This week, wingnut heads exploded when President Obama took right-wingers to task for shaming low-income Americans, and First Lady Michelle Obama spoke about her experience as the first African-American First Lady.
Let’s be honest, it doesn’t take much to get wingnuts going. It takes even less for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to get wingnuts frothing at the mouth. The first couple can send wingnuts into fits without doing much more than going about their day-to-day business.
Right-wingers have been outraged at President Obama pretty much non-stop since he failed to resign from office and give Mitt Romney the keys to the White House after the 2014 midterm elections. But the president no longer appears to care much what his detractors on the right have to say about him, if he ever did. He caused howls of protest on the right with his performance at the White House Correspondents dinner
There’s always been a strain in American politics where you’ve got the middle class, and the question has been, who are you mad at, if you’re struggling; if you’re working, but you don’t seem to be getting ahead. And over the last 40 years, sadly, I think there’s been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top, or to be mad at folks at the bottom. And I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leaches, don’t want to work, are lazy, are undeserving, got traction. And, look, it’s still being propagated.
I mean, I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu—they will find folks who make me mad. I don’t know where they find them. They’re like, “I don’t want to work, I just want a free Obama phone”—or whatever. And that becomes an entire narrative, right? That gets worked up. And very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress—which is much more typical—who’s raising a couple of kids and is doing everything right but still can’t pay the bills.
And so if we’re going to change how John Boehner and Mitch McConnell think, we’re going to have to change how our body politic thinks, which means we’re going to have to change how the media reports on these issues and how people’s impressions of what it’s like to struggle in this economy looks like, and how budgets connect to that. And that’s a hard process because that requires a much broader conversation than typically we have on the nightly news.
Naturally, Fox News responded with utter shock and denial.
When Michelle Obama held the Bible as her husband took the oath of office to become the nation’s first African-American president, she instantly became an historic figure as well: the nation’s first African-American First Lady. She and her husband assumed “the burden of being first,” knowing that their every move would be subject to greater scrutiny and harsher criticism than any of their predecessors.
There is an unwritten rule about “the burden of being first”: one must at least appear to bear it perfectly, and one must never speak of it. Michelle Obama has borne it with grace and dignity, while facing a level of vitriol that — with the exception of Hillary Clinton — no other First Lady has had to face. It was with that same grace and dignity that Mrs. Obama broke the last part of that unwritten rule, by speaking honestly about being “knocked back” by racial perceptions of her as First Lady, as the commencement speaker at Tuskeegee University.