“We use Ann sparingly now, so that people don’t get tired of her–or start attacking,” said business-savvy Mitt Romney to his big money backers on the now infamous videotape. You have to “use” your wife on the campaign trail–she’s auditioning for first lady. But you don’t want to saturate the market with too much Ann, or people will stop liking her. How revealing.
On a daily basis, she has to prove that she loves children, pets, and warm and fuzzy, kid-centered holidays such as Christmas and Easter. But she’s smart, she knows the ways of the political world, and she can’t help every once in a while getting bored reading stories to second graders. She wants to tackle a social problem. She is unelected yet supremely influential. People everywhere are conflicted over how the first lady is meant to fulfill her duties.
In part, the national missus is supposed to help us forget that every administration is knee-deep in who-knows-what. Her job is to accomplish two things at once: project buoyant enthusiasm and an air of dignity; know how to be girlish and how to look serene in a gown. If the presidency inspires awe full-time, she must aim to symbolize grace full-time.
Okay, there’s a monumental election coming up. How do we deploy this live-wire whose role is not defined in the Constitution? At the Republican and Democratic National Conventions this summer, Ann Romney and Michelle Obama were each called upon to attest to the qualities that caused her to fall in love with her husband. Did you see how thrilled the candidates’ wives appeared up on the podium? Emphasis on “appeared.” Ultimately, she knows she is a prop, part of a plot, a campaign strategist’s ploy. The audience–the viewers at home–are expected to get the message: “I love him, so vote for him.”
Lost in the commentary that followed the ladies’ convention speeches was any appreciation for the actual staleness of this scripted exercise, and how goofy our democracy has become when a woman is compelled to fire up the base and court swing voters by indulging in such blatant myth-making. “Even though we’re super-rich, we’re a family just like yours!” “One time when the kids were younger, their dad climbed a tree to rescue a ______.” (Audience laughs and cheers) “Isn’t that fantastic?” No one says this directly; but all spin it indirectly.
Secular humanist, freethinker, progressive, and bibliophile. I love living life, learning things, and meeting people.