Two weeks ago, Oprah Winfrey delivered a powerful speech calling for an end to a culture of sexual harassment and assault that has run rampant in Hollywood. So naturally the question must be asked: When will she announce her candidacy for the presidency?
It was inevitable that the election of Donald Trump would validate the political aspirations of all walks of celebrities. And as far as celebrities for president go, Oprah isn’t a bad option–her accomplishments aren’t only limited to being the world’s wealthiest black woman. Over the years, Oprah has gone from a talk show host to an icon, recognizable worldwide by only her first name. Her name is associated with compassion and social justice, which was only accentuated by her acceptance speech. She’s also very compatible with the platform and voter base of the Democratic Party, which has long enjoyed the support of the African American community. There is no question that Oprah would be a formidable candidate for the Democrats.
The more important question isn’t if she can, but if she should. Donald Trump has already established a precedent for public figures with no political experience to have a shot at the White House, but if that trend were to start and end with him, a case could be made that his election was a mistake that shouldn’t be repeated. But an endorsement of Oprah, who may not be as reckless as Trump has been as president, still shares the same fundamental problems as the election of Trump.
Like Trump, Oprah has no legislative experience, which so far has been the cause of a multitude of foreign policy gaffes, ranging from his accidental recognition of Taiwan and breaking the One China agreement, to providing Russia with classified Israeli intelligence. It wouldn’t be fair to say that Oprah would commit mistakes of that magnitude, but her lack of legislative experience would make her an ineffective president.
An Oprah candidacy would also result in an election cycle more concerned with celebrity than substance. Trump was elected not because of the thorough nature of his policies, but by turning the election into a mudslinging contest, trying to paint his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the worst possible light. A 2020 Oprah vs. Trump matchup would look very similar.
Even if Oprah turned out to be an excellent president, the precedent her presidency would set is dangerous. Suddenly, the idea of a Kanye West presidential run that seemed laughable in 2015 seems entirely legitimate in 2024. The floodgates would open for any actor or entertainer to take a shot at the most powerful office in the land, with access to the nuclear codes at their fingertips.
As enticing and captivating as an Oprah presidential run may be, her presidency would only serve to further transform the national election into a contest of popularity, not electability.