I don’t consider Michelle Obama’s convention speech to be some momentous statement of the campaign’s principles. It was pretty, it was quick, and it tried (although I don’t think it succeeded) to humanize the man who is being framed by McCain as too big for his britches. Nevertheless, it did strike some notes that, for me anyway, explain Barack Obama and his way of seeing the world. Michelle tells us that
“[Barack] talked about “The world as it is” and “The world as it should be.” And he said that all too often, we accept the distance between the two, and settle for the world as it is – even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations.[…] And he urged us to believe in ourselves – to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be.”
Now I understand! When Obama is confronted by the “world that it is,” he feels compelled to strive for “the world as it should be.” If Obama is reminded that he lives in a world where he promised to take public campaign funding in the general election, he instead strives for a world where he made no such promise and he’s flush with private cash. “World as it should be,” 1, “World as it is,” 0. (We’re ignoring, of course, that “your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do.”)
When Obama is told that, in this world, the surge has worked, and that he can’t declare defeat in Iraq, he chooses to talk about a different world — one where the surge wasn’t the force behind success in Iraq and where our “win” in Iraq is really just a sign of our loss in Afghanistan.
If Obama wants to run for state senate and win, but the world he lives in has other candidates who might actually beat him, he creates a new world he’d rather live in — one where he uses technicalities and sharp-elbow politics to remove his opponents from the ballot and start his rise to the presidency. (Ignoring, of course, that “you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.”
If Obama reads in the papers that he’s been attending church for the past 20 years under the tutelage of a radical pastor who he called, in print, his spiritual mentor, Obama chooses to write his own story, where he sat through no hateful sermons and Rev. Wright made no outrageous statements. In fact, you can write him entirely out of your own narrative, just as easily as you wrote him in [no mention of church in Michelle’s speech, in case you were wondering].
And doesn’t this simple move, this metaphysical twitch, explain so much about the Obama movement? “All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do – that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.”
Fantasy over reality. Emotions over facts. It’s a refreshing, exciting way to live, I have to say. As a way to run for president, though, it has its challenges. And it is NOT “why I love this country.”