A politician for president

Even though 2020 is still two years away, people are beginning to latch onto the idea of an Oprah candidacy. However, in the midst of Donald Trump’s presidency, this columnist wonders – do we really want another celebrity as president?


Leah Dusterhoft

Trump spoke at a rally in 2016 in Cedar Rapids.

After Oprah Winfrey’s rousing speech at the Golden Globes, I saw the words “Oprah 2020” over and over on my Twitter feed. The idea of an Oprah presidency seemed good at first glance (will she still hand out cars, or is that against the rules?). However, a more thorough analysis of our political system makes me doubt the validity of an Oprah presidency. After all, if you had asked me before the 2016 election how I felt about a celebrity running for office, my answer would have been wholeheartedly negative.

Donald Trump’s presidency has left many unhappy citizens scrambling for anyone who would make a better president than Trump himself. We have found this person in many forms, whether in Kanye West, Dwayne Johnson and now Oprah.  Even though Oprah has told InStyle Magazine she will not be running for president in 2020, fans are still actively promoting an Oprah presidency, which is scary to me. Even scarier is the fact that political analyst Shaun King believes that Oprah is one of four possible candidates that could beat Trump, alongside Michelle Obama, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

However, there are a myriad of reasons I can’t see an Oprah candidacy turning out well. Sure, I am one of the many woman who listened to her “Me Too” speech and shed a tear (okay, many tears) but there is more to being president than giving a simple speech. Oprah has spent her entire career learning how to connect with audiences and perform for the camera. Yet, a potential presidential candidate should not be judged simply by their ability to give a great State of the Union address. Her ability to govern is much more important. Oprah lacks knowledge on foreign policy, tax code, bipartisan compromise and every other important responsibility of a politician. Furthermore, she has virtually never defined her political platform, leaving American’s in the dark on what an Oprah presidency would look like.

In the case of our government, the American people should start looking for a qualified politician and stop looking for a best friend.”

But it seems people can look past Oprah’s glaring political flaws simply because of the personality she exudes to the public. Personality politics are almost impossible to avoid; as human beings, we look for traits in a leader we want for ourselves. We want someone charming and funny;someone who can relate to the people, yet be brutally honest. Yet, personality cannot be the only thing that makes us dedicate our political allegiance to a candidate. The issue with personality politics is that it doesn’t always identify quality policy makers, which is what America desperately needs.Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan are prime examples of presidents whose campaigns centered around personality politics; however, all three of these former presidents still had significant political experience under their belt, making them successful political candidates. Oprah has no such record or experience, so even though she is undoubtedly one of the coolest people alive, we need to look past that in order to see her potential flaws as a candidate, such as her silence over hot-button issues such as healthcare and education. An Oprah candidacy panders to poorly educated voters, and we cannot ourselves fall victim to the idealized fantasy of President Oprah. In the case of our government, the American people should start looking for a qualified politician and stop looking for a best friend.

Moreover, there’s something inherently negative about the American attitude towards politicians. Due to a slew of scandals that have followed American politicians since way back in 1776, America has grown to generally distrust government officials over time. At this point, we’re completely biased against anyone who’s considered an “establishment pick.” We’ve been conditioned to see politicians as corrupt, establishment liars who are too entrenched in big business or Wall Street or God knows what else to actually create change. This toxic mindset is what is pushing America towards Oprah and other celebrity candidates, and it is exactly what pushed America towards Donald Trump. I understand the desire to pull away from mainstream politicians and head straight into Oprah’s welcoming arms, but I think we all need to take a step back and evaluate our options. There are plenty of qualified, well-spoken Democratic politicians who are ready to take on the enigma of a candidate that is Donald Trump in 2020 – Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden, just to name a few. Just because we’ve been burned by politicians in the past doesn’t mean we should let an anti-politician have free reign in the White House once more.

I hope the American people can realize that and rally behind a qualified Democratic candidate, before our country becomes the laughing stock of the entire world once again.”

I don’t want to have to make a decision between Trump and Oprah. I want to be able to vote and see at least one qualified politician on the ballot. I want to be confident in my decision, and I want to be confident that whoever leads us will be competent and prepared to take office. I can’t see Oprah being that person. If Trump has taught me anything, it’s that celebrities are unfit to be in office. An Oprah presidency would once again normalize the extreme personality politics that have recently plagued our nation and further cement the trend of unqualified people holding political office. I hope the American people can realize that and rally behind a qualified Democratic candidate, before our country becomes the laughing stock of the entire world once again. Oprah, if you’re reading this, I’m begging you – please don’t run.

Emma Brustkern can be reached at [email protected]