By all accounts, Oprah Winfrey gave a wonderful speech Sunday night while accepting a life achievement honor at the Golden Globe Awards. It was so good that plenty of people think she should run for president in 2020.
Let’s all take a deep breath, shall we? Don’t get on board the Oprah train just yet. Because if recent history has proven anything, it is that the country has had its fill of atypical presidents — and it might help if we got back in the habit of picking leaders who have had a little more experience in governing.
As Donald Trump is discovering now, and as Barack Obama discovered before him, this assignment to be the leader of the free world is a tough one. Things rarely go as planned.
Trump was a successful real estate developer and reality television star, but so far he has a decidedly mixed record as president. It is fair to say he is still learning on the job, but if he and other Republicans don’t quit stumbling over themselves, they will hand control of either the House or the Senate to Democrats this fall. That will effectively veto anything Trump wants to do.
Obama was a legislator in Illinois who shot to prominence with his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He got elected to the U.S. Senate that year and to the presidency four years later. After he and a Democratic-controlled Congress rushed through a well-intentioned but poorly conceived health care bill in 2010, the penalty from voters was severe. Republicans took over Congress in 2011 and the presidency six years later, and made sizable gains in many state capitols.
It’s unfair to blame all of our political ills on Trump and Obama. After all, their immediate predecessor, George W. Bush, had experience as governor of Texas, but that didn’t stop him from immersing the country in a costly war in Iraq.
And before him there was Bill Clinton — another former governor with experience at many things, some of them rather un-presidential.
Still, there is something to be said for experience. Before Trump, the last president without political experience was Dwight D. Eisenhower — and all he did was win World War II.
This is not an anti-Oprah, anti-female or anti-black opinion. Really, how incredible would it be to see a black woman born in Kosciusko, Miss., to a single mother become president?
The concerns are simply about governing experience. Oprah unfortunately has none of it. Do we really want more celebrity presidents? What would a President Winfrey do about North Korea? Health care? The budget?
Taxes? Russians? These are big issues that affect a lot of people. She can’t just give everybody a car, like she did one time on her show. She built her brand on being liked, but as president she would make somebody mad every single day.
Oprah reportedly is listening to her friends who say she would be a good Democratic candidate against Trump in 2020. Admittedly, any debates between those two would be exceptionally interesting. And the Democratic cupboard is kind of bare due to six years of Republican gains. That does create an opening if she truly wishes to run.
But does Winfrey, the richest black woman in America, really need to go through the boiling pot of national politics to make her life complete?
That just seems unlikely.
However, her Golden Globes speech did illustrate why so many people like her. She is upbeat about the future and encourages her fans to aim high.
She believes in the general goodness of people. She understands what it’s like to be poor. She does not belittle people. She cares.
In short, Oprah became successful by being nice. If experienced politicians who are thinking about 2020 watched her Sunday night, maybe they will apply a little of her optimism to their plans.
Jack Ryan is the publisher of the Enterprise-Journal in McComb.