There is no denying the overwhelming empowerment that radiated from Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech on Jan. 7 after being the first Black female to receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award. The award, bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, honors those who have contributed outstanding achievements in the world of entertainment. I myself wanted to thrust my fist in the air and scream, “Yes, Oprah! This is the year of the woman!” In fact, I did.
But the next day, when media sources flooded with talk of Oprah running for president in 2020, the misconception of the situation became clear to me. With Trump’s election and presidency haunting our country, and the potential for a celebrity candidacy, having a political background is becoming less important in politics. There is too much of an emphasis on public status, and that’s a dangerous way to distribute power in our country. In a time of unconventional leadership, what we need now is experience and stability.
According to an NPR poll taken on Jan. 12, Oprah would beat Trump in a presidential election by 11 percent, with a vote of 50 percent to 39 percent. However, according to the poll, 54 percent of people don’t actually want Oprah to run, so while she would beat Trump, she’s still not a viable candidate.
Media exposure has played an important role in political campaigns since the 1960 presidential race between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, which featured the first televised debates. Kennedy’s appealing charisma and confidence in front of the camera encouraged viewers to support him as they were drawn to his appearance on screen. However, people who listened to the debates on the radio were convinced Nixon had secured the race, as his experience exceeded Kennedy’s in theory and his answers sounded confident, though his presentation lacked spirit. Kennedy won the election by a close vote. The use of media exposure within political campaigns became an important piece of elections thereafter.
While presentation should be an determining factor in a presidential figure, the importance of the political qualities of the candidate have diminished because of it. Dissatisfied liberals are looking to vote for the opposite of what our leadership looks like now. Oprah’s philosophy counteracts President Trump’s in almost every way. After his offensive language, potential sexual harassment claims and insensitivity toward minorities, some people want a powerful Black female who represents a solution to the disrespect we have seen both in the White House and in society. However, Oprah may be more similar to President Trump than we may think. While they stand for entirely different social policies, she is still a political neophyte, billionaire and media-savvy TV star. Politics aren’t a part of her repertoire, and especially following Trump’s hectic candidacy, someone with structured opinions and experience in politics needs to pull us out of the turmoil.
Not only does Oprah lack political experience, she has yet to voice her political opinions on many policies. Her unfavorability may be due to her unknown political beliefs. Yes, she holds an ideal position for regulating social policies, as clearly displayed in her recent speech, which voiced her opinions about the #metoo movement and racial inequality. But Oprah advocates should consider her opinion on a tax plan, foreign policy, military decisions and law enforcement. There is no clear path she hopes to take, and citizens can ignore this factor simply based on how empowering her charisma is. Oprah herself was able to recognize this flaw in her candidacy when she officially stated that she would not be running for president in 2020, saying that she didn’t “have the DNA for it.”
The image of Oprah as an appropriate candidate stems from her image in the media. Nowadays, public reputation is often displayed online or through news sources, and this can be misleading. It is easy to perceive someone as an important figure based on how they are publically displayed. This public persona can distract voters from the other aspects of their character, therefore masking the people from forming intellectual decisions about who they want to run their country. A victory for Oprah would be based on her fame rather than her devotion to the political wellbeing of our country. Her fame is well acclaimed, and her impact on America has been incredibly valuable, whether it be her philanthropic talk show, movie debuts, or business ventures. However, these achievements are not politically-based.
In Oprah’s Golden Globes speech she said, “A new day is on the horizon!” I agree that a new day is “on the horizon,” but the best way to get there is with sturdy political knowledge and experience in the White House.