The Surprising Reasons You Really Don’t Want Oprah for President
When Oprah accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement at the Golden Globes, America responded rousingly. “I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon!” she said. “And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women … and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.” The speech had a lot of people calling for Oprah to run for president in 2020. A lot of others think that’s a bad idea. Here’s just a few of the reasons why.
1. She has no experience
While Oprah denied her intent to run in the past, some close to her said she might do it anyway. When a reporter for the Los Angeles Times asked her partner, Stedman Graham, about the idea, Graham said she would “absolutely do it. It’s up to the people.” Not so fast, people.
As Time puts it, “Replacing a political amateur with a political amateur with good intentions doesn’t solve certain core problems the executive branch is suffering at the moment.” While Oprah built an incredibly successful business from the ground up, made her mark as a woman of character, and actually reads books — a lot of them — none of those qualify her for the executive branch.
Next: Have we learned nothing?
2. It reinforces the cult of celebrity
A New York Times commentary writes that nominating Oprah “underscores the extent to which Trumpism — the kowtowing to celebrity and ratings, the repudiation of experience and expertise — has infected our civic life.” For Democrats to put up a celebrity against Trump, assuming he runs again in 2020, just fights bombast with bombast. It could work, but that doesn’t mean it should.
Next: Other celebrities may follow suit.
3. Oprah may draw other celebrities to the field
Remember when people suggested Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson should run for president? It started as a joke, much like other presidencies we could name, but quickly became more serious. He told Variety he would “100% run for president.” He also said he would have to fit it into his schedule, which doesn’t open up until 2024. Other celebrities could see Oprah taking to the trail and hop on board, and that’s a dangerous precedent to set.
Next: Aren’t we all better than this?
4. It says something disturbing about the Democratic Party
Here’s the thing: Oprah could win. “Oprah. #ImWithHer,” tweeted Bill Kristol, neoconservative and the original promoter of Sarah Palin. “Understands Middle America better than Elizabeth Warren,” he tweeted. “Less touchy-feely than Joe Biden, more pleasant than Andrew Cuomo, more charismatic than John Hickenlooper.” The fact that the Democratic Party evidently can’t find someone to beat a celebrity with no policy experience says something disturbing about its lack of fresh blood.
“This Oprah boomlet is a pretty good window into how bereft of leadership the Democratic party is at this point,” tweeted Josh Holmes, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Put another way: “They’re just dying for someone who doesn’t sound like a leftist schmuck.”
Next: Her celebrity should not rank as a qualification.
5. Being a celebrity doesn’t qualify you for president
As The Washington Post writes, a celebrity could stand as the answer to Trump in 2020, but only in this weird dystopia of ours does that make much sense. “If she truly wanted to run for president, she’d have a major head start,” said Arnold Schwarzenegger. He leveraged his own stardom to win the California governorship as a Republican, and noted her inspirational qualities, name recognition, and “unbelievable communication skills.” But again: None of those actually make a person a good government official.
Next: Her talk show does not prepare her for the stump.
6. Celebrities do not have to compromise the way politicians do
While Oprah’s speech did strum the heartstrings, celebrities can do that without consequences. Not so for politicians. When the self-made billionaire talks about police brutality, she can speak from her experience as a black woman in America without worrying about how it comes across to everyone. But when the president speaks about police brutality, he or she has to think about their base, as well as police officers, conservatives — everyone. Oprah looks like a hero where she currently stands, but elected office involves compromise, and she has not demonstrated she can — or wants to — go down that road.
Next: Politics still follows a few norms — we hope.
7. Trump’s win did not (necessarily) change politics in America
A March 2017 Quinnipiac University poll found Oprah had a 52% favorable rating as well as a 23% unfavorable rating. She found the most favor with Democrats at 72% and independents at 51%. That said, not all of those want her on the ballot. Only a little more than one in five said she should run in 2020. A full 69% said she shouldn’t. That suggests that Americans still want experienced politicians in office, regardless of the excitement over her speech.
Next: At least one group should have learned its lesson by now.
