Why Oprah Should Not Run for President
And What She Should Do Instead
First of all, I recognize the arrogance in this. As if I know what Oprah should do, or anything at all about any of this alternative reality we find ourselves lost in.
But (this is the second of all), I have opinions and a tiny platform and it’s very quiet here, so here we go.
I find the “Oprah for President” chorus dismaying, shortsighted, and potentially destructive. I understand the impulse. We are desperate for a voice, a figure, a guiding light that will calm the storm and steer the ship to safety. I like Oprah — I might even love Oprah. There’s a lot to love. She represents the very opposite of everything that this clown-car administration champions, she is the light that opposes the current dark. Her story is inspiring; she is accomplished and successful, well-spoken and thoughtful. She is, reportedly, the most charitable celebrity by far, putting her money and power to work supporting various noble causes. She has done a lot to change media for the better. Her speech at the Golden Globes was smart, rousing, and strong. A strong, smart, black woman as POTUS is a brilliant, delicious, and way overdue prospect.
However — I want (I think we need) a wonk for president. I want someone who has devoted their time, energy, and brains to study. To history and law, to policy and diplomacy. I want someone who has worked in communities and cities, someone who understands the complicated legislative machine. Ideally, this person (a woman please god it’s high time) is a good orator and knows more than one language. Charm helps, as does an ease in the spotlight. Oprah unquestionably possesses these last few qualities, but it’s the wonk part — the most important part — that she lacks. We don’t need beauty at the top, or sparkle, or wealth. We don’t need celebrity or power.
We’ve done that, we’re doing that right now to our great and lasting detriment.
We need a boring, brilliant, steady hand at the helm. It’s a great failing that we’ve allowed celebrity and personality to take over our national stage. There’s plenty of room in our culture for that and some of it is positive. But government should be separate. I don’t care what the president wears or how her voice sounds or how much money she makes. I do care, however, that she is intimately acquainted with constitutional law, international affairs, American history, and policy making. I do require that she be fair and thoughtful and cognizant of her role as a representative for all of us and, while I think Oprah will be that, I do not think Oprah has experience governing. Or even the requisite knowledge to govern.
Oprah is not a wonk.
However — Oprah can do so much. She can throw her money and her star power behind the right wonks, she can share her megaphone with the right voices, she can show her base (a base many times larger than the FAKE base that we hear so much about) how important it is to pay attention. How necessary it is to be aware. How essential it is to be educated. How vital it is to vote. Oprah has wits and power and a great big heart situated, I think, in the right place and she can sway those who are confused. She can influence thought in a meaningful way and build a movement. She already has.
We don’t need a personality at the top. Celebrity is the thing we should be running from, fast. Politics needs to be wrested away from the world of entertainment. (It also must be ripped from the clutches of the greedy. Congress is filled with power hungry, money grubbing bastards masquerading as wonks, but that’s another essay.) We need to move away from the circus and elevate those toiling in relative darkness, giving them the opportunity to use their hard won expertise and serve. Give me a patient brain in a wrinkled shirt and thick glasses. There’s a lot to fix.