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Oprah for President, Really?

Photo by nayrb7 | CC BY 2.0

Being president isn’t like hosting a talk show or running a media brand. Oprah’s success in her field is no more indicative of her potential to be a good president than Trump’s success in real estate was. You can’t criticize Trump for having no relevant experience or evident understanding of public policy, then say that the solution for Democrats is just to throw up their hands and find their own celebrity to promote.

— Paul Waldman, “Get a Grip, People. Oprah should not run for President”, Washington Post

Will she or won’t she?

No one knows for sure.  Best friend, Gayle King, says Oprah Winfrey has no plans to run for president, but longtime Oprah partner, Stedman Graham, disagrees. Graham says bluntly, “She would absolutely do it. It’s up to the people.”

So who’s right and who’s wrong? And what’s up with the Golden Globes? Was the reaction to Winfrey’s emotionally-charged speech really as spontaneous as we’ve been led to believe or was the deluge of adulatory coverage in the media already in the works? I don’t know about you, but the ridiculous outpouring of praise –including more than 700 gushing articles in the MSM accompanied by a saturation campaign on social media— smells fishy to me. Was this supposed to be an inspirational speech to fans and well-wishers or a ‘product launch’ by Democratic party leaders who needed a glitzy venue to showcase their future presidential candidate, Ms. Talk TV herself, Oprah Winfrey?

If I was a gambling man, I’d bet that the whole Sunday night extravaganza, including Winfrey’s heart-wrenching oration, was a set-up from soup to nuts. My guess is that the DNC honchos have cynically decided that their best chance to beat Trump in 2020 is by following the blueprint that worked for the inexperienced, 2-year Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.  First, they start with the product launch to a target audience, then they create a positive buzz in the media and on the internet, then they magnify the size of the “groundswell” of support (remember the fainting ladies at O’s speeches?), then they transport their candidate from one soapbox to the next where he/she mutters the same stale chestnuts over and over again to the adoring throng.

Oh yeah, and one other thing: Real issues have to be avoided like the plague while promises should be made in the vaguest, but most uplifting terms possible. That was the key to Obama’s success and it looks like that Oprah is following his lead.   Here’s a brief clip from her speech:

“I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning — even during our darkest nights.”

Ahh, another 8 years of hope and change. Who would’ve known?

Of course, Winfrey is enormously popular but her popularity does not necessarily translate into political support. Take a look at this excerpt from an article in the Washington Post and you’ll why her transition from TV celbrity to presidential candidate could be bumpier than many people expect:

 “A March 2017 Quinnipiac University poll found Winfrey had a 52 percent favorable rating (and just a 23 percent unfavorable rating). She was most popular with Democrats (72 percent) and independents (51 percent). But that doesn’t mean those polled wanted her to throw her hat into the ring: Just over 1 in 5 said Winfrey should run in 2020, and 69 percent said she shouldn’t.” (Washington Post)

That doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause, it just means that her presidential bid is not a sure thing.  It’s going to be a long, uphill slog with plenty of pitfalls and mudslinging.  Even so,  most analysts expect Winfrey to sail through the Democratic primaries without breaking a sweat. There’s simply no prospective candidate in the party who could compete with her charisma, her name recognition or her wide-ranging fan-base. But nabbing the nomination and becoming the party’s standard-bearer merely puts Oprah in a position where she can lock horns with big Don Trump in a no-holds-barred cage match that will decide whether the country is going to be governed by a flamboyant billionaire oligarch or by a flamboyant billionaire oligarch.  Could things get any weirder?

I always thought the Dems would put Michelle Obama on the 2020 ticket, after all, for the ‘identity politics’-driven Dems, Michelle has it all; she’s black, she’s a woman, she’s bright, she has massive name recognition, she has stature, gravitas, charisma, she knows how to deliver a riveting speech, she knows how to handle herself among dignitaries, and she knows ‘the drill’, that is, she knows that the president is a meaningless figurehead who has very little power and follows a tight script that is written by his big money constituents. Michelle knows all of that which is what makes her the perfect candidate.

But Michelle probably didn’t want the job. And why would she? Hubby just cashed in on a $60 million book deal, so Michelle can afford to put her feet up and enjoy life. That’s why the Dems moved on to Door Number 2: Oprah Winfrey. If Trump can win with no political experience (the thinking goes), then why not Winfrey?

Why not, indeed? Here’s how Paul Waldman at the Washington Post sums it up:

“It’s true that Democrats have underappreciated the importance of charisma in presidential politics. But the answer to those electoral failures isn’t to stop caring about substance. It’s to find candidates who are both charismatic and serious, who would be able both to win and to do the job once they took office….”

(Paul Waldman, Washington Post)

Bingo. And what would it take to make Oprah Winfrey a “serious” candidate?

Well, she’d have to have a good grasp of the issues which means she’d have to take a crash course in policy, world affairs, negotiation and economics. She’d need to have an opinion about the nuclear standoff with North Korea, the confrontation in the South China Sea, the Saudi war and blockade of Yemen, the escalating conflict in Afghanistan, the US occupation of East Syria,  frayed relations with Turkey, economic sanctions against Iran, Russia, Venezuela and Cuba. And she’d have to understand domestic issues, cuts to Medicaid, corporate tax cuts, burgeoning budget deficits, stagnant wages, the skyrocketing price of tuition,  out-of-control health care costs, free trade, deregulation, Wall Street, the environment, transportation,  law enforcement, national security and the steady evisceration of the American middle class. Whew.

The fact that Oprah really has no grasp of any of these things nor any understanding of how to negotiate with congress, staff an administration, or appoint judges to the bench, makes me think that Democratic honchos are merely using her as a stalking horse to shoehorn themselves back into power so they can–once again–enjoy the spoils of war.

Isn’t that what this whole ‘Oprah for Prez-thing’ is really all about?  Aren’t the party fatcats and their behind-the-scenes constituents just looking for the right vehicle to tout their message and fly their banner without any intention of addressing the issues that ordinary working people really care about?

Of course they are. These people are cynics.

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MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

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