OPRAH FOR PRESIDENT? Not so fast. . . like millions of other Americans I was thrilled by Oprah Winfrey’s speech during the Golden Globe Awards ceremony, enthralled by the possibility of her run for the White House as a Democratic Parry nominee.
Perhaps it was a reflection, at this moment, of the less than spectacular field of potential candidates. The elections of 1992 (Clinton) and 2008 (Obama) — would suggest, however, that a nationally obscure politician might emerge at some time in the next two years to capture our imagination.
That’s the long view of politics. To those traumatized day in and day out by the current White House occupant, Oprah instantly offers a stylish, progressive voice in the here and now. But it is a voice as yet unattached to any body of political positions or government experience by which we might measure her competency for the job of most powerful leader in the world.
Where, for example, does she stand on the thorny issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? One state or two? Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or as capital of a Palestinian state, as well?
How would she deal with North Korea? Fighting militants, would she favour the use of drones to kill those who would harm Americans or American interests? We know she is in favor of women’s rights here in the United States, but how would she approach countries, many considered our allies, especially in the Muslim world, who limit women’s freedom and opportunity?
Politics is the art of compromise (at least it should be if the result is intended to benefit the country). How would Oprah deal with recalcitrant members of her own party who would advocate more progressive actions than she is comfortable initiating? How would she coax Republicans to accept her policies?
One can look to Lech Walesa in Poland and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (Burma) for examples of renowned figures who could not transform their popularity into effective governing.
Interestingly, in our nation’s recent past over the last half-century, five entertainers have been elected to national office. Musician John Hall was elected to Congress as a Democrat. The other four were Republicans: former Major League pitcher Jim Budding served as a senator from Kentucky, while actor George Murphy represented California in the Senate, singer Sonny Bono was a congressman and, of course, actor Ronald Reagan was first California’s governor before twice winning the presidency. Maybe there are others who traded in the footlights for a political spotlight, but I cannot think of them at this time.
As a self-made billionaire, Oprah obviously has intelligence and leadership skills. What she lacks is a political organisation. Picking the right advisors — rejecting the [Trump campaign manager]Paul Manafords of the Democratic world (let’s not be naive and think such people don’t exist) — would be step one to securing the nomination.
Given the ego most politicians possess, other potential contenders could not be expected to let her cakewalk toward the nomination. They would not see their options as merely competing for the vice presidential spot on an Oprah ticket.
Her speech and its seismic vibrations have generated loads of analyses. Here’s one from The New York Times:
What should be considered when pondering the tepid reaction of political pros is that, like Donald Trump, Oprah would shake up their comfort zones. Likely, she would not be someone they could easily control. Bernie Sanders showed that Democrats and Independents are eager to break the status quo. How willing she would be to act as the avatar of change is a question only Oprah can answer.
As it now stands, she looks like the favorite: minorities and women, ready to be galvanized to show up at the polls come primary days, would likely be in her corner,. But 2020 is a marathon in time away from January 2018.
Awards season is just upon us. It’s way too early to give Oprah, or anyone else, the Big Prize.