Megadonor Oprah Could Do More Good Than Candidate Oprah
Would an Oprah political apparatus be more meaningful than an Oprah candidacy?
The first Hollywood award show in light of #MeToo and the flood of sexual assault allegations, the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night were designed to be the talk of the town. While typically an event to showcase the hottest Hollywood couples, many brought activists as their plus-ones. The red carpet was the most striking color of the evening. Nearly everyone wore black coupled with a “Time’s Up” on their lapels, all in solidarity with the #WhyWeWearBlack movement partnered with Time’s Up. Then, a little more than halfway through the show, Oprah took the stage.
I want all the girls…to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women…[and men]…fighting hard to make sure…nobody ever has to say #MeToo again” #Oprah at the #GoldenGlobes https://t.co/6s0ccIjKmC
It is clear to anyone who has watched her talk show or even the smallest clip from her speech that very few can hold the attention of a room, of a community, or a nation like she can. For decades, many have speculated over what it would look like if Oprah ever ran for public office. And truly, even at the lowest moment of her unprecedented popularity (has there ever really been one), it looked like she really could do and become anything — even President of the United States.
In his opening monologue, Seth Meyers joked that he felt partially responsible for President Donald Trump. Noting his 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner speech where he detailed how unqualified Trump was to be President may have emboldened him to run. He then turned to Oprah begging her to not run for President, hoping it may have the same effect on her as it did Donald.
After the show, Oprah’s longtime partner, Stedman Graham, was asked if she would ever run for President. His response?
And the crowd went wild. The past few days have seen an onslaught of tweets, op-eds, and even brands like Tarte endorsing would-be President Winfrey. Kevin Fallon of The Daily Beast said of Oprah’s speech, “More than an acceptance speech, Oprah’s rousing Golden Globes speech played like a sermon or, optimistically, a presidential campaign speech.”
Once again, are we willing to weigh popularity, charisma, and deep pockets over sound governance, good policy, and a proven track record? There were a lot of very powerful and empowered ladies (and men) in the room Sunday night getting excited about something that can’t possibly exist the way they want it to. Running a company, regardless of how successful, is not the same as running a country. Conflating the two is how we got to be where we are today. While basking in the afterglow of Oprah’s nine minutes on stage seems like a good idea, five years down the road we might not be so self-congratulatory.
Will we look back at moments like these where celebrity became the only qualification for political candidacy? Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Kid Rock, George Clooney, and Kanye West have already tossed their name into political conversations. We’ve already exalted Hollywood in our culture with varying degrees of success. We shouldn’t let the hype infiltrate politics any more than we already have.
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The baseline of Trump’s support hovers on a solid 40% approval rating, a horrible standing for any President, but especially one who requires adoration. While he panders for acceptance, nearly 60% of the country hopes for someone to step up in 2020 and stand in stark opposition to Trumpism. It is no exaggeration to say that many voters want a hero to restore reason in our policy and trust in government. Our desperation should not lead us to look at incredibly qualified women like Senators Kamala Harris, Dianne Feinstein, Tammy Duckworth, and Kirsten Gillibrand and say, “Sorry, we want the political rookie instead.”
I don’t think anyone is questioning the breadth of her accomplishments. The observation is a more fundamental one: Will there still be room for the likes of Kamala Harris or Maggie Hassan in the political future we’re creating, or only Tom Hanks? https://t.co/na1fC0IkFZ
Some of the hardest work accomplished in this first year of Trump has been done by these women and their Democratic colleagues. Especially in light of #MeToo and the resignations of Representative Conyers and Senator Franken, women on the hill have had to lead the way.
The gravity of the situation facing our democracy and the turmoil brewing in and because of the White House is not being taken as seriously as it should by Democratic institutions. Both individually and culturally we cannot in good conscience look at the issues at hand (i.e., threats to rule of law, the press, and immigrants) and expect an icon, albeit a progressive, stable and far more successful version, to bridge the gap.
In 2006, Oprah used her show to highlight a newly elected Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama. Two years later we had our first black president. If becoming a political powerhouse is truly the next goal for Oprah, the best good she can do would be to create a coalition to support races via funding or hosting campaign events for women, especially women of color, breaking into politics and those already established.
The power of Oprah is not to be debated, and though I wish there were more like her, it should be used to empower women already in the political arena, not at their expense.
Women have the cultural and political moment, and they should own the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential nominations. Let us not let their hard work go to waste because we’re swept up in the power of O.