President Oprah Winfrey…Not so fast!
President Oprah Winfrey…Not so fast!
Although I’ve never been a huge Oprah Winfrey fan, I couldn’t help but be moved by her extremely presidential and exceptionally effective speech at the Golden Globes ceremony. Not only were her words powerful, her delivery was flawless. I immediately knew the press would take this moment and run with it. In their minds, she is already the new leader of the Democratic party. Rasmussen has even released poll results showing Oprah ten points over Trump if an election were to be held today. But, let’s get a hold of ourselves, shall we. First, the election is not going to be held today. And second, we all remember how accurate the polls were in 2016, don’t we! As the dust starts to settle on Oprah’s media coronation, it appears that not everyone is jumping on the bandwagon.
The election of celebrities to public office is not unprecedented. Over the years, several celebrities have run for seats in the US House and Senate as well as offices in state governments. And after having served two terms as the governor of California (with a long history of political involvement prior to his governorship), Ronald Reagan ran for the presidency. What is new is the trend of celebrities with no public service experience whatsoever, such as Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey, deciding to aim straight for the presidency. Seth MacFarlane, best known as the creator of the television series Family Guy, tweeted:
“…the idea of a reality show star running against a talk show host is troublingly dystopian. We don’t want to create a world where dedicated public service careers become undesirable and impractical in the face of raw celebrity…I don’t think anyone is questioning the breadth of her accomplishments. The observation is a more fundamental one: Will there still be room for the likes of Kamala Harris or Maggie Hassan in the political future we’re creating, or only Tom Hanks?”
Will celebrity status become a prerequisite to running for political office? Will a Trump presidency be followed by an Oprah administration and then, who knows, maybe a President Jay-Z (because he’s such a cool guy)? Who will be attracted to a career in public service if they know that celebrities will be winning all the important offices? These are all valid concerns. Another major consideration is that celebrities, being so new to the world of foreign policy (heck, they will be new to domestic issues as well) will be capable of serious, perhaps even deadly, mistakes. The bottom line is that, although celebrities may be talented in their fields of expertise, they very likely lack the political knowledge and real world experience that is required of a US commander-in-chief.
Will all the 2020 hopeful Democratic candidates simply roll out the red carpet for Oprah without a fight? John Kass of the Chicago Tribune wrote an amusing piece about what the nomination contest might look like:
And Kirsten Gillibrand, for whom Al Franken was subjected to ritual sacrifice on the altar of her presidential ambitions?
No way, Kirsten. Too bad, Al.
Andrew Cuomo? He can cry.
So to help soothe their sad feelings, I’ve come up with a new cocktail in honor of Oprah’s ascendancy.
You can call it Cuomo Tears on the Rocks or Kirsten’s Sobs. Sanders Shrieks, Warren’s War Cry on Ice or Biden’s Fingertips on Your Wife’s Neck.
Or a Chilly Gillibrand with a Franken Swizzle.
It is a drink of equal parts bitters and broken dreams, shaken, not stirred.
They’ll smile and gulp it down and announce it’s the tastiest thing they’ve ever tried, if Oprah serves it to them. And they’ll say:
“Please, Oprah, may I have another?””
Although I find Mr. Kass’s above jests to be quite entertaining, I believe all of these politicians (and others) would fight Oprah for the nomination. And they very well may use her celebrity status against her. None would simply step aside and hand her the prize. Winning a major party’s presidential nomination is not a pretty process. The days out on the trail are long and grueling and candidates must constantly brace for dirty tricks played by ruthless competitors. It is not for the faint. A candidate must earn the presidential nomination, even if one is Oprah Winfrey. And a bruising battle for the nomination might find Oprah limping into the general election.
As accomplished as Oprah may be, she is not without her vulnerabilities. As my colleague, Gail Boer, posted earlier, Seal has been quite vociferous in his criticism of Oprah‘s friendship with Harvey Weinstein. He is far from alone in this judgement. Many people believe Oprah knew all about Weinstein’s behavior, but remained quiet.
Finally, there is criticism that she used the enormous popularity and influence of her talk show to advance people, products and books of questionable integrity. As reported in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, there are concerns that Oprah has “provided Jenny McCarthy a platform to promote the discredited idea that vaccines cause autism.” Similarly, Oprah has attracted criticism by her support of Dr. Mehmet Oz and his anti-aging creams. Oprah also played a major role in promoting a 1980’s book called Michelle Remembers on her show which contributed greatly to the Satanic ritual abuse panic. “The book was thoroughly debunked many years later, sadly after much damage was already done.”
So, yes, Oprah certainly gave one hell of a speech. And one can never underestimate the powerful impact a speech can generate. Recall the effect of the speech delivered at the 2004 Democratic National Convention by a young Illinois State Senator named Barack Obama! Will she run? She has many critics but, without a doubt, Oprah would be a formidable candidate.