The media and the Democrats, it seems, have come with a brand new idea to topple President Trump from the Oval Office: they’ll find an inexperienced billionaire reality television star to run for president. Her name is Oprah.
And no, this isn’t a joke.
The rumor mill has been working overtime over the past 18 hours, ever since Winfrey gave a much-ballyhooed speech about the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes — an act of political bravery unrivalled since at least Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Reese Witherspoon went so far as to compare Oprah to Jesus in the pantheon of importance:
So, Oprah for president? NBC thinks so:
Now, reporters say that Oprah is actively thinking about a presidential run. And why not?
So, here are the best talking points for Oprah:
1. She’s The Most Famous Woman In World History. Literally everybody knows who Oprah is. There’s a reason she’s known as “The Queen of All Media.” She runs a multi-billion-dollar empire. And even Trump has praised her:
2. She’s A Uniter, Not A Divider. While Trump’s stock in trade is firing people and getting tough, Oprah’s is uniting people and being sensitive. Oprah even got flack from her own side when, in 2016, she suggested that far-leftists calm down about Trump’s election. Oprah’s entire brand is soft-spoken emotionalism; Trump’s is hard-charging bull-in-the-china-shop brusqueness. And Trump is historically unpopular by early presidential standards, with high personal negatives. Oprah, by contrast, has some of the highest personal positives in all of American history. There’s little doubt that a Trump-Oprah 2020 matchup would have the widest gender gap in American history.
3. She Has A Terrific Personal Story. She was born dirt-poor in Mississippi to a single mother and raised in inner-city Milwaukee; she was molested as a child and was pregnant at 14. She got into radio at 19, and she was eventually moved to daytime talk. The rest is history. She’s now worth nearly $3 billion. And her charitable giving is legendary.
4. She Checks The Left’s Intersectionality Boxes, But Has Crossover Appeal. She’s black and she’s a woman, and what’s more, she speaks openly about her status as a black woman, as she did at the Golden Globes. But she has obvious crossover appeal, too: white women love Oprah.
5. She Polls Well. As of March 2017, Oprah had a 49/33 favorable rating, and led Trump 47-40 in the polls.
So, here are the drawbacks.
1. She’s Wildly Inexperienced. This talking point is likely to have little credibility after Trump’s election — she obviously has the same amount of experience Trump had when he was running, and her business empire was built on her own back, not on the basis of her parents’ wealth.
2. She’s Far-Left. Nobody wants to talk about this inconvenient fact, but it happens to be true: Oprah is far to the left. She endorsed Obama in the 2008 primaries and may have shifted hundreds of thousands of votes his way. She used her show as a platform to rip the Iraq War (which won’t hurt her); she traveled to Denmark in 2009 to praise socialism; she has compared Trayvon Martin to Emmitt Till, and even her Golden Globes speech was filled with vacuous comparisons between the status of women today and the status of black women in 1944 Alabama; she’s a pro-choice advocate. Nobody thinks of Oprah as political, but she’d be hard-pressed not to get political in a presidential race.
3. She’s Humored Conspiracy Theories. From Jenny McCarthy on vaccines to the New Age silliness of The Secret, from initially defending fraudster James Frey to pushing nonsense about the meat industry, Oprah hasn’t exactly been shy about promoting untruth. Of course, she’s running against Trump, so that attack line may not work — but then again, she’s widely perceived to be honest, and more exposure to her various shortcomings will hurt her more than they hurt Trump.
4. There Will Be Scandals That Hit Her. Her most obvious scandal springs from South Africa, where her school, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy School For Girls near Johannesburg, was hit with two separate serious sex scandals in two years. In 2009, a series of students sexually abused other students; the year before, a matron allegedly sexually abused 15 girls. Winfrey stated, “This has been one of the most devastating experiences, if not the most devastating experience, of my life.” She fought back by firing the headmistress and all matrons, and giving the girls her cellphone number. But scandals hit presidential candidates a lot harder than talk show hosts. She's spent years in Hollywood; it's doubtful there's no dirt on her. And unlike Trump, her image is nearly squeaky-clean.
5. Schoolmarming Doesn’t Tend To Work Against Trump. Hillary Clinton tried to defeat Trump by talking about how wildly inappropriate and immature he was. That obviously failed. It could work better for Oprah, who could look more like a moral voice than a lecturing substitute teacher, but it’s possible that Trump is immune to such angles.
It’s not clear that Oprah would lose to Trump in 2020. But it’s far from certain she’d win, either, especially given Hollywood and the media — both of which would rally en masse for Oprah, and both of which tend to draw opposition far more than love from the general population.