Oprah For President? (UPDATE)
[Note: An expanded version appears at The Huffington Post.]
While Trump bragged at his “bipartisan” tv-photo op on Tuesday that he would beat Oprah if she decided to run against him in 2020, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey conducted January 8-9 finds Oprah Winfrey the likely winner over President Trump if the 2020 election were held today: 48% of likely U.S. voters would opt for Winfrey, while 38% would choose Trump and 14% are undecided.
Fifty-five percent (55%) of all voters view Winfrey favorably, including 27% with a Very Favorable view of the longtime media personality and entrepreneur. That’s little changed from 2011 after Winfrey announced she was ending her TV talk show after 25 years on the air. Thirty-four percent (34%) share an unfavorable view of her, with 18% who have a Very Unfavorable one.
Rasmussen Reports: “Democrats hungry for a challenger with the firepower to match Trump’s in 2020 seized on Winfrey following her impassioned speech about sexual harassment at Sunday night’s Golden Globes ceremony.”
Read more below.
In an article bemoaning the political (“existential”) crisis our nation finds itself in, Hart Williams touches upon the widespread speculation that beloved and respected celebrity Oprah Winfrey might consider running for president in 2020, concluding, “So, would Oprah be a good presidential candidate? Aargh.”
Reacting to this, I commented that while I respect and admire Oprah and while she might make “a fine president,” I just don’t know enough about her and where she stands on important policy issues to make an informed judgment at this time.
Perhaps more important, I noted that the present occupant of the White House has set such a low bar, has lowered expectations so much, has made voters so desperate for “anyone but Trump” that the electorate may settle on anyone who is but slightly better than — or not quite as bad as — the character presently occupying the Oval Office.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that at least one other person shares my concerns.
In a piece at the Washington Post today, Anne Applebaum shares the affection and esteem millions of Americans have for Oprah Winfrey, “She’s a self-made billionaire…She’s a genuine philanthropist, with a real foundation…She unites people…[She] promotes positive emotions…”
But wait, I have omitted parts that put Oprah’s qualifications into full perspective. The entire quote is:
She’s a self-made billionaire, as opposed to one who inherited much of his money and business. She’s a genuine philanthropist, with a real foundation instead of one under a cloud. She unites people instead of dividing them, promotes positive emotions instead of hatred and fear, seems the perfect antidote to the sour, bigoted occupant of the White House.
But, Applebaum continues, “Nevertheless, the fact that anyone takes ‘Oprah for president’ seriously is yet another illustration of how degraded American democracy has become.”
While I would not be as harsh as Applebaum and could take an Oprah candidacy seriously, I must agree with some of Applebaum’s underlying concerns.
First, that the qualities it takes to get elected do not necessarily reflect the qualities required to be a successful president: “the chutzpah and sheer charisma that it takes to win and the knowledge and sheer experience it takes to shepherd legislation through Congress, negotiate with foreign leaders and build coalitions at home and abroad.”
Applebaum adds, “As for President Trump, his aggressive ignorance has led him to bungle not just his legislation but also his executive orders, the vast majority of which are superficial anyway.”
Second, and, in my opinion most important, that “Trump’s total lack of qualifications shouldn’t lower the bar.” Applebaum points out that in a constitutional democracy such as ours important changes necessarily happen slowly, “[t]he desire for an instant solution, the longing for an outsider to come and ‘fix’ things, is not just undemocratic; it’s also delusional, a form of magical thinking or perverted religious belief.”
Finally, that if an Oprah candidacy should be taken seriously, she should run for the Senate first, “learn what it takes to turn emotions into issues and issues into law…”
Our presidency is not a monarchy: The president is not just a national symbol, but rather a functioning, active part of the political process. Anyone who aspires to be president should be willing to take the time to understand that process. If they aren’t, then the American public shouldn’t be willing to take them seriously either.
Today Trump bragged that he would beat Oprah if she decided to run against him in 2020.
That would truly add insult to our national injury.
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