Donald Riddle | Brown University
On Sunday, January 8th, Oprah Winfrey accepted the 2018 Cecil B. DeMille and delivered one of the most inspiring speeches the country, and no doubt the Globes, has ever heard. Her oratory, coming mere weeks after the Time’s Up movement, sparked promise of a better future, particularly for (Black) women. As such, it took only minutes before news sources and social media ran ablaze with speculation at Winfrey’s possible run for president in 2020.
These, of course, would not be the first inklings of the media proprietor and philanthropist teasing at a presidential run, but there is something seriously more weighted to this year’s conjecture. Why? Because sitting in the Oval at this very office is living proof that the presidency is a position most reliant on a public dialect. Trump, more so than any other candidate before him, found his following in an almost demagogue-esque way, his social media presence and celebrity status paving way for his words to be heard. Nevermind his lack of political— or any— experience. Rather, there was a looming sentiment amongst some Americans, most of whom were working class, that Trump, given his celebrity status, was able to tap. He became a spokesperson for America, not their politician.
Of course, this was only true for the portion of Americans that voted him into office. Yet after nearly a year, it seems the problems to which Trump voices solutions are no longer those which claim the nation’s center stage — in fact, many of the problems that do were created by 45 himself. America, now more so than ever, is characterized by both racial and sexual struggle, and hashtags galore.
#BLM — #JusticeFor — #MeToo — #TimesUp
These have come to the forefront of media headlines, twitter trends, and award speeches, especially in these early weeks of 2018. Yet still, perhaps unaware of the mindset that landed the country here in the first place, the solution for many seems simply to find a new spokesperson. Cue Oprah.
With as little political background as Trump, it’s clear that experience is a dismissable factor in presidential selection. Rather, it’s about finding the person most emblematic of what we hold this country to be. I’ll be the first to say that I would eagerly take Oprah into the White House as opposed to Trump, but we still must grapple with what that means. Should we rather both of them stick to media and leave the presidency to, say, a politician? Or is the presidency no longer a political position? Whether by our own doing, or the position itself becoming increasingly more obsolete in its actual political dealings, it seems that we must accept the latter to be true.
Among the other most talked about candidates for 2020: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kanye West, and pop-star Katy Perry. The uniting factor amongst these and other celebrity candidates is an unrest over the current state of the union and an absolute lack of political experience. Regardless, if the race started tomorrow, Oprah would be running miles ahead of the contest after her speech at the globes, and definitely for good reason.
Even in all of Trump’s inexperience, the American political machine grinds under the labor of the House, the Senate, and other policy forming and enacting bodies, merely in the likeness of Trump’s vision of the country. What I mean to say is that Trump has had a significant impact on this country despite (and quite possibly because of) his separation from politics. If we are to undo the America that 45 holds “great,” built on the ideology and idiolect of a demagogue, than perhaps a candidate like Oprah, in her respect, demeanor, and vision, is our solution.