This past week, Michelle Obama sent me an email on behalf of her husband’s re-election campaign. In it, she asked me to join on as a “summer organizer” for the poor, put-upon President. “Barack,” she wrote, “needs you out there this summer.”
She continued, “It’s an amazing experience – one that could change your life while shaping this country for decades to come.” Change again! But it’s the mode of change that was interesting in Michelle’s pitch: “If you take a position as a fellow, you’ll help more people to step up at the local level, where there are so many opportunities to make so much change. You’ll register voters, recruit and train volunteers, run phone banks, have conversations with people on their front porches, and build the relationships that will bring your community together to fight for progress.”
That’s a busy summer. Let’s take these elements one at a time. First, Michelle wants me to help people step up at the local level. She doesn’t really define that. Somehow, I doubt she wants me to give job training that would encourage people to support their families. She probably isn’t interested in me filing LLC papers for folks so they can get a business started. She also doesn’t want me passing the hat for charitable causes or getting socially disorganized kids into church groups that might help them. “Stepping up,” according to Michelle, means shilling for her husband. After four long years, change has come down to getting her husband getting a second term. What kind of change is this? The king in the familiar aphorism, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
But there’s more. I can register voters, too. Now, as a general matter, I’m not much for registering voters. That’s because if people don’t care enough to have registered, I don’t want them voting. It’s not difficult to register to vote – you can do it quickly and easily. It’s your civic duty to figure out how to make yourself eligible for the vote. In fact, you can even walk into a library or post office and pick up a form. That’s part of citizenship. If you haven’t bothered to register, I’m not enthused about your vote cancelling mine out. I’m fine with fewer voters – too many voters already vote based not on the positions of the candidates, but on whether they “seem like a nice guy.” The last thing I want is more ignorant voters.
If I want to work for Barack, though, I can also recruit and train volunteers and run phone banks. I can even have conversations with people on their front porches. This seems like a classist slip – not all of us are fortunate enough to have front porches. Beyond that, if I’m going to sit on somebody’s front porch and watch the hawk making lazy circles in the sky, I’d rather not be talking about our ubiquitous president.
But most of all, Michelle wants me to “build the relationships” that will bring my community together to fight for progress. Once again, these buzzwords leave something to be desired. The progress envisioned here has little to do, say, with more economic or social freedom; it has to do, no doubt, with bigger government. So I’m supposed to devote my summer vacation to that?
The pathetic attempts of the Obama campaign to paint itself as friend of the common man aren’t just empty, they’re insulting. Michelle’s characterization of her husband as a victim of the American people – he needs our help, we’re his only hope! – is beyond arrogant. Barack Obama is the most powerful man on the planet. For him to act the aggrieved politician requiring the help of the little people is too condescending for words.
But it gets better. Within 48 hours of Michelle’s cute email, I got one from Julianna Smoot, Deputy Campaign Manager for Obama. This email told me that if I just donated $3, I’d have a chance at having dinner with George Clooney and Obama – at Clooney’s house! “He's hosting supporters at his home next month to help build support for this campaign and elect President Obama in November,” the email breathlessly announced. “And he's saving seats for two grassroots supporters like you and their guests. It's just not a chance most people get -- well, ever.”
The chance to sit with a bunch of pompous people who think they do important work while reading lines written by actually talented people? Color me enthused! Eating dinner across the room from George Clooney? The George Clooney? As in the guy in Syriana?!
This is how the Democrats reach out to their constituents: by getting them to spend the summer changing the possibility that Obama won’t be reelected and entering a lottery to eat scraps from George Clooney’s table! What a deal!
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