Oprah won't be the anti-Trump

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If the Democrats ran on 'America is already great because America is good' in 2016, 2017 gave a deafening answer: No, it is not.

Oprah WinfreyAmericans, glued to screens where they read Twitter tantrums and nuclear war provocations from their president, see images of fire and mudslides that make California look postapocalyptic, and read news of yet another sexual misconduct scandal, are desperate for change.

It was impossible to watch the Golden Globes last Sunday and not feel the palpable desire for it. In dress and demeanour, lapel pins and speech, the message was clear: We are mad as hell, and time is up.

That was all before Oprah Winfrey took the stage. With a rousing display of oration not seen since before last November, she electrified the room and inspired a nation to all ask the same question: should Oprah be our next president?

She should not. Before elaborating why, however, it is necessary to agree on a few things: 1. It was a great speech. 2. If she runs, she will win. 3. If she wins, it will be a substantial improvement from our current situation. All of these statements are true. But they are not good enough reasons to cheer for an #Oprah2020 presidential run.

We would not be seriously considering it if the presidency were not currently occupied by Donald J. Trump. Winfrey's appeal will only grow with every tweet Trump makes, every off-the-cuff press conference he holds.

The imagination is reminded of those familiar and distant feelings of joy and pride when considering what a Winfrey administration would look like:

 

"If you need a good chat and hug, Winfrey is the person. If you need to repair a welfare state that's on life support after sabotage from the Trump administration, you need more than an inspiring message to 'live your best life'."

 

While Trump reportedly could not read memos longer than a single page, Winfrey will bring back the book club, sending the country back to their local libraries and independent bookstores.

If you thought President Obama's 'Cash for Clunkers' program got the economy going, just wait until 'You get a car! YOU get a car — EVERYBODY gets a car!'

Instead of a long, boring slog of hearings and investigations on C-SPAN, why not a heart-to-heart confessional interview with Winfrey on the couch of the Oval Office for scandal-ridden politicians?

As easy as it is to focus on Trump's personal problems and disqualifications — the lying, the name calling, the ranting — it's essential to remember that he is wrecking political havoc. He is deporting and denying entry to immigrants and migrants; he's slashing taxes for the rich and setting the stage to gut the social safety net to pay for it; and he's threatening a nuclear holocaust with his tweets. This, of course, is the shortlist.

These would have been just as devastating if someone had spoken it with eloquence during the state of the union rather than tweeting with bizarre and deranged syntax and capitalisation. Trump's undesirable personal traits are not nearly as dangerous as his political decisions are.

Winfrey, whatever one thinks of her personal traits, is intentionally apolitical. Even her most political move to date — endorsing Barack Obama for president — was done as apolitically as possible. 'I know him personally,' she told Larry King. She hadn't endorsed any candidate in the past 'because I didn't know anybody well enough to say "I believe in this person".' She did not name any specific policies that roused such a belief.

It is also concerning to speculate on how her belief in personal betterment would affect the poor. Take a conversation with televangelist Pastor Joel Osteen: He tells her, 'I can't be a big blessing to people if I'm poor and broke and depressed,' and Winfrey, nodding approvingly, wonders whether being poor indicates that 'you're not praying enough'. Osteen assures it's not just that they aren't praying enough, but also that they haven't been inspired to break through the forces (which are definitely not political) that hold them down.

If you've had a bad day, and need a good chat and hug, Winfrey is the right person. If you need to repair a welfare state that's on life support after sabotage from the Trump administration and this Republican congress, you need a lot more than an inspiring message to 'live your best life'.

Additionally, even our best presidents are also architects of barbarism: it is Winfrey's hands that will guide drone strikes, her word that could sell unforeseen amounts of weapons and bombs to regimes who are ready to use them or resell to someone who will. Do we really want to do that to Oprah? I fear that the toll taken on the national psyche would be too great to positively think ourselves out of.

 

 

Zac_DavisZac Davis is a writer and assistant editor at America magazine, the Jesuit Review, where he cohosts Jesuitical, a podcast for young adult Catholics. Follow him on Twitter @zacdayvis

Topic tags: Zac Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump


 

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Existing comments

At one level, I'd say that, given the serious threat that Trump poses to the peace and well-being of the world, any candidate with a viable chance of defeating him needs to be encouraged, including Ms. Winfrey. As a result, I wouldn't want to "talk down" anyone in the US - Democrat, Republican, or Independent - who wants to take up the fight against Trump. At another level, I'd say that standing a talk-show host against Trump just feeds into the whole destructive cynicism-against-politicians syndrome that is characteristic not just of the US, but of many western nations, including Australia. All of us, whatever our own politics, need to struggle against the "anti-politician" mentality that threatens to derail our democracy. I look forward passionately to Trump's defeat in 2020. But I believe that, for the end of the Trump regime to lead to something positive, it needs to be at the hands of an "orthodox" politician (whether this is a Republican in the primaries or a Democrat in the November election).
Bob Faser | 12 January 2018


We need only cast our minds back to Richard Nixon to see what a career politician is capable of. Oprah is likeable, and has other, more robust attributes. Compared to Trump she does appeal. However, the US needs not just a career politician but one who wants to overcome the current narrative and has the vision to mould a diverse people into a nation of great potential and compassion.
Pam | 15 January 2018


America's big problem in choosing a president according to the majority vote of its citizens is that its citizens are insular and isolated in this world. ignorant of the vast part of the rest of the world and brain-washed by the celluloid world of cartoons and celebrity. which in their country means being in the movies or on television, regardless of personal ability or integrity and having buckets of money to waste with as much vulgarity as possible which seems to be be the most desirable attribute of all for election to government. Now that the people can see the real effect of such ignorance on the worldwide perception of their country through the trump card they played at the last election, they now apparently seek some old-fashioned, apple pie homeliness that someone like Winfrey offers. To go with her as president would perpetuate the disaster regardless of the fact that someone wrote a moving speech for her at the recent celebrations of the dominant religious ritual of their Godforsaken country - paying homage to the idols of the entertainment screens.
john frawley | 15 January 2018


With inequality growing alarmingly worldwide, and the complicity of so many of the world's politicians in the corporate takeover of the world at the expense of ordinary citizens, I'm beginning to think Bernie Sanders may be the best person for the job from 2020. Especially after his opinion piece in the "Guardian" today: https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/world/comment-lets-wrench-power-back-from-the-billionaires/ar-AAuFXWk?li=AAgfIYZ&ocid=mailsignout. This inequality situation is starting to get really serious because it's getting ever more extreme. And our politicians in many countries are not only ignoring it, but exacerbating it. One could even be forgiven for believing in those old conspiracy theories of Bilderberg Groups or Illumunati plans to take over the world and eliminate surplus population. Although I think it's just plain old incompetence on the part of politicians of all ilks, who are not doing their jobs properly and representing all the people, instead of the people who keep giving them money (too often under the counter).
PaulM | 15 January 2018


I refer readers to the comment by John Frawley, a brilliant analysis of the current state of America. Remember, America elected their president - it wasn't a coup or some kind of massive gerrymander, it was democracy, American style. They have an education system which teaches(!) that Adam and the Garden and the Flood were facts. After that, what can you expect.
Frank | 15 January 2018


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