September 16, 2008

Free Michelle

Michelle Economy

With just 48 days to go in a campaign defined as much as anything for its Us or People Magazine-style of symbolism, my question is: why isn’t Michelle Obama being deployed more visibly by the Obama campaign?

After a successful Democratic Convention in which Michelle dominated night one, and provided the American public a powerful role model in her own right as partner, spouse, and working Mom, she has since disappeared from the public eye.  At the same time the McCain show’s 24/7 rolling cavalcade of Cindy, Sarah and First Dude (the replacement for Cindy, Lindsey and Joe) represents, by comparison, a visual orgy of familial, filial and domestic role playing.

This evening, in doing one of my routine newswire searches, I happened to look up “Michelle Obama” at YahooNews Photos under the “politics” category. Given the family dynamics of the campaign, especially since the RNC, I was stunned to discover that the most recent picture of Michelle was actually six days old. Beyond that, I had to go 2 pages in and 20 photos deep to find a pic of Michelle and Barack together — an image from the night Obama clinched the nomination back in June.  Beyond that, there was not one picture of the couple together in the nineteen days since the Democratic Convention.

Mccain Hugs Cindy Sarah

Cindy Etc

I’m sure the Obama campaign has a perfectly logical strategy in place, such as inserting Michelle into local forums in key states, like the economic round table with working women (above) where she last surfaced — at least, newswire-wise — on September 10th in Indiana.  At the same time, however, I can’t help but think about the media impact of the consistent, and ever-escalating hugging and mugging for the camera by the show couples on the other side.

With the media (as well as much of the public) still transfixed by “the Palin effect” and the gender politics of this presidential race, I can’t help but look at Michelle’s expression above — in context, perfectly innocent and transitory, I’m sure –  and think of a star player biding her time on the sidelines in the second half of a championship game.

(But then, just imagine a media culture where Michelle actually could spend every day in forums on serious issues with people like you and me, and score the media face time too.)

(image 1: Darron Cummings/AP.  Sept. 10, 2008. Fishers, Indiana. image 2: Stephan Savoia/AP Vienna, Ohio. Sept. 16, 2008. image 3: Reuters.  Vienna, Ohio September 16, 2008.  image 4: Mark Duncan/AP.  Sept. 16, 2008, in Vienna, Ohio)

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Michael Shaw
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