Michelle Obama has released a video sharply criticising Donald Trump’s record as president, particularly over the coronavirus pandemic and his approach to racial injustice, and urging the Americans to vote for Joe Biden.
Describing him as “not up to the job” in the 24-minute video posted to her social media channels, the former first lady said the Trump presidency was accompanied by “a constant drumbeat of fear, division and chaos that’s threatening to spiral out of control.”
Speaking of the president, who tested positive for coronavirus last week, she said: “In the greatest crisis of our lifetimes, he doubled-down on division and resentment, railed against measures that could have mitigated the damage.”
“Seven months later, he still doesn’t have a plan for this virus. Seven months later, he still won’t wear a mask consistently and encourage others to do the same,” she said. “Instead, he continues to gaslight the American people by acting like this pandemic is not a real threat.”
Obama, whose husband was the first Black US president, accused Trump and his allies of “stoking fears about Black and brown Americans” in order to “distract from his breathtaking failures by giving folks someone to blame other than them.”
She said Trump’s approach was “morally wrong, and yes, it is racist. But that doesn’t mean it won’t work.”
In a direct appeal over racial injustice, she said: “I want everyone who is still undecided to think about all those folks like me and my ancestors. The millions of folks who look like me and fought and died and toiled as slaves and soldiers and labourers to help build this country. Racism, fear, division, these are powerful weapons. And they can destroy this nation if we don’t deal with them head on.”
She said that too many people in the US “only see us as a threat to be restrained”, and asked her fellow Americans to put themselves in the shoes of the minority populations “for just a moment” as she spoke of her personal experience of racism.
“As a Black woman who has – like the overwhelming majority of people of colour in this nation – done everything in my power to live a life of dignity, and service, and honesty, the knowledge that any of my fellow Americans is more afraid of me than the chaos we are living through right now, well, that hurts.”
“Imagine how it feels to wake up every day and do your very best to uphold the values that this country claims to holds dear – truth, honour, decency – only to have those efforts met by scorn, not just by your fellow citizens, but by a sitting president.”
“Imagine how it feels to have a suspicion cast on you from the day you were born, simply because of the hue of your skin. To walk around your own country scared that someone’s unjustified fear of you could put you in harm’s way,” whether that was, she said, “a racial slur from a passing car … a routine traffic stop ‘gone wrong’ … maybe a knee to the neck.”
The former first lady compared Trump’s character unfavourably to that of her husband, who was president from 2008 to 2016, and Joe Biden, saying: “After seeing the presidency up close for eight years, maybe the most important thing I’ve learned about the job is that how a president focuses their time and energy in office is a direct reflection of the life they’ve lived before entering the White House. A president’s policies are a direct reflection of their values, and we’re seeing that truth on display with our current president, who has devoted his life to enriching himself.”
The alternative, she argued, was Biden – a man she said was “guided by values and principles that mirror ones that most Americans can recognise”, “a leader who has the character and the experience to put an end to this chaos” and a “good man who understands the struggles of everyday folks.”
Again wearing the V-O-T-E necklace that had caught the eye during her speech at the Democratic National Convention in August, Obama cautioned people to take time to make a plan on how to vote. The rules around early, absentee and mail-in voting vary from state to state during a US election, and there have been significant legal challenges from the Republican party to counter attempts to make it easier to vote during the pandemic.
Addressing disillusioned minority voters, she said “To all the young people out there, to all the Black and brown folks, to anyone who feels frustrated and alienated by this whole system, I get it. I really do.”
But she urged all Americans to vote for the Democratic party nominee, telling the nation: “If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don’t make a change in this election. Search your hearts, and your conscience, and then vote for Joe Biden like your lives depend on it.”