Published on September 30th, 2011 | by tomkolovos8
The Politics of Shopping: Michelle Obama goes to Target
The Chicago Tribune reports: “Her office said an Associated Press photographer happened to chance upon the first lady doing some impromptu shopping.”
“Happened to chance upon?” Really?
I’ve been wondering recently where the White House has been hiding Mrs. Obama, given that the President’s approval ratings are at an all time low while she remains quite popular.
Politically, it would be very smart to have her make some high profile appearance in this very difficult political landscape.
Well, here it is. Make no mistake about this. This is not a “impromptu shopping” trip. This is political theatre.
I wrote “Say Cheese: Kate Middleton, Kraft and stagecraft” about Kate Middleton’s similar excursion to the grocery store after the return trip from the Royal visit to Canada and the US. During that trip abroad, hundreds of thousands of Brits staged a labor strike at home. The London riots were yet to follow.
Again, that was no accidental trip to the grocery store. Given the elaborate coverage of the Royal visit abroad, almost all of which concentrated on chronicling the Duchess’ lavish wardrobe, the Palace had to be very sensitive to the realities of the politics at home and the effect of the austerity measures which led to the strikes and would eventually lead to the riots.
Best send her out to get some groceries and make sure a photographer was conveniently in tow.
If you’re savvy about your image–and not biting the hand that feeds you–you need to get in touch with the commoner in you, when the time call for it. Below is part of what I wrote August 8th about what would turn out today to be the even more prescient similarities between Duchess Cathrine and Michelle Obama:
It helps that Kate Middleton is indeed technically a commoner, albeit from a very wealthy family. In Michelle Obama’s case, she is a real life success story of the black middle class on the South Side of Chicago, which means that both she and the President had already become accustomed to the good life of money and privilege before ascending to the White House.
It may have recently occurred to the First Lady that the sensibility of style that served her so well on the campaign trail and even in the first few years in the White House may now be a liability in this economy.
I say that because she let it be known earlier this year that she’s no longer officially styled by the Chicago retailer Ikram Goldberg. Ms. Goldberg rose to national prominence by hitching her wagon and her pricey designer wares to such high profile moneyed African American fashion mavens as Mellody Hobson, the ABC financial correspondent and President of Ariel Capital Management, and Desiree Rodgers, the former wife of John Rogers, the chief executive of the same multi-billion-dollar Ariel Capital Management. Ms. Rogers, now the CEO of Johnson Publishing but formerly the White House Social Secretary, and her daughter are currently featured in the puff piece in Vogue magazine about the new 16,000 square foot Ikram flagship store.
Nancy Reagan was the last of the “let them eat cake” First Ladies. During her imperious couture reign, she was vilified as a gaudy bourgeoisie dragon lady far more versed in china patterns than Nixon in China. (Had Cindy McCain become First Lady, one wonders, would she have bothered to ditch the $300,000 outfit she wore during campaign ’08?)
Mrs. Obama can ill afford the same vilification, especially when the goodwill for the ruling bourgeoisie, black or otherwise, is at an all time low. Ikram Goldberg had to go, if no other reason, ironically, for the sake of appearances.
And just in case you were inclined to ask the First Lady what she misses most about her life before becoming First Lady, don’t be so shocked for her to answer, as she did recently, that she misses shopping at Target.
Don’t we all miss shopping at Target, now that we’re forced to shop at Walmart?
Everyone will tell you not to put the the cart before the horse. But now is very much the time to put the shopping cart before the clotheshorse.
Tom Kolovos is Editor in Chief of aControlledSubstance.com