Oprah delivered her first State of the Union address at the 2018 Golden Globes. She spoke of her humble beginnings in Milwaukee and the inspiration of seeing a Black man winning an Oscar. She spoke of the besieged press and its dedication to uncovering truth. And she spoke of the importance of listening to women when they speak their own truth on sexual assault.
If you had asked me before last year’s election whether a media mogul and billionaire without an ounce of political experience could, let alone should, be president, I would have laughed. Of course not. I came of age under President Obama, arguably the greatest technocratic president in modern American history, with an administration full of policy wonks who cared about the most minute details of policy and regulations. After President Obama, I would have loved to see an equally technocratic and savvy president: Clinton. I would have argued that we needed a president with the expertise to navigate the complicated political waters of Washington and the experience of knowing how to get progressive policies through Congress.
And yet, here we are, with the former host of The Apprentice.
The Trump Presidency is marred with eye-watering levels of ineptitude. This is not an administration of policy wonks and dedicated civil servants. This is not the Obama era, nor the future that Clinton’s campaign had promised. We now have a disinterested and inept president with an equally inept team.
Trump’s entertainment background isn’t to blame. We’ve had other presidents who have made the jump from green screens to the White House. President Ronald Reagan, the Kim Il-Sung of the Republican Party, was an actor, who happened to serve as governor of California. Yet, his presidency is defined as the gold standard for the GOP. A Republican’s career is ruined if he does not swear allegiance to the memory of President Reagan. Does leading the Screen Actors Guild prepare you for governorship or the presidency? Does it prepare you for destroying the lives of millions of gay men by limiting AIDS research during an epidemic? Does it prepare you for setting an economic policy agenda that led to massive income inequality?
Apparently, it does. And no one in the Republican Party batted an eye at the idea of President Gipper.
Perhaps we have reached a point in the development of the American presidency where expertise is no longer valued in our leadership. Perhaps we have reached a point where we need experts working behind-the-scenes while the president inspires Americans to do better, to be better. Perhaps we have reached a point where we need a spiritual leader and not a political one.
I believe we have reached this moment. And we have an option for a president who will care about progressive ideals and giving those who have no voice the opportunity to speak their truths.
The idea of President Oprah is not new. Shortly after Trump’s election, a flurry of speculations of Oprah Winfrey’s presidential aspirations hit the political Twitterverse. After Oprah’s Golden Globes speech, the rumors hit a tipping point.
Oprah’s odds of winning the presidency in 2020 jumped in political betting sites. In the last week alone, Oprah jumped from the back of the pack to second place. Bookies are putting an Oprah administration at an 8.5 percent shot, ahead of Mike Pence and liberal heavyweight Kamala Harris.
Trump has made it easier to imagine an America under Oprah’s leadership. We will have a president who supports gay rights, women’s rights, assault survivors’ rights, and the voices of so many other marginalized people in this country. We will have a president who knows what it’s like to experience systematic oppression and, in spite of the odds, achieve so much. We will have a president who reads.
I have faith that President Oprah will listen to expertise in a way that President Trump never has and respect the opinions of the policy wonks in the Democratic party. She will be listened to in the United Nations and lauded by American allies. Just picture President Oprah standing next to Prime Minister Trudeau for a photo op.
I sat there, listening to Oprah’s acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille award, and I accepted #Oprah2020.
Norman Rozenberg is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at @_nprtweets.
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