After electing a bombastic reality television host and businessman as president of the United States, could President Oprah Winfrey be next?
The Internet has exploded over the past few days with news from an interview Winfrey did with Bloomberg TV's David Rubenstein. When it was noted that you don't need political experience to become president, Winfrey's response aroused curiosity:
“I thought, ‘Oh gee, I don’t have the experience, I don’t know enough.’ And now I’m thinking, ‘Oh.'”
Some people have been outright dismissive of the idea that another celebrity could become the most powerful person in the world. But I think it could be a great idea.
A president has to be resilient, diplomatic, compassionate, intelligent and popular. Winfrey has all of these characteristics in an overwhelming quantity.
Growing up, she was once so poor that she wore potato sacks for clothing and had pet cockroaches. As she got older, she was sexually assaulted by a series of family members. The trauma that she experienced throughout her childhood was awful. Yet somehow she managed to fight past those awful experiences and become one of the richest women in the U.S. Winfrey's whole life has shown she is resilient.
On her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, she regularly delved into serious topics with guests, unafraid to try and shatter societal taboos. People felt comfortable enough to share some of their most deeply held feelings with her. She would push when necessary and step back when she felt she was going too far. That's what diplomacy is all about — the ability to deal with people sensibly and effectively.
When it comes to compassion, Winfrey obviously has bucketloads. As Politico notes, she lobbied for a piece of legislation that created a national database of child abusers. She used her own experiences to help others. Donald Trump doesn't have a signature law!
Winfrey has also impacted the publishing industry in a spectacular way. Virtually every book she has chosen for her influential book club shoots up in sales, with hundreds of thousands of copies flying off shelves. There's also evidence that Winfrey has encouraged more Americans to read than would have otherwise. Intelligence is a hard one to quantify, but her business acumen combined with love of reading suggests brainpower.
The last piece of the puzzle to be president? Popularity. Most polls suggest that a strong majority of the U.S. has a favourable view of her, with only about 20 per cent seeing her unfavourably. Even at her most political — when she endorsed Barack Obama in 2007 — Republicans still liked her. Speaking of her endorsement, economists estimated Winfrey delivered Obama over a million votes!
Some people dismiss Winfrey for her occasionally fluffy demeanour and her personal openness, but that's largely irrelevant. After electing Trump president, I think Americans and the world would benefit by having a president who isn't afraid to be sensitive.
Even though Winfrey thought she didn't have the qualifications, I think she's always had the key traits that would make a good president — even compared against many politicians. Sure, she might not know policy nuances on some issues, but I'm willing to bet she's a quick study.
So when the 2020 presidential election comes along, I'm with her.