Emma Teitel: Oprah's not running for president and that saddens me
Winfrey is one of the only celebrities, who given ultimate power, might not set the world ablaze, writes Emma Teitel.
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You can breathe a deep sigh of relief or if you’re like me, break into a million little pieces, because it’s not happening. Oprah Winfrey isn’t running for President of the United States. The 63-year-old TV mogul told In Style magazine in an interview released this week that contrary to the hopes of anybody who likes swag, she will not attempt a run at the White House in 2020. In Winfrey’s own words:
“I’ve always felt very secure and confident with myself in knowing what I could do and what I could not. And so it’s not something that interests me. I don’t have the DNA for it.”
Perhaps this is Winfrey’s veiled way of telling us that she isn’t a sociopath (unlike a lot of other wildly successful people with political aspirations).
However, at this year’s Golden Globes, the ex-TV host certainly looked like she had the DNA for a presidential run when she gave a formidably rousing speech about gender and racial inequality and the durability of the human spirit. Celebrities cried into their Moet and within seconds, viewers on social media wondered if Winfrey would — and should — run for president in 2020. Unfortunately, though, the consensus among pundits and journalists was an overwhelming “no.” Winfrey should not run, they argued, not because she isn’t a good person, nor even because she’d be bad at the job (certainly she’d fare no worse than its current occupant). No, Oprah shouldn’t run for president, the story goes, because she’s a billionaire and a celebrity. Here’s Eve Peyser, writing in Vice:
“If you have enough hubris to want to run for presidency with zero political experience, it’s a good indicator that being president probably isn’t the right gig for you. And if Trump’s presidency has taught us anything, it’s this: Don’t trust a billionaire to do the job of a politician.”
Peyser makes a good point. In an ideal world a celebrity billionaire wouldn’t hold the highest political post on the planet; in an ideal world, we wouldn’t be debating whether one celebrity billionaire might face off against another in the next U.S. presidential election. But, sadly, we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in this one, where name recognition and titanic wealth count for a lot more than sound policy ideas and experience. This is why, although she appears to have made up her mind against it, I really wish Winfrey would reconsider and launch a campaign for the presidency of the United States in 2020. She may be a celebrity billionaire, but as far as celebrity billionaires go, she’s not half bad. She’s extremely bright, open-minded, well read, and she gives a hell of a speech. Unlike Trump, her would-be competitor, she has an extremely diverse fan base that spans race, political leaning, class, and education level. Unlike Trump, it’s hard to find a person who doesn’t like or admire Oprah Winfrey in some capacity. (Seriously, go outside right now and ask three strangers in a row if they like Oprah. They will say yes). Even Trump himself claims to like her, and we know how he usually feels about women with vocal cords who are not stick-figure thin.
But more than any of these things, Winfrey could be a buffer to further political lunacy in the United States.
Trump’s ascent is a lesson to any halfway intelligent buffoon with a celebrity platform that he or she can rule the world, too. We shouldn’t deceive ourselves into thinking this celebrity president is an anomaly. Who knows which nutty big-name opportunists will try to get their names on the ballot of the future — and which of them will succeed? My money is on the following men and women: Kid Rock, Mel Gibson, Stacey Dash, Kevin Sorbo, Kanye West, Guy Fieri, Caitlyn Jenner, Will.i.Am, and finally, Duck Dynasty star and Duck Commander Willie Robertson. (If elected, he would be the first Duck Commander in Chief.)
If we look at the current political landscape with yesterday’s eyes, then it’s obvious Oprah Winfrey shouldn’t run for president, because there are people infinitely more qualified than her who know the issues and more importantly, who do not know Dr. Phil. But if we look at the current political landscape with fresh eyes, a landscape where TV personalities with zero public service experience have a good chance at the oval office, the truth becomes quite clear: Winfrey is one of the only celebrities who given ultimate power, might not set the world ablaze. I don’t care what she says. I’m holding out hope for Oprah/Gayle 2020.