Michelle Obama, Then and Now

In looking forward to the First Lady’s speech tonight, I’m struck by how non-controversial she has become. Four years ago, she was the object of at least as much right-wing vilification as her husband, and maybe even more (indeed, the purpose of much of this obnoxious, crypto-racist noise was to establish Barack Obama’s “true” character as some sort of Frantz Fanon figure disguised as this nice sensible man).

In any event, as a reminder, I’ll offer a brief snippet from a piece I wrote in 2008 examining the attacks on Michelle Obama and how the Obamas and the campaign were handling it–and predicting they would fail dismally, as indeed they did, to the point they’ve gone away:

[T]he already-developed assault on Michelle Obama represents a sort of Greatest Hits of the nasty genre: like Eleanor Roosevelt, she’s an ideologue; like Nancy Reagan, she exerts dangerous influence over her husband; like Hillary Clinton, she’s Not Like Us…..

In the end, attacks on Michelle Obama as some sort of (literally) dark and dangerous presence face a high threshold of credibility, and ultimately depend on the belief that she reflects a hidden underside of Barack Obama’s sunny, optimistic and inclusive persona. It’s not entirely within the control of the Obama campaign to rebut that suggestion. But everything about the real Michelle Obama–and the campaign’s efforts to present her to us–should make that easier.

It did.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.