Kirk Kovach | University of North Carolina
Before I delve into my reasoning, I think Oprah deserves a preface: suggesting that she should not be the president should in no way detract from her immeasurable accomplishments in her fascinating life. From an impoverished youth as the daughter of a single, teenage mother, to fighting for a position in the local news and finally securing a syndicated talk show, Oprah has led a more impressive life than most everyone, circumstances at birth notwithstanding. That said, I don't think we ought to lobby for her to run in 2020.
To be honest, haven't we had enough billionaire celebrities in the White House for one lifetime? I'll grant you that Ms. Winfrey acquired her wealth entirely through her own industry, as opposed to the inherited sums of our incumbent president. However, business acumen and a wonderful personality do not a president make. I think it would behoove the nation as a whole if we left politicking to the politicians. That doesn't bar anyone from running, either. Plenty of wealthy people have run and won elections, but I take umbrage in particular to the new spectacle surrounding the presidency.
Don't get me wrong -- I think Oprah would respect the seriousness of the position and the gravity it bears. But what are her qualifications? Does she have some heretofore unknown specialty in Middle East relations? Is she a secret diplomat, hatching plans to denuclearize North Korea, or to renegotiate the Iran Deal? Although plenty of people don't seem to care, our image on the world stage has noticeably deteriorated since 45 took office. We needn't exacerbate our decline by selecting a new celebrity to take his place, even if more of us might respect her.
Maybe Oprah just seems like a perfect choice because she delivered a profound speech at the Golden Globes recently. She certainly seems to possess twice the gravitas of our incumbent president, albeit at an awards show in front of Hollywood elites. Or maybe it's just that anyone would seem better than what we have in office now. It's not an unfair assertion, honestly, but I think it perpetuates the undermining of the presidency.
Just because one side of the aisle chose to elect a billionaire television star to office doesn't mean that Democrats need follow suit. In fact, it would be better, I think, to actually seek our salvation through someone with a proven track record of political success. Plenty of people are rising in the Democratic Party who deserve a shot at the presidency; Oprah, just through the merit of her celebrity, should not take precedence in our minds.
What would she even have to gain from it, really? Oprah is wildly successful in her own line of work, and she is still young at 63 (especially for a billionaire.) The tribulations of a two-year long campaign slog across the nation would be a lot different from what I assume is a cushy and lavish lifestyle now. On top of that, we know the presidency ages you like nothing else. For what imaginable reason would she want to carve years off of her life, just to become president? For Trump, it seems like he ran just to prove to the rest of us that he could. I don't think Oprah needs to prove anything, to anyone.
Beyond the reasons for her own good, I think we as a society need to pump the breaks. Regardless of the hype and buzz around this story, it will be the voters who decide the eventual nominees and then candidates for president. Advocating for Oprah is just buying into the already fraught political climate instead of trying to improve it. Really, to advocate for Oprah as the Democratic presidential nominee is to acquiesce to a society that is looking more and more to Hollywood and reality television for its moral compass. I don't think Oprah as a person is bad -- quite the contrary. I think what her candidacy portends is bad: that we have, indeed, developed into a parody of what this country ought to be.
The irony here is that I think she would probably win, versus Trump at least. But the presidential election shouldn't be a popularity contest; in fact, for better or worse, getting more votes doesn't even mean you win the presidency. Just because Oprah could win an election doesn't mean she should. For posterity, I think we should look into actually running serious candidates for what used to be a very serious job.