More than a few Americans who tuned into the Oscars ceremony Sunday night were put off by the appearance, via satellite, of First Lady Michelle Obama.
Washington Post writer Jennifer Rubin expresses their disgust when she remarks: “It is not enough that President Obama pops up at every sporting event in the nation. Now the First Lady feels entitled…to intrude on other forms of entertaining [.]”
Rubin continues: “I’m sure the left will holler that once again conservatives are being grouchy and have it in for the Obamas.” However, “if they really had their president’s best interests at heart, they’d steer away from encouraging these celebrity appearances.” The problem, as Rubin understands it, is that such appearances make “both the president and the first lady seem small and grasping.”
This kind of analysis is commonplace among those on the right.
And the right is so much the worse because of it.
In the wake of their reversals of fortune, Republicans and conservatives have debated much among themselves. For the most part, though, the conflict has centered on the positions that the GOP is known for taking on the issues of the day. But if it is victory that Republicans seek, then it is far more important for them to rethink how they think about American politics itself.
This means that they must rethink their views on their opponents, especially the Obamas, who know the nature of American political life better than anyone.
The Obamas may “seem small and grasping,” as Rubin asserts, but if so, then they appear this way only to those who have always disliked them. In other words, they seem small and grasping to those Americans with whom the Obamas are no longer concerned.
In contrast, to over half of the country that voted for them, the Obamas seem connected. And to those “low information” Americans who are politically disengaged but who live for their movies and sports, the Obamas now seem like folks with whom they can relate, ordinary Americans who share their interests.
This is one reason why Barack and Michelle Obama continue to make “these celebrity appearances” that Jennifer Rubin and legions of other conservatives so lament.
Yet there is another. The Obamas don’t refuse the opportunity to make celebrity appearances precisely because they indeed want to be seen as celebrities.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.