Last Friday, May 3, when one of Bill Maher’s guests suggested Democrats needed “someone larger than the president” (not in waistline, in stature) Bill Maher said, “I’ll tell you who.” He then told a story about going to a party “way up in the Hollywood Hills,” where every guest had to valet park at the bottom of the hill and take a shuttle bus to the top. Many “A-listers” were resisting until someone said, “Oprah took the shuttle,” which led to everyone, without further protest, getting on the shuttle bus. Point made.
He went on to point out that she doesn’t scare people, she’s more popular than Hillary, and she’d certainly get the black vote. But, as another guest pointed out, she’s not running.
But what if she did?
Oprah’s speech at the Golden Globe Awards of 2018, where she received the Cecil B. DeMille award, was about equality, dignity and speaking your truth, with specific reference to women. That speech sparked calls for the former talk show host to run for president. Though that seems unlikely, let’s speculate, along with Bill Maher, why she would win if she did.
Bill said, “she doesn’t scare people,” but let’s add to that; she isn’t scared of anyone. What can Trump throw at her? He certainly can’t deride her lack of political experience, since he’s the goblin of mediocrity in that respect. Her non-political background is actually to her benefit. We won’t be hearing about mistakes and misjudgments (real or manufactured) made throughout a lengthy political career. Trump won’t be able to dig up meaningful dirt on her since she has already exhumed her past and shared it with us on national TV.
He would be at a loss to give her a nasty nickname. (Crooked Hillary, Low-Energy Jeb, Pocahontas Elizabeth, Little Marco, Crazy Biden). If he cast a single aspersion on any aspect of her physical appearance, intelligence, or heritage, he will suffer for it.
Oprah’s speech at the Golden Globes was the unchallenged highlight of the evening. There she was, an icon who was saying the words that had to be said, in a tone that resonated with strength, not rancor, and at a time when we most needed to hear them. To hear once again a well-spoken, knowledgeable orator, who told the unvarnished truth without rubbing us raw, was like drawing in a breath of fresh air and having it fill our deflated selves. Her speech was reminiscent of those of Barack Obama, who not only made sense, but made us think.
Some could say that we are just hungering for a well-spoken person to state things in a dignified manner. I often hear and read comments that lament the loss of a president who was thoughtful, intelligent, and articulate — and Oprah, true to her character, was certainly all of those things at the Golden Globe Awards.
The parallels between the two might lead to the conclusion that if anyone can do the job, it’s the woman who did as much as anyone to put Obama in office.
Oprah Winfrey bridged the divide between black and white, rich and poor, classy and trashy in this country for more than 25 years. She embodied the sentiment of Rudyard Kipling’s formula for success, foremost among them:
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings — nor lose the common touch…”
From residents of the ghettos to residents of Buckingham Palace, Oprah connected with all on a humanitarian level. More than that, her personal success dispelled a lot of racist and misogynistic misconceptions. As a black woman, she was able to achieve every goal she set out to achieve. She helped millions believe they could, too. She lifted us up. That’s what good leaders do.
“I’m Every Woman,” her theme song for years, induced women of every color and nationality to consider that, inside, we are in fact the same. Our skin color is different, but we harbor many of the same goals, dreams, challenges, disappointments, and the desire to better our lives. Oprah blurred the lines in the coloring book, so that we all bled out onto the same page, making a much more interesting and beautiful picture.
I have long believed, and told anyone who would listen, that without her helping us to see that blurred lines can result in a more beautiful picture, Barack Obama would not have been elected president.
She saw his potential and cultivated his image. She announced on her show, with an enthusiasm we got caught up in, that she was supporting him for “President of the United States!” She had been laying the groundwork for the acceptance of people of color in powerful positions, with her being the most worthy of not only our acceptance, but also our admiration.
So when she pushed Barack Obama’s face into our TV rooms, in living color, and said, “This man!” we believed in him also. She had convinced us over many years that anything was possible, so why couldn’t a black man be president?
We trusted her. We knew she was smart. We knew she overcame adversity and used steely will and determination to build an empire. We admired that she had a glamorous life, but was enormously philanthropic. And she accomplished all of this wearing black skin and having breasts. Oprah shut down our excuses for, “I can’t.”
And that’s what she did again at the Golden Globes. The worldwide reaction to her speech underscores how much power, sway and admiration she still holds in the world. We missed her, and we wanted to embrace her again.
Oprah also reminded us that graciousness, intelligence and strength are what we are deserving of in a leader. She looked and sounded like a leader because she is a leader, but she also knows that there are other really smart and capable people who can advise her, as they’ve done in her rise to wealth, fame and power; and she’s not an egomaniac who would ignore that advice.
Does that mean she would make a great president? Let’s ask ourselves: Do we really want someone who is not political in the sense that she knows how to work the gears in D.C.? Do we trust that she could be as brilliant in running the government as she has been in building and running her empire?
Most of all, would she earn our respect as president, just as she earned it as a mogul?
There are some parallels between her and our current president (ouch, quit throwing stuff, hear me out!) Both are well-known public figures, famous for different reasons, but still famous. Both have absolutely no governing experience. As far as wealth, Oprah’s is real and she can afford any lifestyle she wants. Trump’s wealth is…questionable, but he had access to an opulent lifestyle. So we have to wonder what would drive them to want the headaches that come with that office.
But it’s the divergence between Trump and Oprah that goes to the core of their characters that makes her a much better choice for president: Oprah wants to unite us; Trump wants to divide us. If Oprah were to run for that office, it might be because she sees a need to bring the country back together, and all that that includes and implies. That’s what she’s done throughout most of her remarkable life. She used the power of her platform to transform the racial, sexual and even the political landscape. She helped empower millions of women from every walk of life, and she knows that those women — because of powerful, misogynistic male politicians — are on the brink of losing their empowerment. She knows we’re sinking back into the quicksand of racism, and we need someone to pull us out before we’re pulled down so far into that gritty vortex that we can’t be rescued.
If Oprah can work her special magic in bringing us together again, then she would be an ideal president because that’s what we need here, now, again, more than anything else in this country — unity, inclusion, and acceptance of diversity. She may not have the political experience, but she has more people experience than possibly anyone on earth. And that’s what the governance of this country is meant to be: Governance of the people, by the people, for the people.
We want our welfare (a life in which we fare well — healthcare, clean air and water, living wages) to be the central consideration of the government; and in that respect, Oprah’s looking mighty good as being the person to give us what we want.
But President? Maybe so.