Oprah is great, but she should not run for President
On January 7, one of Hollywood’s most beloved women made history once again: Oprah Winfrey became the first black woman to receive the Cecil B. DeMille award, an award given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at the Golden Globes for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.”
Winfrey didn’t make headlines just for her historic achievement, however, but also for her incredible acceptance speech. In fact, many seemed to think the speech set the stage for the media mogul’s future presidential run. Media speculation about a 2020 run only increased when it was seemingly confirmed by both Winfrey’s partner Stedman Graham, who said, “It’s up to the people. She would absolutely do it,” and best friend Gayle King, who added, “I do think she’s intrigued by the idea.”
But reactions about the prospect of this hypothetical campaign were mixed. Most people agreed that Winfrey’s speech — which addressed the importance of the freedom of the press, praised the success of the ever-growing #MeToo Movement, and reminded the audience about Recy Taylor, a black woman abducted and raped by six white men in 1944 — was great. While some believed it was “presidential,” others argued that a great speech does not a president make.
This debate is symbolic of something much bigger than Oprah: It drives home the new reality that our country truly has a new standard for who can be considered a suitable presidential nominee. Our current president is a reality star and businessman with a questionable record and no background in politics. In fact, his lack of experience was even praised by supporters who claimed that was the very reason they trusted him. Those who did not support him, however, often joked about the new standard his win represented: “If Trump can win, so-and-so would win by a landslide!” “Trump is president, so anything’s possible!” “Ellen DeGeneres needs to run!” But these jokes may be turning into reality. Oprah isn’t the only celebrity who has flirted with the idea of running for president — Kanye West, The Rock, Tom Hanks, and others have, too.
Perhaps part of the reason we’re willing to entertain celebrities as candidates is a feeling of desperation for anything — anything — other than our current political situation. But this also means that politics is becoming little more than a popularity contest. Although Oprah has proven through her work that she is intelligent and particularly has a significantly better understanding of issues like racism, sexism, and identity-related discrimination than does Trump, she also has no political experience. While we may trust Oprah’s voice as one of tolerance and morality, we haven’t asked whether or not that can or should equate to trust with issues relating to foreign affairs or nuclear codes. Support of Oprah indicates that Trump has created a new political standard in which we have collectively decided that being likable are qualifications for president.
We have to remember that until Trump, we expected presidents to have already had lengthy careers in politics and be well-versed in all political issues for a reason. They needed to have enough experience answering tough questions about things like the federal budget, terrorism and other complex national issues, in order to do what was best for a diverse country. Presidents needed to be measured decision makers in events of crisis, like war, tragedy, and natural disasters. In 2008, even then-candidate Barack Obama was criticized for being too young and unprepared to be president as a 47-year-old-senator.
Being able to use one’s popularity and platform to spread positive and hopeful political messages is commendable, but it doesn’t equate to being qualified to productively and successively run the country. It’s not Hollywood we should turn to for 2020 nominees, but political spaces where we can find actual politicians — the people who have dedicated their careers to studying and actively working toward bettering our nation. It is there that we will find people just as capable of being a beloved and respected president of the United States in 2020 — not the stage of the Golden Globes.
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