Looks like there’s quite the kerfuffle developing around the idea being proffered that Oprah should run for President. I’m reticent to wade into the mess — but it seems like such a interesting mess to get into!
It seems this discussion has been interpreted as both a debate about gender politics, and in some circles (namely Facebook, and other social media) an evolving discussion about Black male bashing of an icon of both media and Black womanhood. I’d like to hope that it’s neither but I’m going to swerve away from the discussion about the intra-racial implications of an Oprah candidacy.
I will only say the following:
We should not be starting our discussion of gender politics — politics, period — with celebrities who, as much as we may love them, don’t know how to govern or haven’t proven they do, let’s say.
If we’re going to talk, let’s talk qualified and ready-to-run, or very-close-to-ready-to-run women, such as California’s junior Senator, Kamala Harris. Enthusiam behind her candidacy helped to fuel the incredible voter turnout there, which led to an historic margin of victory for Hillary Clinton (Almost all of her margin in the popular vote could be accounted for in the California poll results.)
Or perhaps former FLOTUS Michelle Obama. Who could deny her academic and socio-political chops? She’s also on the record with extreme strong positions on both education, and care for veterans returning home from service to the country. She could quite legitimately follow a trajectory similar to Hillary — but there is the issue of “political dynasty” there, too. A plesant dilemma from my point of view but one that I’d be acting in a hypocritical fashion, in not highlighting.
Outside of those very obvious choices, how about Kirsten Gillibrand, the woman that took the vacated seat as New York State’s junior senator from the aforemetioned Hillary Clinton. She’s a fireband, and has staked out a strong position as an advocate of women, a key portion (and the largest by number) of the electorate. Then there’s Elizabeth Warren. She’s at the end of my list, because she may be too liberal to win a general election. She is, however, the ideological successor to Bernie Sanders and could garner even more support than he.
Then, on the second tier, there’s someone like Representative-Elect Val Demings from here in Florida. The 60-year-old, newly-elected representative from the 10th District here, is African-American, a former chief of police in Orlando, Florida, and a true rags-to-riches story, coming from a dirt-poor background, graduating from college, being a social worker, then cop, then chief of police. And she’s a progressive! Imagine that…a progressive with law enforcement and homeland security chops. She may not be ready just yet — she could be an outside option — but let’s have discussions involving those women.
Right now, I’m only interested in unseating Donald Trump. If we’re going to to do that let’s advance the cause with realistic options.
What this talk really highlights, aside from any misogynistic or racial overtones, is the paucity of viable options for 2020, a relatively shallow bench — and a lack of ideas on the Left, which is supremely disappointing. As a left-leaning independent, I am saddened that some are advocating taking the Trump page — running anyone, mostly on celebrity — from the “our”side. But I need more than that. The country needs more than. More than ever.
And I should note, Oprah hasn’t personally suggested that she even wants the job, though as recounted by the New York Times, she did retweet an article suggesting she was best option available to the the Left, so this whole conversation is mighty premature. To be sure, I’m directing my comments at those who are suggesting she run. I think the suggestion is ill-timed, at best. I’m not bashing Ms. Winfrey — she’s done quite a lot of good in her sphere of influence. I am, however, bashing the idea that she should run. We owe it to the nation to be more circumspect about who we ask to run.
Oprah is, in my opinion, a better king- (or queen-) maker than potential Chief Executive. There are other women who are ready to shoulder the burden, and should be given — no, quite frankly they have earned — that chance. Should the voices become louder, I hope Ms. Winfrey has her own Shermanesque moment* and demurs, politely.
*The term is American political-speak from a potential andidate indicating that he or she will not run for an elected position. It derives from a remark made by General William Tecumseh Sherman when he was being considered as a Republican candidate for president in 1884. He declined, saying, “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.”