Van Jones: Michelle Obama’s remarkable master class

By Van Jones / CNN

Michelle Obama proved once again that she is probably the best communicator on earth. She is one of the most popular people in America, with an appeal that transcends politics. If all she had done tonight was say, “I know Joe, and I want him to be president,” the Biden campaign would be happy.

But the former first lady took on a bigger mission. She had two tasks: First, she had to engage disaffected voters and hold on to suburban women who powered Democrats’ 2018 midterm victory. Second, she needed to inspire young people — especially young Black and Brown folks who are down on voting and down on the Democratic Party.

What she delivered was a master class. She was not just trying to put the President down — she was trying to pick the country up.

Obama started with the recognition that people are struggling and maybe not in the mood for a political convention. She talked to parents, as a parent. She spoke about kids, “Looking around wondering if we’ve been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value.”

In Obama’s hands, empathy is not something unique to Joe Biden. It is what makes us human and decent. It is simply something Biden shares with us, and that Trump lacks.

When she said that Biden “knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair,” anyone who has ever lost a loved one was on the verge of tears — which is all of us.

In 2016, there were many decent people willing to give Trump a chance in the hope that he would rise to the level of the office. But over the past four years, they have been dismayed by his tweets and exasperated by his general behavior in office. Suburban women — many of them mothers, but not all — won the House back for Democrats in 2018 as voters and volunteers. Almost no one in politics can appeal to this audience while also motivating the Democratic base the way Michelle Obama can. She showed that tonight.

She was remarkably, but characteristically, honest about how some people simply chose not to vote in 2016 and outlined what it cost all of us. To young people, especially young Black and Brown voters who want radical change immediately, she said Biden would be the first to admit that he is not perfect. She made voting part of a strategy for confronting the big problems coming down the road.

It is hard to wrap your head around the extent of the devastation and how much Americans are hurting. They are losing loved ones, watching their businesses close, and worrying about their kids’ futures.

In the face of this, Obama reminded us of our own strength. “I know the goodness and the grace that is out there,” she said, “in households and neighborhoods all across the country.”

About halfway through, Obama said she “hates politics.” It was honest and utterly believable. She gave a fundamentally human, non-political speech at a political convention, and she knocked it out of the park.

CNN host Van Jones is the CEO of the REFORM Alliance, a criminal justice organization.

Click here to see the Michelle Obama speech.