Oprah Winfrey for President? Why Not?

The Cecil B. Demille Award is an hon-orary Golden Globe recognizing “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment,” first bestowed (upon its namesake filmmaker) in 1952. On January 7, Oprah Winfrey, the first Afri-can-American woman to receive the prize, accepted with a rousing speech that has fans calling for a 2020 presiden-tial run. CNN Money reports that friends say she’s “actively thinking” about it.
Just a few short years ago, the idea of a president without prior experience in political office was nearly unthinkable. Prior to 2016, the last major party nomi-nee, let alone president, with no political resume was Dwight D. Eisenhower, who, you may remember, whipped Hitler in World War Two.
And then came Donald Trump.
Like Oprah, The Donald is a billion-aire and a former television personality. It seems that being a sitting or former state governor or US Senator (or gen-eral) is no longer a requirement for the top slot in American politics (the only president ever elected from the House of Representatives was James Garfield in 1880).
Apart from what one might think of his actual tenure in office, it’s far from obvious that Trump is more qualified than Winfrey for the post.
He’s a billionaire. She’s a billionaire.
He inherited wealth generated by sweetheart government housing con-tracts and managed to parlay it into larger wealth by leveraging political fa-vors and massive debt, fleeing his fail-ures the bankruptcy wolves neared their doors.
She’s the child of a poor single moth-er in Mississippi who turned her high school radio gig into Chicago’s, then America’s, top-rated talk show and suc-cessful careers in writing, publishing acting, and film production. She became the richest African-American of the 20th century and the world’s first black fe-male billionaire in the world.
Prior to Trump’s presidential cam-paign, there’s little doubt which of the two was more politically influential. Trump occasionally addressed politics with off-hand one-liners and feints to-ward running for office, fairly obviously as a way of building his personal busi-ness brand recognition rather than as a serious approach to issues or policy.
Winfrey, on the other hand, con-sciously spent decades establishing her-self as an opinion leader on issues rang-ing from acceptance of LGBTQ Ameri-cans to the US invasion of Iraq to animal cruelty. She turned out tens of thou-sands of rally attendees — and likely hundreds of thousands of voters — for Barack Obama in 2008, probably making possible his victory over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries.
She also enjoys an advantage in the Democratic Party to the extent that she doesn’t seem to have dragged herself and others through the mud in the 2016 party in-fighting. She’s likely more pop-ular at the party’s center than Hillary Clinton, and nearly as popular as Bernie Sanders on all but its furthest left fring-es.
In my opinion, Oprah would beat The Donald like a drum in a presidential con-test. I disagree with both of them on too many issues to vote for either one, but I relish a contest to which representatives of the failed political establishment aren’t invited.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journal-ism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.