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Michelle Obama as Joe Biden’s vice president? Fans just keep lobbying her

Former First Lady Michelle Obama, shown on a December 2019 trip to Vietnam.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama, shown during a December 2019 trip to Vietnam.
(Hau Dinh / Associated Press)

One would think that after serving the American people for eight years as first lady, Michelle Obama would have earned some peace from the political spotlight with the freedom to pursue her own aspirations.

But as Joe Biden gets closer to announcing his running mate, the Committee to Draft Michelle Obama for VP made one more attempt to get the former first lady on the ticket.

“Mr. Biden must put forward the strongest ticket possible for a crushing landslide that not only unseats Mr. Trump but throws the un-American spirit of Trumpism on the ash heap of history,” the group said in an open letter, co-signed by Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr., on its website. “One that also strengthens opportunity to win down the ticket and take back the U.S. Senate. This is why we encourage Mr. Biden to formally invite Ms. Obama.”

Biden has promised to choose a woman as his running mate, and many of the potential candidates are Black women. When asked in April what his response would be if the former first lady expressed interest, Biden said he would choose her “in a heartbeat.”

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Obama’s choice of a vice president altered the course of Joe Biden’s career. It also is shaping how Biden is going about choosing his own running mate.

There is no question as to whether she is well-liked or well-known enough to garner votes — in a 2019 YouGov poll she was the world’s most admired woman, beating out Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey. But Obama has repeatedly said she doesn’t want to run for the White House.

As far back as March 2016, before the Obamas left the White House, she made it clear she would not return. “I will not run for president,” she told an audibly disappointed audience. “Nope, no, not going to do it.” She has not had a change of heart, at least publicly, since then.

Instead, she said she could make a bigger difference outside of political office. In 2018, she launched a nonprofit voter registration group, When We All Vote, to increase turnout among young people. That same year, she published her bestselling memoir, “Becoming.” Obama could not be reached for comment (probably because she’s busy talking about the nation’s reckoning with race and the impacts of the pandemic.)

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There is no shortage of qualified candidates in the running, the committee’s letter acknowledges, and they will support any eventual nominee. But it hasn’t stopped people from trying to imagine Obama as Biden’s running mate.

“The case for a Michelle Obama national candidacy has always been incredibly simple,” Slate editor Jeremy Stahl wrote last month. “If you think that the most popular and qualified candidates with the widest appeal are the likeliest to win a national election, you should want her on the Democratic ticket.”

Several Black women are strong contenders to become Biden’s running mate. But a narrative of them being “ambitious” has prompted other Black women to publish an open letter condemning the racist and sexist tropes used to undermine them.

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“The use of the racist myth of a happy, Black servant portrayed as a happy domestic worker loyal to her White employer is not lost on us,” they wrote in the letter. “While some of the relentless attacks on Black women and our leadership abilities have been more suggestive than others, make no mistake — we are qualified and ambitious without remorse.”

LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, who signed the letter, said she understood the desire to have a Black woman, especially one as qualified and brilliant as Obama, help lead the nation. But she said that the effort ignores Obama’s desire to lead elsewhere and overlooks the other qualified Black women who have expressed interest.

“I understand this drafting because I think Michelle Obama is great,” Brown said. “But I also think we have to be mindful of the many Black women who have actually said they want to seek public office” and support them.

Obama agreeing to be Biden’s running mate seems highly unlikely. In May, when the Committee to Draft Michelle Obama for VP released an initial letter, writer Michael Arceneaux made the case in Essence for leaving her alone.

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“Michelle Obama does not want to be president. And considering what a mess America is right now, who could blame Chicago’s finest for opting to dance to Karyn White’s ‘Superwoman’ in political retirement rather than become a literal superwoman to save this broke-ass country,” Arceneaux wrote. “I say we leave Mrs. Obama the hell alone.”

Everyone should respect her wishes to want to make a difference outside of elected office, he concluded.

“Let her present herself to the world as she sees fit,” he wrote.

“She’s earned it.”


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