What began in jocular spirit at this year’s Golden Globe Awards, with host Seth Meyers’ sarcastically calling Oprah unfit for presidency, has gained considerable, genuine traction with the public. Meyers’ remarks came in response to his 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner gig where some have speculated that his joke about Donald Trump being unqualified for president spurred Trump’s interest in a legitimate campaign run.
As Oprah was present to receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award, Meyers seized his opportunity saying, “Some have said that night convinced [Trump] to run. So, if that’s true, I just want to say: Oprah, you will never be president! You do not have what it takes. And Hanks! Where’s Hanks? You will never be vice president. You are too mean and unrelatable. Now we just wait and see.”
Trump and Ms. Winfrey have a surprising past. In an interview nearly 20 years ago on CNN's "Larry King Live," Trump mused about running for president. King asked "Do have a vice presidential candidate in mind?" To which Trump replied, "Oprah. I love Oprah. Oprah would always be my first choice." Trump had nothing but great things to say about his fellow competitor in the entertainment industry calling her “popular,” “brillant” and “a wonderful woman.”
This would have been readily dismissed as purely a comedic act had rumors not emerged of her expressing actual, albeit tentative, interest in a 2020 campaign. A CNN report citing two anonymous individuals said that confidants close to Oprah have been urging her to run in 2020. While Oprah herself has yet to issue any public statements on the matter, that hasn’t stopped people from hashtagging, posting and hypothesizing about the possibilities.
What is especially concerning to many is the lack of information available about Oprah’s views on specific political issues, and, despite this seemingly crucial deficit of knowledge, the massive amount of support she has garnered in just a couple weeks. Based on her past endorsements of Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Clinton in 2016, we can deduce that she would almost certainly fall on the left side of the debate, but that’s like reading the synopsis of a book and assuming you’ve understood the whole story, only to nominate it for a Pulitzer Prize.
We have increasingly constructed this cult of personality around our politicians where the issues have almost nothing to do with who gets elected. The idolatry of politicians and celebrities alike is a foreboding trend which fundamentally stems from our inability to accept that we might be wrong, that it is a battle of “us” versus “them,” that we must so vehemently defend ourselves against perceived opposition. It will inevitably be our own hubris that ruin us.
It is difficult to say anything for certain, but this is nonetheless an important event because it speaks to the climate of our nation at this moment in history. In an era of identity politics, many in the democratic circle have so enthusiastically rallied behind the idea of Oprah’s potential political career directly in response to Trump’s time in office thus far. Not to say that her campaign prospects are any less legitimate than Trump’s, but it should seem beneficial that we collectively learn from what has gone wrong and, equally but less enumerable in its examples, what has gone right since the last election before we are too eager to hop on any bandwagon.
Mitchell Clark is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.