What Barack Obama Owes Michael Jackson

More

They were born three years and 24 days apart. And a more than an ocean separated the only child of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother and the Gary, Indiana kid who was the seventh of nine children. It would be wrong to read too much political meaning into the career of Michael Jackson and that of Barack Obama. (No one is thinking tonite that Hillary Clinton owes a debt of gratitude to Farrah Fawcett.) But it would be myopic to say that Jackson had a huge cultural impact and no political impact, either.

 After all, as much as the oft mentioned Huxtables of "The Cosby Show" fame or any number of crossover African-American politicians, Jackson broke down walls between races with music that sent suburban whites and inner-city blacks to say, "I want my MTV!", the fledgling cry of the music cable network when it was still trying to get pickup. 

In his androgyny and overall weirdness, Jackson was never really a role model in the sense that you could try and be like him. His talents were too otherworldly and so were his oddities. But he was entertaining and by bringing people together, especially in the 80s when race relations seemed more strained--remember Howard Beach or "Do the Right Thing?" or the Giuliani-Dinkins race--that meant something. 

I don't have my copy of "Dreams From My Father" at hand to know if the 44th president mentions Jackson but it's hard to imagine that he didn't have a disc to take with him to Occidental or Columbia. And if he didn't own one, he surely knew the words which made him like everyone else. Barack Obama lived a life of accomplishment, an upward trajectory from Punahou to Harvard, Springfield to the White House that seems incredibly void of demons whereas Jackson was all demons. They're no more alike personally than  

Jump to comments
Presented by

Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In