Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

25 June 2022

Michelle Obama for President


Who can save us from fascism? Doesn’t that question matter most for 2024?

It’ll take months, maybe years, before we know whether the superbly staged January 6 Hearings have done their job. So far, they’ve shown the Demagogue as a man who makes up lies as easily as breathing. He’s like the fictional senator in the film The Manchurian Candidate—modeled on the real Red-baiter Joe McCarthy. That character saw a bottle of Heinz 57 Ketchup on his table and rose to denounce “57 card-carrying communists in the United States government.”

But will enough people watch the Hearings to make a difference? Or have too many minds already been made up?

Anyway, American fascism won’t die with Donald Trump’s next electoral defeat, or even with his demise. He’s lit a dangerous flame that burns in the breasts of far better-educated, tougher and smarter men, including Ron DeSantis, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Greg Abbott. Like Trump, they’ve abandoned decency and truth in their quest for power. They focus on what they can get voters to believe, true or false.

Like Adolf Hitler, they use scapegoating, hate and half-truths, going so far as advocating banning, if not burning, books. Like Hitler, they inflame popular angst and tribalism, offering few, if any peaceful solutions, let alone effective ones, to our many real problems. They offer mostly anger, outrage and blame.

The principal skill of these men is fomenting and leading mobs. The last century taught us how that real movie ends: World War II left fifty million prematurely dead and much of the developed world in ruins, including Germany and Russia. That ruin followed when only two smaller developed powers succumbed to fascism: Germany and Japan. Now, in the Nuclear Age, what would happen if the world’s economic and military superpower succumbed, in the middle of a still-raging pandemic and a global-warming crisis? Our species could extinguish itself, or half the globe could revert to the Dark Ages.

Can Joe Biden vaccinate us against fascism? Maybe. He’s a good, decent man. He’s been a good president for our terrible and irrevocably divided times. But no one can accuse him of charisma. He’ll be 82 shortly after the 2024 election. He has little “pull” for youth. And who can say that his health, or even his life, will last that long? With our democracy and maybe our species at stake, our anti-fascism vaccine has to have better odds of working than that.

So who else can win? Kamala Harris is simply not ready for prime time. Pete Buttiegieg has the intelligence and inner strength to face down toxic masculinity. But he hasn’t yet risen above the noise level as Secretary of Transportation. Adam Kinzinger did a stellar job as chief interrogator in Day 5 of the Hearings. But he’s retiring from politics and he’s a Republican. No Democrat and few thinking independents are likely to vote Republican for a long, long time. Liz Cheney, who has earned the nation’s gratitude, has the same impediment. And Gavin Newsom has little traction outside of California.

Today, seven of us with scientific training were batting ideas around on Zoom. Six are progressive and one conservative. One of us with extensive business experience mentioned Michelle Obama, and it was like a light bulb turning on.

Our sole conservative—also a man with extensive business experience, in the biotech revolution—claimed that Republican women love her. We all believe she could help focus women’s justified outrage at being the first group ever from which the Supreme Court took away an existing legal right. And women, after all, are a majority of both our population and actual voters.

But Michelle Obama offers far more than that. I remember the impression of her keynote speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. I thought she hit that ball out of the park. I saw her, by far, as the best speaker there. I was disappointed that she was not in the running then.

And who better to avoid the 2024 campaign becoming a contest of toxic masculinity than a brilliant, strong, decent woman—a highly successful corporate lawyer, First Lady, author, wife and mother? Who better than a person with natural, innate empathy and politesse, who would never even think of calling a group of voters “deplorables”?

Michelle Obama also has an advantage that no other conceivable Democratic candidate now has. Everybody knows who she is, and most have a favorable opinion of her. She has not let others define her, and few have tried (in part because she has not yet held office). If she becomes president, she will be 61 on inauguration, in the prime of her maturity and a generation younger than Joe Biden.

At the end of the day, voting for president is not an entirely rational matter. That’s true even for me, with three highly rational careers behind me: in science/engineering, law practice and law professing. When I think of Michelle Obama in the Oval Office, my fight-or-flight instincts ratchet down a notch, my shoulders relax, and the pall of social depression that has infected my soul for several years begins to lift. Am I the only one?


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