On Jan. 7, philanthropist and talk show host Oprah Winfrey took to the stage of the Golden Globes and delivered perhaps the most iconic speech in the award show’s history. Her words were certainly eloquent and empowering – but not, as most of the Internet has already labeled it, presidential.
The fact remains that Winfrey is not a politician and never will be. Her rhetorical prowess that night reflected decades of success in the entertainment industry, not political skill. And should she eventually concede to media pressure and announce a presidential bid, America will enter another era of crippling partisan polarization with dire consequences.
The thought of Oprah Winfrey as president in 2020 is a glamourous fantasy in contrast to our current administration, which is likely why it appeals to so many people. It’s true that Winfrey surpasses Donald Trump in everything from ethical soundness to command of the English language, but they both share something in common: utter lack of political experience.
Candidates for office should only be judged by their capabilities as a politician and leader in an increasingly complex political landscape. The world stage today is an intricate and dangerous system, and the United States is at the forefront of most political conversations. The only way a president will be able to handle leading the most powerful nation in the world in times like these is if they have had direct experience with everything from foreign policy to domestic economic issues. A good president in an era like ours, in addition to being compassionate, is necessarily a practical leader, hardened by experience, with a profound comprehension of every dimension of society and government.
Winfrey has never had to stand her ground on the Senate floor and face down dozens of livid political adversaries; she has never had to push for plausible and specific action across the world; she has never coordinated with intimidating world leaders who have the power to wipe out all known civilization. She has never been exposed to the many nuanced processes that compose the federal government, so she is not qualified to lead it.
According to a recent NPR poll, many people are drawn to Winfrey not only because of her personality, but because she would break the trend of white male presidents in office. This is not an unreasonable consideration, but there are other women of color in politics right now who are far more qualified to lead our nation.
Kamala Harris is an African-American, Indian-American senator from California with extensive experience as a district attorney, Attorney General of California and congresswoman. Her history of activism for prison reform, environmental justice and gun control has already made her a particular favorite for the 2020 election among African-Americans in California. And, according to USNews, she is already strongly considering throwing her hat in the ring when election season rolls around.
Harris has direct experience in the chaotic world of politics and would serve our nation better than Winfrey. She may not have the advantage of being a pop culture icon, but all she needs, as we saw in 2016, is one spark of media attention that will grow into a wildfire that will make her known as a Democratic candidate.
As a nation, we gave Trump the absurd amount of attention that let him win, and we are now witnessing the consequences of fueling that fire. Even disregarding his heinous morals, Trump’s political strategies have been divisive and dangerous, pushing us closer towards nuclear war and completely deconstructing the little order remaining in Washington DC. And yet, even after experiencing the damaging failures that incited by an unqualified president, Hollywood and the media are nudging another politically incompetent celebrity into the 2020 race. We can not afford to make the same mistake and allow media attention to concentrate around Oprah Winfrey instead of other capable politicians.
By Melanie Lust, Staff Writer