Oprah, Please Don't Run for President

Oprah Winfrey accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards.
Oprah Winfrey accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards.

Dear Oprah,

You don’t know who I am and I don’t blame you for that. You’re like, Oprah, and are probably too busy getting tea with Shonda Rhimes and trading manicures with Michelle Obama to pay attention to some low profile opinion writer from The Huffington Post. But having grown up with you in my living room every afternoon until my freshman year of high school, I feel like I know you reasonably well. I saw you get your ears pierced. You gave away a bunch of Pontiac G6s like they were cookies before my eyes. My goal in life between the ages of ten and fourteen was to go to a taping of your annual Favorite Things show. To put it briefly, I am an Oprah devotee.

But, for the love of God, please don’t run for president. Please. You can’t see it but I’m actually begging you not to do it.

It’s not because I don’t think you could do it. In theory, you probably could. After a year of the Trump administration in which the Oval Office resembled the set of Survivor more than anything else, we know that governing - and I use that term very loosely - is possible even without a lick of experience. But possible does not mean practical, and does not even approach desirable. You are good at a great many things, including giving inspiring speeches that make people feel immensely empowered and choosing really good books for people to read. What you are not good at - and I say this because there is absolutely no evidence to the contrary - is any of the key components necessary for stable and effective leadership in government.

I know a lot of people who are charismatic, intelligent, and driven. None of them measure up to you. Your business acumen is almost godlike. But those things alone do not qualify you to serve as president. The man who currently sits in the White House falls far short of you in all of these measures, and what he has ushered in has been a year of unmitigated chaos. He passed one significant piece of legislation in an entire year, even with both houses of Congress on his side. He has the lowest approval ratings of any president at this point in office. He can’t even go two days without tweeting threats of nuclear war at North Korea. And while I am confident that you would not be pushing us into an arms race on your Twitter account, that is a terrifyingly low bar for fitness for office.

My point is, that as much as President Oprah Winfrey would be wonderful to see as a fan, it would not be so wonderful as a political scientist in the making. You have no foreign policy experience to speak up, apart from vacations and trips to Australia on planes flown by your BFF John Travolta. Your domestic policy experience is scant, unless you count identifying problems for policies to address as experience (admittedly a valuable skill, but significantly different from statecraft). You think Dr. Oz, a brilliant heart surgeon, is qualified to comment on and endorse diet supplements. You have never held public office or served in the military. In short, you have roughly the same political experience as our current president - and look how that’s worked out so far.

I know that it’s funny to joke about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson running for president, or to speculate about Mark Zuckerberg making a bid, but in truth this speculation is evidence of how broken our political system really is. Rather than focusing on policies and creating real, tangible solutions to pressing issues like climate change, unemployment, and foreign aggression, we conflate wealth and celebrity with readiness. Moreover, the push to get you to run is yet another example of white liberals assigning the role of the “magical Black woman” and expecting her to save us, when that shouldn’t always be the role of Black women and Black women as a whole have been doing that already and it’s time for white people to pick up some slack.

Oprah, I think you would make a great Cabinet secretary, special advisor, or even Vice President, depending on what your role was designed to be in those capacities. But we’ve had one television personality with no experience in governing take control of our government. And even though I believe you are more mentally capable than he is, I still don’t think you’re right for the job. That being said, I’m all for you being our country’s moral cheerleader. You’re excellent at that, and I know so many people appreciate the work you do there. Just maybe put your strengths elsewhere in 2020.

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