The political gap between Democrats and Republicans is wide and deep, to the detriment of political accommodation in the United States. An idea to solve this: Dispense with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and let Michelle Obama and Ann Romney run instead. They, at least, agree on some things.
Both think they have been given an “extraordinary privilege.” Both claimed they started married life without much (Obama was the more credible on this); both said they were so much in love (with their husbands) they got married despite their circumstances; and both thought their husbands were men of extraordinary, fine character, and intelligence, dedication and warmth.
This remarkable bipartisanship is, however, the fruit not of a reflection on politics but the thinking of their husbands’ public relations teams on what best would help each in the race to the White House. Both women, who appear to possess intelligence and character, have been corralled ruthlessly into a role that insults those gifts: the political spouse.
Political spouses are – pardon the surrender to temptation – spice: They are there to spice up the campaign and, in both the present cases, to “humanize” men apparently seen as remote. This reading, now passed into unquestioned acceptance by the news media, is an absurdity. Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney are clearly, recognizably, all too human. Mrs. Romney’s husband is a figure – the hard-driving financier who makes huge sums for his company and for himself – now better known and understood than he has ever been. Mr. Obama is a clever, ambitious lawyer who preferred, at least initially, community work to corporate or private law practice – then went into politics. That most people aren’t either of these doesn’t mean we can’t relate to them. Most people aren’t doctors, farmers or astronauts, but we generally relate positively to them as human beings, without their wives telling us that they’re still in love with them.
The speeches were, as the Romneys like to say, “built” – but not just by them. They were built by the campaign’s public relations strategists engaged in the greatest challenge their craft still has in the contemporary world – convincing the people of the United States to elect their candidate as president of the United States.