Let’s get this out of the way first. I would vote for Oprah Winfrey over Donald Trump for president every day of the week. It’s not a remotely close contest and anyone with a functioning brain understands Winfrey is a real businesswoman with a track record of running several successful organizations that make Trump’s business empire look like a giant ponzi scheme (which it basically is). Winfrey is whip smart, charismatic and an iconic figure with vast resources at her command.
Having said that, Oprah Winfrey should absolutely not run for president in 2020, no matter how good a speaker she is, how powerful her message was at the Golden Globes last night, and how many people on twitter think it’s a good idea. The Huff Post reported today as headline:
After delivering an empowering rallying call for a “new day” for women at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards, Oprah Winfrey said she has no plans to run for president, but that it is something she’d consider.
Social media lit up with calls for the media mogul to run for president following her moving speech, which she gave after becoming the first black woman to win the Cecil B. DeMille Award. When the Los Angeles Times asked if she’d think about a 2020 bid, Winfrey slyly responded, “OK.”
If we’ve learned anything over the past year and a half it’s that TV celebrities with outsized personas have no place in politics and should stick to businesses they understand. While Winfrey is a successful media figure and businesswoman, she has no experience in politics whatsoever. She hasn’t run for her local council, hasn’t run for state government, hasn’t run or worked in a political campaign, and hasn’t gotten involved in any issue related to US politics. Oprah Winfrey is as qualified to run for president as ‘The Rock’ is (with no disrespect to Dwayne Johnson, who seems like a very nice chap), and no one should be taking her potential candidacy seriously.
America’s obsession with celebrity has created a society that has a hard time separating fact from fiction — an incredibly toxic aspect of its culture that led to the election of a halfwitted reality TV star to the White House. Voters genuinely believed that because Trump played a powerful boss on TV, he could swan into Washington and “drain the swamp” at the click of his (tiny) fingers. The consequences of this catastrophic misjudgment have cost the country immeasurably, and the last thing we need is to compound the message that all you need to do to become president is to have a successful TV personality. Oprah would no doubt be infinitely better than Trump, but then so too would my hairdresser.
Experience in politics matters. A track record in politics matters. And above all else, a life long interest in politics matters. If you were boarding a flight, would you rather the plane was piloted by an experienced professional who wanted to fly from childhood and had completed an extensive education with thousands of hours of flying time, or a middle aged rich person who thought they might like to give it a go? It may seem like a harsh parallel, but running the country isn’t exactly a low skilled job. President Obama tried to warn Trump about this after he left office — advice the president didn’t or couldn’t comprehend. “The main thing that I’ve tried to transmit [to Trump] is that there’s a difference between governing and campaigning, so that what he has to appreciate is as soon as you walk into this office after you’ve been sworn in, you’re now in charge of the largest organization on earth,” Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “You can’t manage it the way you would manage a family business.” And we all know how this story ends.
At the age of 63, Oprah Winfrey has shown no interest in running for anything, ever. She has a phenomenal career that she should be incredibly proud of and has been a voice for positivity and social change that has made a difference to millions of people. Her speech at the Golden Globes on the #MeToo movement was breathtaking, and she can be a powerful advocate for the cause in 2018. Oprah Winfrey can, and will, do an enormous amount of good for society in the coming years, just not in the White House.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.