Oprah Winfrey: the Only Match for Trump.
Oprah Winfrey gave a great speech at the Golden Globes earlier this month. If you haven’t yet seen it, I recommend accessing it via this link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fN5HV79_8B8. After her speech, the Internet blew up with conjectures about her running for president in 2020.
Celebrity candidates seem like a slight to American politics. From a global perspective, America is one sprawling mall, an image which was particularly reinforced during this past election. These recent speculations about Oprah seem only to indulge our reputation as a consumer culture, because Oprah doesn’t have political experience and is known primarily for “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Many want a conventional candidate who can promise to restore the equilibrium of the pre-Trumpian political model. Go ahead and throw up your hands when I say that we need Oprah to run in 2020. Laugh a little; people certainly did two years ago at this stage in Trump’s candidacy, all the way until election day, when the actual nature of voting in America was exposed.
Trump disturbed our political system, not irreparably but immensely. His election revealed many Americans’ grounds for voting. People responded to his radicalism, because they felt alienated by politics in the past. They wanted a candidate from the outside. Many could grasp Trump’s political platform: his promises, while dogmatic, were accessible to many who don’t know anything about politics. The language in his campaign didn’t alienate those people, or promise them anything theoretical, and it seemed to offer immediate gratification. I’m not saying that Trump’s inflated rhetoric is a good tactic, but his method revealed what many Americans in this country respond to in a candidate: somebody from the outside, who doesn’t intellectualize their campaign, and who responds to their immediate dissatisfaction with the government.
It slowly dawned on me this past year that many Americans don’t consider their political leaders from a political point of view–meaning they don’t consider the issues that the candidate represents, their diplomatic skills, and so on. Many vote only for their party without assessing the candidate separately. Many didn’t pay attention to or even take a US History class; many participate in the conservative movement to marginalize the humanities in public education. It would be wonderful if everyone evaluated politicians from a historical perspective, but we can’t realistically expect this from many Americans.
Here is why Oprah is the right candidate, considering the nature of American voting: her speech at the Golden Globes received an extraordinary amount of national praise, because her language was strong and intelligible. “A new day is on the horizon!” she proclaimed to a crowd on their feet–albeit to a crowd of liberal-minded artists. Like Trump, Oprah makes promises that can be felt: ones that appeal so strongly to our immediate visions for a better nation. Unlike Trump, her promises are not where the strength of her speech comes from. Trump uses his personal life, particularly his economic success, to predict his presidential success, whereas Oprah isn’t as manipulative. She achieves what Trump does, yet she roots the integrity of her speech in truth; she shares her personal experiences as an end in itself. Oprah will rouse the section of our population who responded to President Trump’s campaign, but she will do it with integrity. This, I realize, is a faithful statement. Politics hasn’t maligned Oprah the way it has others, but from what she stands for, I believe in her integrity. I won’t provide you with a biography, so I encourage you to research her, and I assure you that her dignity speaks for itself.
It isn’t helpful to view Oprah’s potential candidacy in the context of our pre-Trump impression of the American people. Trump will run for re-election, and the Democratic Party needs a candidate who can match what the American people see in Trump. In other words, we can’t expect all voters to be contemplative and non-superficial about politics. Let other nations think that America has been eaten alive by its celebrity culture; we cannot prioritize such things until we regain our fundamental diplomatic standing (specifically, replacing President Trump with somebody less volatile). When Trump runs, we must be prepared to fight fire with fire. And a beloved African-American woman-of-merit with evident intelligence and eloquence is his only viable opponent.
This still leaves the matter of Oprah’s lack of political experience, which, though it isn’t a factor in this current presidency, is technically important. I believe that if we can rehabilitate our country socially, the rest will follow. Oprah promises a voice for minorities and women in this country. Simply having a black woman representing the country, even if her presidency is unremarkable, will give these demographics a place in politics and other leadership positions. We must get women, especially, into politics before we can begin fixing other things, because in my opinion, men and women, generally, are different. Elizabeth Cady Stanton said in her address to the 1869 Woman Suffrage Convention in Washington, DC:
The male element is a destructive force, stern, selfish . . . breeding in the material and moral world alike disorder, disease, and death. See what a record of blood and cruelty the pages of history reveal! . . . The male element has held high carnival thus far . . . Whatever is done to lift woman to her true position will help to usher in a new day of peace and perfection of the race.
(Stanton clarifies that she is speaking generally about gender, as I am.)
Maybe the difference I see between men and women is only a product of historical gender roles, and in actuality, men and women are naturally the same, but as it stands, women and men have very different sensitivities. Women historically have been at the forefront of humanitarian movements in our nation: abolitionism, addressing poverty in cities, the progressive movement, the children’s bureau. Even if this “peace and perfection” originates from sexism, women should embrace it. The female historical track record opposed to men’s, though miniscule in comparison, is much more honorable from a social standpoint. I encourage women to take ownership of these traits. Power and “the male element” are not mutually exclusive. This “high carnival” to which their power entitles men has mostly bred civil discontent. Stanton claims that “a woman knows the cost of life better than a man does, and not with her consent would one drop of blood ever be shed, one life sacrificed in vain.” Men have been given the license to vainly kill others (I write as we dangle on the precipice of nuclear warfare), blinding men in power to the detrimental effects of their actions, whereas power hasn’t callused this sensitivity in women. Stanton’s prediction is extreme, but why not take her word for it? We have nothing to lose.
Oprah will bring women forward, and with them, a new perspective on the unsolved issues that plague our country: climate change, the Middle East, health care, the electoral system, and so on, topics that men have wrestled with to no avail forever. Consider a vote for Oprah as an investment in the economic and political prosperity of America, starting with the rehabilitation of our social standing.
After delivering her speech, Oprah’s longtime partner, Stedman Graham, told the Los Angeles times that “it’s up to the people. She would absolutely do it [i.e., run for president].” Oprah for 2020. “It’s up to the people” to put her in office, meaning, “Take this seriously.” Some Democrats currently endorse 79-year-old, former Vice President Joe Biden as their 2020 candidate. I wonder how many female candidates were stepped over in picking a male candidate as old as Biden. Remind people of how imperative it is to have women in power, because evidently, the message isn’t widespread. Introduce Oprah. Let them laugh about it, laugh with them, and then remind them of who elected President Trump, a fellow celebrity. This is what America has come to. We plummeted from the safety of conventional politics, yet perhaps we are stumbling toward a new day for women in power.