Michelle Obama says lack of minority voters in 2016 was ‘slap in the face’
Michelle Obama says it was a “slap in the face’’ that minorities didn’t go to the polls in 2016 — and has no plans on re-entering the political spotlight amid a push to make her Joe Biden’s running mate.
“It takes some energy to go high, and we were exhausted from it … when you’re the first black anything,’’ she said of her and her husband, former President Obama, in a new Netflix documentary set to air Wednesday, May 6.
“You know, the day I left the White House, it was painful to sit on that stage, and then a lot of our folks didn’t vote — it was almost a slap in the face,” she said, speaking to a group of black schoolchildren in the clip while referring to the 2016 election.
“I understand the people who voted for [President] Trump. [But] the people who didn’t vote at all … that’s when you think, ‘Man, people think this is a game,’ ” she added at another point.
“It wasn’t just in this election, but every midterm, every time Barack didn’t get the Congress he needed, that was because our folks didn’t show up. After all that work, they just couldn’t be bothered to vote at all. That’s my trauma.”
The former first lady is the subject of the upcoming documentary “Becoming’’ — made by the Obamas’ new production arm and of the same name as Michelle’s 2018 autobiography, which is still near the top of the New York Times best-seller list.
In the video series, Michelle Obama, 56, adds that she’s glad to be out of the White House — and has no plans for any political office in the future.
“Now we’re out of the White House, not to be viewed, judged and parceled by every other person on the planet — yeah, it’s better, it’s absolutely freeing,’’ she said.
“Being the First Lady has been the greatest honor of my life. But how many people are in that position where the entire attention of everything is you, every gesture you make, every blink of an eye is being analyzed?
“Barack and I are not interested in being at the forefront forever — not even for that much longer,’’ Michelle added, even as Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has said he’d love to have her on his ticket.
Michelle’s former chief of staff, Melissa Winter, said during the documentary that her ex-boss doesn’t even like politics and had to be “dragged” around Iowa during her husband’s initial presidential campaign.
“She wasn’t crazy about the process, she doesn’t like politics,’’ Winter said.
The former First Lady recalled a humorous incident during her life in the DC fish bowl, when she wanted to leave the White House with daughter Malia to join the crowds celebrating the legislation of gay marriage in 2015 — only to find that they couldn’t because the doors were locked. She said she had to shriek at staff to let them out.
But she also spoke about the trials of life at the time.
“It’s hard to wake up and maintain that level of perfection that was absolutely required of me and Barack as the first black president and First Lady,” Michelle said.
“We act like it doesn’t take a toll on us, but you do not understand what toll it takes on the people around the president.”
She said that being dubbed an “angry black woman” when she first hit the spotlight hurt — and forced her to stop talking off the cuff.
“I had to be much more scripted. I was just waking up to the truth of who we can be, so ready to assume the worst in people,’’ Michelle said.
“The only thing I can do is share that that does hurt … that changes the shape of a person’s soul.”
Discussing how some Americans “reacted with fear” to see a black family in the White House, Michelle Obama said, “When Barack was first elected, various commentators had naively declared that our country was entering a ‘post-racial era’ in which skin color would no longer matter.
“Many were overlooking the racism and tribalism that was tearing our nation apart.
“Barack and I lived with an awareness that we ourselves were a provocation,’’ she said.
“When you see people gunned down because somebody was so afraid of a kid in a hoodie, that that ended his life … how were these people dealing with the fact that a black family was in what they perceived was their White House? That was the America that we live in,” she said.
Michelle Obama said her future will include mentoring young people.
She also has pushed get-out-the-vote efforts since leaving the White House at the end of her husband’s second term in 2016 — including a new initiative she announced last month amid the coronavirus pandemic.
She talked about life as an “empty-nester” now that their daughters, Malia, 21, and Sasha, 18, are at college — but said it’s a welcome challenge.
“I want to take care of me, re-discovering my husband. My life is starting to be mine again. There is another chapter waiting for me out there,” the former First Lady said.
At one point in the documentary, she playfully bantered on camera with her husband, who joked about his wife rewriting history.
“It’s fun listening to her tell these stories, some of which … you know, that’s not exactly how it happened,’’ Barack Obama said.
“There are a couple of things I would correct,” he added — to which she replied, “It’s my book, my version of reality.”
He laughed, adding, “And we have to drive home together!”
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