Actor Samuel L. Jackson recently came out as a supporter of Michelle Obama as a presidential candidate. While the first lady has expressed no interest in elected office, the idea has some fascinating angles.
Jackson, who supports liberal causes, told Newsweek in December that Obama was “superwoman” and could hold any office she wants.
Another supporter is James Clyburn, the ranking African-American member of the House.
“She’s honest and straightforward, which is not what you see in Washington much. She is exactly what we need around here,” he said.
There is the certain inevitability of a woman being elected president of the United States. Many major countries currently have women who are political leaders, including Germany, Australia, India, South Korea, Brazil, and Argentina.
On the one hand, there are also several obvious problems with a potential Michelle Obama candidacy: she’s repeatedly said she has no interest; she hasn’t run for public office; and by all reports, she’s a very private person.
On the other hand, Americans have gotten used to dynastic politics. Since 1988, a member of the Bush or Clinton family has been president for 20 of the past 24 years.
Hillary Clinton, 65, is a current favorite in the 2016 election if it were held today. The secretary of state hasn’t made a decision about running but will be leaving office shortly.
Michelle Obama will turn 49 later this month, and she could easily pursue the same path taken by her fellow first lady if she wanted to.
Hillary Clinton served eight years in the Senate before running against Barack Obama in a close 2008 Democratic primary.
Another factor in Michelle Obama’s favor is the historical trend for the 2016 general election. In recent years, presidential power has most often changed between political parties in eight-year cycles.
The terms of Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and the combined Kennedy/Johnson and Nixon/Ford administrations were for eight years, followed by an incoming president from an opposing party.
The election of a Democrat is far from certain in 2016, even if the candidate is Hillary Clinton. But the odds of a woman becoming president grow with every election.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 58, is one of Europe’s most influential leaders. Forbes named Merkel ahead of Hillary Clinton as the world’s most powerful woman.
Michelle Obama ranked seventh in the Forbes list, without holding elected office, ahead of International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde and Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
There are a record number of women in the new Congress, and at least six female presidential candidates will be talked about for the 2016 primary season in addition to Hillary Clinton: Republicans Kelly Ayotte, Condoleezza Rice, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Sarah Palin; and Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren.
With the exception of Hillary Clinton and Palin, none have the name recognition of Michelle Obama.
The changing nature of politics could make an “anti-politician” like the former first lady a hot commodity among a new generation of voters.
In 1999, there were political observers who were convinced that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t run for office, given the brutal political landscape endured by her husband. She then formed an exploratory committee that same year, and she easily won a U.S. Senate seat in 2000.
The Chicagoist also points out that there could be one or two Senate seats opening up in Illinois in the near future, and another interesting fact: Michelle Obama’s popularity rating at the start of her husband’s second term is 26 points higher than Hillary Clinton’s was in 1996.
The popularity gap points out one difference between Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. As first lady, Hillary Clinton took an active political role in President Bill Clinton’s first term, which was unique in America’s political history, when she headed his health care task force.
Michelle Obama has been President Obama’s most-effective campaigner on the trail, but she been an activist for broader causes like civil rights and childhood obesity.
But almost all observers of the Washington scene consider Michelle Obama as politically astute and savvy.
And even if Michelle Obama declines to run for office, the debate over her eventual decision will only throw more attention on the role of women in politics.
A record 102 members of the new members of Congress are women. In a recent interview with ABC News, a group of female senators and representatives told Diane Sawyer they wanted an active role after the harsh criticism reaped on the prior 112th Congress.
“It's women who are going to lead the way,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
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