Oprah 2020? In America, yes, it is conceivable. When a belligerent and dubiously successful businessman and reality TV celebrity can become President of the United States, there is no reason to suppose that a narcissistic billionaire TV talk show host can’t potentially run for the office as well, and plausibly win.
The US presidency has largely become like a short-term version of the British monarchy; a figurehead whom people either love or hate based on entirely subjective and emotional reasons. Style has not only triumphed over substance, substance is no longer part of the equation.
The Democratic Party continues to miss the point and to disappoint. All of the same reasons they felt Trump was unqualified to be president apply to Oprah Winfrey, yet, after Trump’s victory, they are rushing to embrace his model. She is almost an archetypically perfect point-by-point anti-Trump. Again, it is not because they are opposites, but because they are twins. She is his liberal incarnation; a Black, female, Democrat version of Donald Trump.
Both are obscenely wealthy, Oprah more so; both have willed themselves into popular culture; both are celebrity icons; both are endlessly enamored with their own names and shameless about self-promotion; both inhabit the highest echelons of elite power in business and the media; both are (in real life) utterly disconnected from the daily struggles of average people; and (since his campaign and election) both Trump and Winfrey can lay claim to broad popular support. Both, also, have absolutely no political expertise or experience; though by 2020 Trump will have 4 years of experience tweeting about the brilliance of his non-accomplishments.
As a rags-to-riches Black woman, daughter of a single mother, with a record of advocating liberal causes, and connections with high level potential donors; Winfrey ticks all the right boxes for the Democratic National Committee. She is technically an outsider in Washington, as Trump was, and can appropriate the “maverick” persona that worked in his favor in 2016. But, all of these calculations fail to factor in the underlying reasons for Trump’s election win; namely, that there are real economic and political issues that genuinely matter to the population, which have been entirely ignored by both political parties for generations.
We can perhaps best begin on this topic by mentioning the issues that matter very little to most people, but which are at the heart of the liberal agenda and about which Oprah Winfrey has been outspoken; namely, gay rights; the definition of gender and transgender rights; gender equality; hate speech; police brutality; diversity in institutions of power; sexual harassment in Hollywood (and in the business world generally); and gun control.
While none of these issues is trivial, they are dwarfed in their significance by the fundamental economic grievances of Americans who have seen their real wages remain stagnant since the 1970s, while actual productivity has risen by around 75%. Income inequality has grown radically over the past 3 decades; the last two generations in the US (Generateion X and the Millennials) are the first generations in American history that are worse off than their predecessors in terms of opportunity and financial stability. Outsourcing of jobs, relocating factories outside the US, and so on, have obviously hurt workers, and this was one of the core themes of the Trump campaign that engaged with voters. Blue collar workers, the middle class, and rural communities gambled on Trump; voters who were taken for granted as Democratic Party mainstays, precisely because the Democrats had all but abandoned them since (at least) the early 1970s.
Embracing Oprah Winfrey does not in any way represent a reversal of that abandonment. As pointed out above, the issues she is associated with are issues of marginal importance to the traditionally Democrat voters who flocked to Trump.
Personally, I doubt Winfrey will run; but ultimately that isn’t the point. The point is that the Democratic Party does not get the point, and nothing demonstrates that more clearly than their excitement over the possibility of an Oprah candidacy.