In the wake of Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes for her Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award on January 7, 2018, the political twitter-verse went a little bonkers predicting a possible presidential run.
After Trump’s surprising victory, I don’t think any of us can say that she’s unqualified for the role or even unelectable. But in many ways she has some of the same flaws that make the Trump presidency so problematic.
Oprah may be famous, but Trump has demonstrated that celebrity is a poor substitute for actual political skills. All recent presidents came to the job with larger political tool kits. Obama had been a US Senator. Both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were governors. The elder Bush had been Vice President. As we have seen in the chaotic first year of the Trump presidency, the Oval Office is perhaps not the ideal place for on-the-job training.
Wealth is also not a substitute for competence. If Americans believe the 2020 race is merely a contest between two vain billionaires, turn out could be just as disappointing as it was in 2016.
However, the contrasts between Oprah’s wealth and Trump’s could not be more stark. According to the latest estimates by Forbes, Oprah is worth $2.8 billion and Trump is worth $3.1 billion. The mere $300 million difference between the two is astonishing when one considers Oprah grew up “dirt poor” in rural Mississippi and was raised alternately by her single mother and grandmother. She did not have indoor plumbing. Compare that with Trump. His father was “one of the richest people in America in the 1970s” and Donald started out with a $1 million loan from his father, worth about $7 million today.
Normally I’d worry about the chances for a woman without a family running for office. But after the Trump family travails, being childless looks a lot more attractive. Oprah’s advantage in not having offspring is that she doesn’t have any children to run her campaign into the ground or…