Hillary pulled off a surprise win the other night, but I still think the Obamas have a lot of game. Plus, they’re much more interesting than the Clintons. A couple of good profiles: one (of Michelle) in the New Yorker, the other by Victor David Hansen.
I notice with Michelle Obama a trait that I often see in apolitical people: a vague, not particularly analytical, sense that something is wrong with our way of life and our busy world. I’ve seen it most in people from blue collar backgrounds that somehow make their way into money: they are surprised to learn that it doesn’t solve all of their problems. The whole “super mom” career thing undoubtedly has not lived up to Michelle’s expectations. She’s running here, there, everywhere, keeping up with the Jonses, not knowing her neighbors, still feeling insecure, and constantly having to work.
She often talks of a profound malaise in American life, but one can’t ignore the dissonance between means and ends: her complaints are all spiritual in nature, but the solutions she and her husband reach for are prosaic and practical, such as government health care, free trade protectionism, and a soak-the-rich tax policy.
When she’s not mouthing Marxist platitudes about race, Michelle Obama’s instincts are actually fairly conservative–this undobutedly the product of her stable, blue collar upbringing. But the solutions she is promoting to solve our crisis of meaning are not the right tools for the job, and her husband’s soaring rhetoric conceals a very ordinary agenda.
The real roots of her pain are deeper, stemming from the unbalanced and typically American obsession with money, status, getting ahead, “career,” and the like. Nothing in capitalism makes people get on that track. People choose to. Her lack of sensitivity to the serious financial problems of her blue-collar audiences (and her blindness to the well hidden struggles of her parents) demonstrate what I believe is another important factor in her and other Americans’ unhappiness: a lack of gratitude and perspective.