In case you hadn’t heard about it — that is, in case you were stationed in Antarctica — Oprah Winfrey gave a moving speech at the Golden Globes awards show on Sunday night, and now lots of people are saying she should run for President in 2020. Sources are saying that Winfrey is “actively considering” making such a run.
It’s interesting that a speech given at one of those ever-present, self-congratulatory Hollywood awards shows, in the center of the culture of harassment, misogyny and denial that gave rise to Harvey Weinstein — who incidentally won a lot of those self-congratulatory awards, including a Golden Globe at a prior, glitzy ceremony — should be seen as positioning one of our country’s most well-known, well-liked celebrities for a run for the country’s top job. It tells you something important, I think, about how many people are searching for someone to lead the country in a different direction — and obviously aren’t finding anyone compelling in the current crop of American political leaders who have followed the more traditional gubernatorial and senatorial paths to a potential presidential bid.
In the age of President Donald Trump, it’s hard to argue about what constitutes being “qualified” for the presidency anymore. Trump was a wealthy businessman who became a celebrity; Oprah Winfrey is a celebrity who became a very successful businesswoman. If Donald Trump can run for President, then so can Oprah Winfrey. We’ll have to wait and see whether she wants to expose herself and her friends and family to the kind of relentless, withering scrutiny that presidential candidates receive in the modern world of 24-hour news channels, internet news outlets, and political blogs. With Oprah Winfrey’s years of TV broadcasts, magazine articles, and long career in the public eye, the campaigns of other contenders in 2020 will have a lot of material to sift through to try to find one or two damning statements or issues that always seem to be the focus of presidential campaigns these days — and somewhere, some flunky has probably already started that task.
So while we wait to see whether Oprah Winfrey actually decides to throw her hat in the ring, let’s reflect on what the outpouring of adulation she received says about the other people who might be contenders. It’s not a positive endorsement, is it? People may be turning to the notion of celebrities running for President for a lot of reasons — like fighting Trumpian celebrityhood with other celebrityhood — but one obvious impetus is that they aren’t finding anyone exciting among the politicians who are thought to be lining up for a shot at the job. Given the performance of our political class over the past few years, can anyone blame people for hoping that celebrities might be the answer?