At the Golden Globes last week, Oprah Winfrey was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement, which honors an individual who has risen above and beyond in the entertainment industry, distinguishing themselves above the rest through their extensive contributions in media and art. Oprah spoke for around 8 minutes, bringing to life her story of watching a black man win the Oscar for Best Actor and calling out to the world that "time is up" for the men that abuse and mistreat women. The star-studded audience listened with rapt attention as Oprah painted an image of hope and empowerment for the future of young women.
“I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon.” She had to shout into the microphone to be heard above the cheers." - Oprah Winfrey
The overwhelming message of hope that Oprah projected in her speech was reminiscent of many of Obama’s speeches during his first presidential campaign. Her words hit home for people from all walks of life who face racial, sexual, class and gender-based oppression. Those whose values and livelihoods have been crushed beneath the boot of the Trump administration, their assaulters, or their oppressors, saw in Oprah a beacon of hope.
Twitter buzzed with talk of Oprah’s powerful words and presence. Almost immediately, private citizens and celebrities alike called on Oprah to run for President, tweeting out their praises flourished with the hashtag #Oprah2020.
It’s true. If Oprah runs for President, new discussions, values and dilemmas will certainly arise during her campaign. While Oprah is most certainly a powerful role model and human embodiment of the American Dream, she is not a career politician. We recently elected a celebrity with no political experience (rather, the electoral college did) and where has that landed us? This is not to say that Oprah Winfrey is anything (anything!) like Donald Trump. This is to say that Americans seem to have a new tendency to project our politics and hopes for future administrations onto any celebrity we respect.
It’s not as if Americans haven’t voted for famous people in the past. Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Al Franken were actors before they were politicians; Minnesotans even voted pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura as govenor in 1999. Each left their mark on United States politics—some marks bigger than others. If Oprah was voted onto the Senate by one state and served one term, her mark might be small thus disappearing with time and more important political discourse. However, an Oprah presidency would make history. Frankly, whoever follows Trump as the President will go down in history simply for the weight of a White House in chaos thrown onto their shoulders.
Can someone with no political experience handle it? And what do we know about Oprah’s politics, anyway? She stands firm as a voice for the oppressed and is obviously liberal, but where does she stand on foreign policy? Would she lean on ethos and strong language in debates, or would she communicate real opinions with the clarity of a seasoned politician? What sort of people would make up her cabinet?
There are a million questions we could ask about another celebrity presidency. However, it seems to me that it is not the social status or career of a candidate that matters but rather the contents of their brain and their heart. 62 million people voted for Trump based on the contents of his bank account and big mouth. If Oprah does run for President, I hope she will lead her campaign with heart and smarts.
Does she have my vote? Maybe. Only time and her stance on tax reform will tell.