Michelle Obama is not running for president, and if she is, she would still like you to stop telling her to do it.
“When I hear people say, ‘You run!’ It’s part of the problem,” Obama told Tracee Ellis Ross at the United State of Women Summit in Los Angeles on Saturday, according to Variety. The problem, according to the former First Lady, is that we’re so focused on finding the next person to face down the Glass-of-Tropicana-in-Chief, that we haven’t made the effort to correct what cost Hillary Clinton the election in 2016. “We still didn’t get ‘Yes We Can’ right. It’s not ‘Yes You Can’ it’s ‘Yes We Can,’” she said. “Until we get that right, it doesn’t matter who runs. I don’t think I’m any different from Hillary [Clinton].”
Obama, like many of us, is still shaken by the 2016 election. Though there were a lot of factors that led to Clinton’s defeat—an angry white working class, disillusionment with a gutless Democratic party, media bias, some potential Russian meddling, and hubris on the part of the Clinton campaign— sexism certainly played a role, no matter how many times you still wake up screaming “WISCONSIN!!!!” in the middle of the night. 52 percent of white women, 4 percent of black women, and 25 percent of Latinx women voted for Trump in 2016, according to CNN. And Clinton’s loss forced a lot of women to reckon with whether or not it’s possible to shatter the so-called glass ceiling, or whether we’ll always be less than, no matter how hard we work or how much we think we deserve otherwise.
Obama thinks we haven’t yet done the work to unpack what women lost in November 2016, and also that putting one person on a pedestal doesn’t mean we’re fixing what’s broken in a racist, misogynistic country that seems to love white men with money and power above all else. “[L]ooking for the next person to run, and I don’t mean to cut that off, but that’s been our distraction,” she said. “We’re just going to wait for the next person to save us. We thought it was Barack Obama, and then he didn’t end racism.”
So, whether Obama or Oprah or Elizabeth Warren or my neighbor’s cat challenges Trump in 2020, we first have to focus on making the bad stuff better. “In light of the last (presidential) election, I’m concerned about us as women and how we think. I think if we want our daughters to dream bigger than we did, then we have more work to do,” Obama said. “So many of us have gotten ourselves at the table, but we’re still too grateful to be at the table to really shift the thinking.”
After all, as Obama noted, “I wish that girls could fail as bad as men do and be okay, because let me tell you, watching men fail up, it is frustrating to see a lot of men blow it and win.”
That’s for fucking sure.