nothing is guaranteed. She won’t get many votes from Trump’s famous “base.” Race and bigotry will explode along with misogyny, greed, false stories, violence and all the other awful forces that surround and are propelled by Trump.
Obama, with her unique oratorical gifts, her universal appeal, her experience, her deeply held beliefs, high standards, and quick mind can transform the election. She can bring people to the polls to vote who otherwise won’t.
As for her clearly stated reluctance to run, and her well-earned disdain for politics, I get it. I'm a dog, so I know what it's like to have people boss you, tell you what to do, when to do it, how to do it, when you have absolutely no interest.
But I refer Michelle toher own words from that that October day four years ago. They challenge her now in the same way she summoned that New Hampshire audience to rescue an endangered nation.
Imagine how you’ll feel if you stayed home … We simply cannot let that happen. We cannot allow ourselves to be so disgusted that we just shut off the TV and walk away. And we can’t just sit around wringing our hands. Now, we need to recover from our shock and depression and do what women have always done in this country. We need you to roll up your sleeves. We need to get to work.