According to CNN Money, Sources: Oprah Winfrey “Actively Thinking” About Running for President. This is really bad news.
My concern isn’t that she wouldn’t win. I think she would have a very good chance of winning. My fear is that she wouldn’t be a very good president. I also have a more general consideration. Let me start with it.
Liberals Believe in Government
Liberals believe that our representatives should be professionals. It’s the conservatives who believe that you can grab any man (and I do mean man) off the street and make him president. Because governing is easy. All you have to do is go to Washington (or Sacramento, or wherever) and vote what you believe in. What could be easier?!
But liberals don’t think that. They know that governing isn’t just about having opinions. They understand that if you want to get anything done, you need to work at it. That’s why President Obama got a lot done and Trump came very close to getting nothing done his first year, and why he will likely get little done the rest of his term.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Had No Experience — And It Showed
My favorite example of this has always been Arnold Schwarzenegger. Unlike a lot of people, I know that Schwarzenegger is a smart guy. And when he became governor of California, he had a lot of ideas. He was no Donald Trump. He worked hard to learn the job. But being governor of California is really not something that can be learned in 4 years. So he accomplished very little, despite really trying.
When Schwarzenegger came up for re-election, his approval rating was in the high-20s. So the Republicans came up with someone else: Meg Whitman, who also had no experience. It wasn’t just that the GOP figured she could glide into office on her billions of dollars. Again: Republicans don’t think political experience matters. Had she won, she would have been as bad or worse than Schwarzenegger.
Jerry Brown to the Rescue
Of course, despite a mind-numbing number of television and internet ads, Whitman lost by 13 percentage points to Jerry Brown. He’s an interesting guy. He has spent his whole life in politics. He loves it and, more important, he understands it. After being a two-term governor, he went on to be quite a good mayor of Oakland — a small city in California. Most politicians wouldn’t do that. But he did because he loves politics.
And when he became governor, he was really good. He knew how the system worked. He knew the people. In short, he knew how to get things done — one thing most Republicans don’t care about at all.
Oprah for President?!
Now if Oprah Winfrey were going to run as a Republican, I would say, “Go for it!” She’s a television celebrity. She has a lot of money, which means she knows a lot of other people with money who will set-up super-PACs and all that. She wouldn’t need to know anything. She’d just have to be willing to sign the new tax cuts for the rich. So she’s a perfect Republican candidate except for:
- She’s black
- She’s a woman
- She’s smart
- She has a mind of her own.
But other than that, she would be great. That is to say, that Oprah would have a good chance of winning.
Oprah Has No Experience
Some might complain that Oprah does have experience because of her philanthropy and all the causes she’s been involved with. But our old friend Arnold Schwarzenegger had the same experience — in some ways better because he worked directly with presidents and other high-ranking government officials. (Maybe Oprah has too; I am no expert on her.)
But none of this is the same as being an elected official. It’s a skill. People learn it. The more they do it, the better they get.
Remember when Michael Jordan decided to become a baseball player? He managed to play on an AA team, which is impressive. But he was never going to make it to the majors, even though he was perhaps the greatest person to play a related game.
Even Obama made some serious errors his first two years in office, despite having lots of experience and being a genius in that field. I know it would be worse for Oprah.
On the plus side, I know that unlike Trump and like Obama, Oprah would take the job seriously. So Oprah becoming president would surround herself with actual experts and do at least a competent job as president.
On the negative side, I’m certain that she wouldn’t do a fantastic job as president. I would be particularly concerned with her surrounding herself with a bunch of Gates Foundation types. All those people thinking that Hillary Clinton was a neoliberal would start thinking of her as a socialist. That’s not a certainty, but smart inexperienced people tend to be impressed with those kinds of thinkers, even though there is really nothing more (and usually much less) backing up their ideas than those of more egalitarian thinkers.
This Is Not Who We Are
But the main thing is that Oprah (or Tom Hanks) running for President is not what we Democrats do. We value government enough to want a president who is prepared for it.
That means we look at people like Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown. This isn’t just about the individual. This is about our ideals.
By all accounts, Oprah Winfrey is a fine person. And if she became the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, I would vote for her. But she shouldn’t be our nominee for the reasons I’ve discussed. And I believe that Oprah Winfrey would agree.