January 9, 2018

Let’s Not Do This ‘Oprah for President’ Thing

Oprah Winfrey / Getty Images

By Katherine Krueger / 01.08.2018

At last night’s Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey delivered an extraordinary speech while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award.

It’s worth watching her speech in full. In it, Oprah wove together the story of Recy Taylor—whose abduction and rape at the hands of six white men galvanized the early civil rights movement—and our current moment, where scores of women, famous and not, are coming forward to say that they, too, have been victimized by powerful men.

The speech ended on a soaring note, which was greeted by rapturous applause by the audience:

So I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, 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.

When Oprah directs people to set their sights on the horizon, they do what she says. So it’s no surprise that the speech sparked immediate excitement about the prospect of Oprah saving us from President Trump by running a presidential campaign against him in 2020. Since the speech, close friends have claimed to CNN that she’s “actively thinking” about running (something she denied).

Here was the front page of HuffPost:

It’s fun to joke about, but calling for an Oprah v. Trump matchup means taking all the worst lessons from Trump’s victory. What if—stay with me here—there’s a middle road between heaping deserved praise on Oprah and calling for her, in her capacity as a billionaire celebrity, to take down another billionaire celebrity in the White House?

The logic behind drafting Oprah is seductive but hollow: What if all the Democrats need to defeat Trump is another household name with endless cash reserves? But billionaires cannot be trusted and we should not clamor to elect them, even if they’re Oprah. I can think of very few ways to make our current process of selecting a president more dystopian than watching your side’s chosen ultra-rich person duke it out—on television, of course—to be crowned, er, elected, to running our country.

It’s also a fallacy to frame Oprah’s would-be candidacy as a foil to Trump. Would an Oprah presidency be much better than a Trump presidency? Almost certainly, but that’s not the point. She has no experiencing crafting policy or governing, she’s not particularly left-wing, and—this is worth repeating—she is wildly wealthy, making her concerns far different than the rest of us.

We need to be skeptical of anyone who presents a silver bullet solution to “saving” the country from Trump in 2020. And we should be even more skeptical if that solution involves pinning our hopes on a billionaire to do what’s right.

Originally published by Splinter News under a Creative Commons license from Gawker Media.