January 15, 2018
Thomas Peter John Penney
Original photo by: Bill Ebbesen

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a Point/Counter-Point piece on the possibility of an “Oprahfied” U.S. Presidential run in 2020. To read the counter-point, click here.

 

“She’d be a vast improvement over Trump!”

“Oprah is good and says very nice things.”

Don’t let the imposition of an unqualified outsider lower the standard for who our leaders should be. This is as plainly as I can put it – Oprah is not qualified to be president. Sure, she is extremely charismatic and yes, she seems to be a very good person. However, Oprah is a talk show host that has not been to the bank in 30 years. She is as disconnected from modern American reality as just about anyone.

 

This says nothing bad about America’s most successful woman. She has built a business empire, beginning as a talk show host and culminating in her being able to whatever the hell she wants. She made a Henrietta Lacks movie happen, which is an achievement in itself. She is worth well over a billion USD and commands influence all over the world.

 

What Oprah does not have is anything approximating policy experience, unlike many of the public servants who are beyond qualified to run the country. One thing we should have learned from 2017 is that, aside from the insane posturing over Twitter that Trump engages in, outsiders are not very good at doing anything when it comes to legislating.

 

Trump passed less legislation than any other president going back to Eisenhower in his first year, despite his big ideas and promises of making things great. With the Republicans largely in control of the congress, this says volumes about his inexperience in dealing with the inner workings of government. There is no reason to think Oprah, Dave Chappelle, Beyoncé, The Rock, or any other outsider who would be elected based on celebrity status would be able to navigate that any better.

 

Would Oprah be a more respected, well-spoken, less terrifying president? Of course. So would nearly anyone.

 

What we do when we anoint celebrities to these offices is diminish the importance of a career in law and policy making. It does a disservice to men and women who have toiled their lives as public servants. That discourages people from entering the field at all, lessening the talent pool and robbing us of great legislators that would have no reason to enter politics.

 

Oprah’s best chance at positively impacting the next presidential election is to throw the full weight of her support behind someone like Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren, or another woman well-versed in politics and policymaking. In our haste to support women in politics, let us not forget the women who are already in politics. Do not let the embarrassment of Trump’s presidency lower the standard.

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