When Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigned together for the first time, Obama showered Clinton with praise as a “friend,” a “policy wonk,” and “my girl.” She said she is “inspired” by Clinton because she has “lived a life grounded in service and sacrifice.”
But one of the most compelling moments of Obama’s speech came when she pushed back against Donald Trump’s “rigged election” talk. She fiercely defended the idea that voting matters, and reminded listeners of the sacrifices that have come with securing the right to vote for all Americans.
Obama said that if Clinton doesn’t win, “that will be on us” for not voting — and that this is exactly what the Trump campaign is hoping for.
“That's the strategy. To make this election so dirty and ugly that we don't want any part of it,” Obama said. “So when you hear folks talking about a global conspiracy and saying that this election is rigged, understand that they are trying to get you to stay home. They are trying to convince you that your vote doesn't matter, that the outcome has already been determined and you shouldn't even bother making your voice heard. They are trying to take away your hope.”
But if you doubt that every vote counts, Obama asked the crowd to think back to 2008, when her husband won North Carolina by 14,000 votes. Perhaps to some, that “sounds like a lot,” she said, but actually breaks down to about two votes per precinct.
“See, I want you all to take that in,” Obama said. “Because I know that there are people here who didn't vote. Two votes. And people knew people who didn't vote. Two votes. If just two or three folks per precinct had gone the other way, Barack would have lost that state, could have lost the election. And let's not forget, back in 2012, Barack actually did lose this state by about 17 votes per precinct.”
Presidential elections are decided “on a razor’s edge,” Obama said. She told everyone watching that they can swing an entire precinct for Clinton by bringing their friends and family out to vote for her, too — or swing it for Trump “with a protest vote or by not voting at all.”
Obama also talked about past and present restrictions on voting rights — from the “beatings and jail time” endured by protesters in earlier days to modern attempts to limit early voting hours and polling places.
Obama’s message about voting, and the racially charged history of efforts to suppress it, was especially relevant to North Carolina. The Supreme Court recently blocked a restrictive voting law in the state, because it discriminated against African-American voters “with almost surgical precision.”