Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Democratic National Convention 2012 Notebook: Charlotte politics seep into pop culture

Posted By on Wed, Mar 7, 2012 at 5:38 PM

I don’t watch much television (doesn’t everybody say that?). But I try to check out “The Good Wife,” the CBS Sunday night series about the wife we always see standing beside her politician husband caught in a sex scandal. The husband, played by "Sex and the City" star Chris Noth, got a chance to rise after his very public fall. But reality intruded on fiction during Sunday’s episode when Charlotte was mentioned as a player in the show's Democratic Party gamesmanship.

The Cosbys were the Obamas before the Obamas were the Obamas.
  • The Cosbys were the Obamas before the Obamas were the Obamas.

In the Chicago-based show, Noth’s character, Cook County state’s attorney, wants to be Illinois' governor. (As though Rod Blagojevich wasn’t enough to deter one from seeking the position.) He’s jockeying for a keynote speaker slot at the next Democratic National Convention, with party strategist Donna Brazile playing herself and Alan Cumming overplaying his part as Noth’s adviser. After a fair amount of back-and-forth, Cumming is optimistic that his client will get his close-up “in Charlotte.”

That sound you hear is local politicians and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce exultantly exhaling at the mention of their city, which has gained popularity among celebrities, both fictional and political, because of the DNC. During CIAA tournament festivities, six months before the convention, Michelle Obama brought her “Let’s Move!” campaign to the arena where her husband will be re-nominated and a former Cosby kid visited with tournament volunteers.

Before President Obama moved his family into the White House — the people’s house — and Michelle, Malia, Sasha, grandmom Marian and Bo the dog became America's family, the Huxtables were the closest well-to-do, educated equivalent. The top-rated “Cosby Show” brought the fictional family into living rooms all over the country and made Cliff, Clair and their kids everyone’s idealized black neighbors. Their youngest daughter, Rudy, soon became a fan favorite.

“Both families did a lot to change the social consciousness,” Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played Rudy, told me. The Cosbys affected “how the country sees the racial landscape.” The actress was pumping up the energy and posing for pictures with Obama volunteers at Organizing for America’s Charlotte field office on Elizabeth Avenue during the CIAA. The graduate of Spelman, the prestigious historically black college in Atlanta, joined student leaders in town for the tournament for a round table and was scheduled for an evening campaign event co-sponsored by Gen 44, the under-40 fundraising program of Obama for America.

Susan Proctor of Cotswold, who has been making phone calls for Obama, said she came to visit Pulliam "to be part of the energy.” “I remember her when she was ‘Rudy’ on 'The Cosby Show.’ She’s not much bigger now.”

Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Washington Post's “She the People” blog, The Root, NPR and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her “Keeping It Positive” segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 a.m. on Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.

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