8. The media made this mistake before
A study by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, looked at news coverage of Trump’s campaign to see how it affected his run. According to the study, major news outlets — including CBS, Fox News, the Los Angeles Times, NBC, USA Today, and the New York Times — covered Trump’s campaign in “a way that was unusual given his initial polling numbers.” Fortune explains the candidate got a high volume of coverage even before his polling numbers called for it.
The report says that its analysis shows Trump got the equivalent of about $55 million in free advertising from the eight major media outlets it studied. About $16 million of that came from the New York Times alone. That number “was more than [Trump] spent on actual ad buys in all media during all of 2015,” the study noted. Additionally, the candidate’s total advertising value came in at 1.5 times what Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz got. The media essentially anointed Trump, and it risks making the same mistake by fawning over Oprah.
Next: She also once received an interesting endorsement.
9. Trump once wanted her as his running mate
Vice points out that, in 1999, Trump suggested that if he ran for president, he would tap Oprah as his first choice for running mate. “Americans respect and admire Oprah for her intelligence and caring,” he said, at the time. “She has provided inspiration for millions of women to improve their lives, go back to school, learn to read, and take responsibility for themselves,” Trump also wrote in his book. While true, a Trump endorsement doesn’t help matters these days.
Next: How much do we really know about Oprah?
10. We know little about her politics
So far, we know Oprah weighs in as pro-Israel. She believes in the American dream, similar to Barack Obama. The former talk show host also endorsed Obama for president in 2008 and Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016. She additionally donated $10 million to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. But that’s about it.
“I will tell you what I think about Oprah’s chance of being the Democratic nominee in 2020 when you tell me where Oprah is on single payer and what her plan is to pay for it; what her immigration reform proposal looks like and what kind of border security it includes; and which elements of the Trump tax plan she’d roll back and which ones she would leave in place,” one veteran Democratic strategist told CNN.
Next: If she does want to run, we have a suggestion.
11. She should start smaller
If Oprah wants to run for office, sure. Go for it. But start smaller. Maybe a Congressional seat, or even a governorship. Having the audacity to run for the highest office in the country without ever holding a more local one smacks of a certain celebrity apprentice. Instead, maybe Oprah can pull a Schwarzenegger and see how governance works for her.
Next: She would also have this effect on the race, as a whole.
12. Oprah’s presence would seriously destabilize the current field
CNN notes that Oprah’s campaign for president would drastically alter an early playing field. Currently, that field holds Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York also may come in as contenders. The fact that Oprah could edge out any of these much more qualified candidates says something scary about our nation’s celebrity obsession.
Next: The very stance that has her in the news could come back to bite her.
13. Her focus on identity politics could hurt her
Clinton came under fire for focusing too much on identity politics and it lost her the election. As The Washington Post points out, Clinton’s focus on millenials and their pet issues — including identity politics — ignored the same base Trump mobilized. Oprah seems poised to fall into that same line. Would her appeal translate to the suburban and rural voters who turned to Trump? It’s hard to say, but her current stance looks awfully familiar right now.
Next: A familiar refrain also applies to Oprah.
14. What about her tax returns?
Oprah’s business — similar to Trump’s — relies heavily on licensing her own name and image. That could become a problem if she runs for public office. With what Forbes estimates as a net worth of $2.8 billion, she could fund her own campaign if she wanted. Former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub pointed out that whoever runs should divest their assets, as Trump has not.
Next: If nothing else, this precedent should scare us off Oprah.
15. Look what happened the last time
America already has a celebrity president, and we all see how that works out. “We don’t need an apprentice at this point in time. We got one. What you see when you have someone is that they can be whipsawed so easily,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of National Nurses United.
“Everyone loves Oprah,” DeMoro told CNN. “The problem is that we are on the precipice of an extremely dangerous time in history, and I believe that this calls for the most seasoned, knowledgeable, in-depth president. To get us to unwind what’s going to happen by 2020 is going to take enormous experience.” Oprah, we love you. But keep doing you, right where you are.
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