Progressives loved Oprah Winfrey's speech Sunday night at the Golden Globes award ceremony, calling it "rousing," "extraordinary," and "inspiring." But the idea that Oprah should run for president? "Bonkers." "Hollow." "A bad liberal revenge fantasy."
"Billionaires cannot be trusted and we should not clamor to elect them, even if they're Oprah."
—Katherine Krueger, Splinter News
The notion that Oprah, a widely beloved celebrity billionaire, would be the perfect foil to President Donald Trump, a widely hated celebrity billionaire, has quickly gained traction among pundits and Democratic donors. On Twitter, #Oprah2020 spread rapidly almost as soon as her speech came to a close. NBC News tweeted (then deleted) a description of Oprah endorsed by a number of high-profile commentators: "our future president."
For many progressives, though, a news cycle filled with rapturous calls for a billionaire with no political experience to run for America's highest office was a troubling indication that Democratic partisans are "taking all the worst lessons from Trump's victory."
While noting there is little doubt that an Oprah presidency would be superior to a Trump presidency, Katherine Krueger of Splinter News wrote that she "can think of very few ways to make our current process of selecting a president more dystopian than watching your side's chosen ultra-rich person duke it out—on television, of course—to be crowned, er, elected, to running our country."
"Billionaires cannot be trusted and we should not clamor to elect them, even if they're Oprah," Krueger concluded.
The Intercept's Medhi Hasan echoed the assessment of Oprah as preferable to Trump "in every imaginable way"—but that "is a low, low bar," he quickly added.
"Is this really what most Americans want or what the United States government needs?" Hasan goes on to ask. "Another clueless celebrity in possession of the nuclear codes? Another billionaire mogul who doesn't like paying taxes in charge of the economy? And how would it be anything other than sheer hypocrisy for Democrats to offer an unqualified, inexperienced presidential candidate to the American electorate in 2020, given all that they said about Trump in 2016?"
Oprah, for her part, has not publicly expressed any desire to join the potentially crowded 2020 presidential field. While some claimed that she is "actively thinking" about mounting a run for office, Oprah herself denied having any presidential aspirations in an interview with Bloomberg.
"Liberals who think their program will prevail because of the nobility of their character have had the run of the Democratic Party long enough."
—Ashley Feinberg, Huffington Post
The fact that the "Oprah 2020" sensation is likely to continue regardless is an indication of just how far removed many pundits and political figures are from the crises confronting the U.S. and the rest of the world, argued Slate's Osita Nwanevu.
"Close your eyes and picture an ideal president. Someone capable of seriously engaging with...all of the challenges the 21st century will require us to face: inequality and economic stagnation for the vast majority of Americans, a healthcare system that still fails millions, and all the rest," Nwanevu writes. "Who have you pictured? Is it Oprah Winfrey? Is it really?"
Characterizing the Oprah 2020 phenomenon as cheap and anti-political, the Huffington Post's Ashley Feinberg concluded that the answer to Trump "isn't to elevate an aristocracy of celebrity right-mindedness, with Oprah or Tom Hanks ordering drone strikes with only the purest of intentions."
"The answer is to elevate politicians who do the politics better than the other guys," Feinberg writes. "Liberals who think their program will prevail because of the nobility of their character have had the run of the Democratic Party long enough. Time's up on them, too."