by Sara Fraser
Should we vote for Oprah in 2020? Sara Fraser discusses the reality of television host Oprah Winfrey running for office and reasons why so many people feel comfortable being led by someone with no formal political experience.
It began with a speech, evolved into a hashtag, and encouraged a few harmless jokes on Twitter. However, the possibility of Oprah Winfrey running for President of the United States has recently turned into something to be taken seriously.
At the Golden Globes on Jan. 7, Oprah Winfrey received the Cecil B. DeMille Award and delivered a truly electrifying speech on behalf of the #MeToo and #Timesup movements against sexual harassment that inspired the empowerment of women across all industries. She commended “women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up” and suggested that “a new day is on the horizon” for women everywhere.
And although her speech did touch on some political ideas and presented the appearance of a great leader, people who give great speeches shouldn’t automatically be considered for the position of president.
A basic expectation of the American president is to give a centralized voice to a large group of people, unifying them and their causes. And although charisma and good communication skills are extremely necessary in achieving this goal, they shouldn't be the only thing that legitimizes a candidate for this hugely important leadership position.
Although the desire to inspire change is very important in all leadership positions, some political experience might be nice to have when we are considering the most powerful job in our country — an opinion previously shared by most on both sides of the political spectrum.
While the idea of a television star running for president may have seemed absurd 50 years ago, nominating a billionaire celebrity has now not only been proven possible, but it’s been done. Now that we are one year into experiencing the effects of electing a president with an estimated net worth of $3.1 million and a resume unlike that of most political figures, I would have thought that people would be more aware of who they are nominating for office and what credentials she has. However, I think most are forgetting the fact that this same outpour of nonchalant backing for Oprah as a presidential candidate was the foundation for Donald Trump’s campaign — and ultimately what elevated him to his current position. Trump’s shot at the presidency also began as a harmless and presumably impossible joke.
I can’t completely disregard Oprah’s hypothesized presidency. I don’t know her, or how much she knows about politics, and I do agree with a lot of her opinions. Her career history demonstrates that she is a very talented individual with the ability to lead, and create change. But it can’t be ignored that she does lack formal experience in politics. Her high levels of fame and apparent wisdom are nice, but we already have a celebrity in the White House.
Truthfully, I would not be devastated if Oprah became our next president. And maybe that is my own hypocrisy at fault. Maybe we do have a tendency to deem candidates as under-qualified simply as a means of justifying our opposition to them. Or rather, maybe we do have a tendency to deem candidates qualified when we want them to win.
But ultimately, if we’re going to be in the business of promoting candidates who express political positions we support, we cannot forget the other amazing, diverse, over-qualified, female candidates out there, such as Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, who don’t have their own TV shows and billions of dollars.