Former first lady Michelle Obama blasted President Donald Trump’s policies as “racist” and beneficial to the rich and powerful in a campaign video making her “closing argument” for Democratic nominee Joe Biden 28 days from the presidential election in November.
In a 24-minute speech published on YouTube, the former first lady adopted talking points lifted from progressive election strategists who urged Democrats to link “racism and class conflict” in the left’s appeal to voters.
“Right now, our country is in chaos because of a president who isn’t up to the job,” Obama said.
Writing in the New York Times last month, progressive researchers Ian Haney Lopez, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Tory Gavito, founder of the left-wing Texas Future Project, called on Democrats to adjust their message to reach Hispanics and other voter groups the Biden campaign is struggling to consolidate support from.
“Democrats should call for Americans to unite against the strategic racism of powerful elites who stoke division and then run the country for their own benefit,” Lopez and Gavito wrote. “This is not to deny the reality of pervasive societal racism. But it does direct attention away from whites in general and toward the powerful elites who benefit from divide-and-conquer politics.”
They proposed Democrats adopt a message like this:
We had come so far, but now Covid-19 threatens our families — for instance with health risks, record unemployment and losing the businesses we worked hard to build. To overcome these challenges, we need to pull together no matter our race or ethnicity. But instead of uniting us, certain politicians make divisions worse, insulting and blaming different groups. When they divide us, they can more easily rig our government and the economy for their wealthy campaign donors. When we come together by rejecting racism against anyone, we can elect new leaders who support proven solutions that help all working families.
That is exactly the message Obama used in her speech.
“Let’s be very real, America is divided right now, and a lot of people are being sold lies from those who want to get rich or stay in power, or sometimes both,” she said. “We must all empathize with those who might not look like us or vote like us. We have got to put ourselves in one another’s shoes.”
“Think about it,” she continued. “You’ve worked hard all your life and for too long you’ve watched the rich get richer. You’ve lost your farms and your livelihoods to corporate greed, you’ve seen your beloved towns shattered by joblessness, you’ve watched families destroyed by drug addiction and mental health challenges. All of this, long before this virus hit. And it is frustrating to hear some folks say that you’ve been the beneficiary of privilege, that the color of the skin gives you a head start. That is the reality for far too many hard-working decent Americans.
“But right now, the president and his allies are trying to tap into that frustration and distract from his breathtaking failures by giving folks someone to blame other than them,” she said.
Obama defended Black Lives Matter protests and said “the president and his allies” are “stoking fears about black and brown Americans, lying about how minorities will destroy the suburbs, whipping up violence and intimidation — and they’re pinning it all on what’s been an overwhelmingly peaceful movement for racial solidarity.”
Obama claimed “only a tiny fraction of demonstrations had any violence at all” and labels the president’s calls for law and order in U.S. cities beset by civil unrest “racist.”
She accused Trump of failing to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously, appealing to U.S. parents who are concerned for their children’s safety as schools reopen.
“If you’re a parent like me, you’re feeling the consequences of this president’s failure to take this pandemic seriously — from his constant downplaying of the importance of masks and social distancing to his relentless pressure on schools to open without offering a clear plan or meaningful support to keep students and teachers safe,” Obama said.
She said Trump, with all the resources of the United States government, failed to provide a plan to ensure Americans were tested for coronavirus and health care workers received the medical equipment they needed to handle a surge of sick patients. She said the president lied to the American people about the severity of the virus and attempted to “gaslight the American people by acting like this pandemic is not a real threat.”
Obama attacked Trump for allegedly calling U.S. military war dead “losers” and “suckers,” comments Trump denies making that were divulged to the press by anonymous sources. She also criticized the president and Republicans in Congress for failing to deliver additional stimulus aid to Americans facing economic hardship caused by the pandemic.
Former Vice President Joe Biden “has the character and the experience to put an end to this chaos, start solving these problems, and help lighten the load for families across the country,” Obama said.
Obama made several appeals to race in her speech, asking undecided voters for “empathy.”
“As a black woman, who has like the overwhelming majority of people of color in this nation done everything in my power to live a life of dignity and service and honesty, the knowledge that any of my fellow Americans is more afraid of me than the chaos we are living through right now — well that hurts. It hurts us all. It is a heaviness that sits on our hearts,” Obama said.
So I want to appeal for some empathy here too. I want everyone who is still undecided to think about all those folks like me and my ancestors. The moms and dads who worked their fingers to the bone to raise their kids right. The teenagers who wear hoodies while working hard to get their diplomas. The millions of folks who look like me and fought and died and toiled as slaves and soldiers and laborers to help build this country. Put yourselves in our shoes for just a moment. Imagine how it feels to wake up every day and do your very best to uphold the values that this country claims to hold dear — truth, honor, decency — only to have those efforts met by scorn not just by your fellow citizens but by a sitting president. Imagine how it feels to have suspicion cast on you from the day you were born simply because of the hue of your skin. To walk around your own country scared that someone’s unjustified fear of you could put you in harm’s way, terrified of what four more years of this kind of division might mean for the safety of you and those you love. Living with the knowledge that no matter how hard we try, how much good we do in the world, there will be far too many who will never see our humanity, who will project on us their own fears of retribution for centuries of injustice and thus only see us as a threat to be restrained, and we know what happens next. A racial slur from a passing car. A job promotion that never comes. A routine traffic stop gone wrong. Maybe a knee to the neck.
“Racism. Fear. Division. These are powerful weapons. And they can destroy this nation if we don’t deal with them head-on,” Obama said.
“Search your hearts, and your conscience, and then vote for Joe Biden like your lives depend on it.”