First, let’s get one thing out of the way: I will always want a president who is above all experienced in and knowledgeable of governing (both at a high level and the everyday minutiae), but also familiar with international history and politics, and empathetic of the challenges facing the poorest and least advantaged Americans. (For a sample resume of an ideal candidate, see Hillary Clinton.)
That said, I had a lot of thoughts in response both to the suggestion that Oprah may run for president and to the reaction other people had to the suggestion that Oprah may run for president. Here are the most prominent of these thoughts:
- We’ve made such villains of the people who choose to make a career out of government work that the public at large thinks “non-politicians” are the only good options. This is a source of continual frustration to me.
- I will not automatically start raising objections to the path to the presidency (i.e. celebrity) that an unfit buffoon took just because now a much more accomplished, smarter and more emotionally competent woman of color is suddenly interested in following that same path.
- All “celebrities” are not created equal: Trump inherited his wealth, company and position and is a testament to just how idiot-proof white privilege is. Oprah, meanwhile, was born the daughter of a poor teen mother in Mississippi. That she is Oprah today is a testament to her hard work and intelligence. To equate these two people because they are both “celebrities” is like saying a lifelong minor league outfielder and Hank Aaron are the same because they were both professional baseball players.
- College educated people voted for Trump despite the fact he was unfit and unqualified because their dislike of him was less important to them than their support of their party’s platform and their hatred of Hillary Clinton, and it feels naive to dismiss any candidate in an era of presidential politics in which qualifications matter less than the letter next to your name. Many dismissed the Trump candidacy and look what happened.
- The candidate we need and the candidate who can win are rarely one and the same. (Barack Obama is the only person in my life who was both). The sheer amount of money required to run narrows the candidate pool considerably to people with considerable resources. This sad fact is at the root of so much of what’s wrong today.
- If, on Election Day in the year 2020, it’s Oprah against the man currently holding the office he has no business being in, I will proudly vote for the self-made black woman who pulled herself up by her bootstraps and now runs a wildly successful, inclusive media empire and feel no particular shame in doing so. Certainly, I feel much more shame now.