No, Oprah is not going to be a viable Democratic candidate


In some ways, they’re perfectly good representatives of the yin and yang of our two political parties. Donald Trump: xenophobic, angry, crude, white male. Oprah Winfrey: kind, sympathetic, open, black female. They’re almost caricatures of the right and left. All they need to do is open their mouths in a public forum and stand there like the apotheosis of their representative parties, and people start clamoring to make them our real political leaders.

In the case of Trump, they succeeded, with disastrous results. In the case of Winfrey…most of what I’m seeing is rejection. We’re supposed to be the reality-based community, and Winfrey is missing that one critical aspect that would make her a true avatar of the political left: she stands for fantasy and quackery and feel-good pseudoscience.

…the big qualm I have about the prospect of a President Winfrey: Perhaps more than any other single American, she is responsible for giving national platforms and legitimacy to all sorts of magical thinking, from pseudoscientific to purely mystical, fantasies about extraterrestrials, paranormal experience, satanic cults, and more. The various fantasies she has promoted on all her media platforms—her daily TV show with its 12 million devoted viewers, her magazine, her website, her cable channel—aren’t as dangerous as Donald Trump’s mainstreaming of false conspiracy theories, but for three decades she has had a major role in encouraging Americans to abandon reason and science in favor of the wishful and imaginary.

Remember the Secret, the Law of Attraction? She was big on promoting that. How about the legacy of Dr Oz, Dr Phil, Deepak Chopra, and Jenny McCarthy? We now hear all the time about witch-hunts and moral panics, but it was Oprah Winfrey who enabled this nonsense.

As I say, she is an ecumenical promoter of fantasies. Remember the satanic panic, the mass hysteria during the 1980s and early ’90s about satanists abusing and murdering children that resulted in the wrongful convictions of dozens of people who collectively spent hundreds of years incarcerated? Multiple Oprah episodes featured the celebrity “victims” who got that fantasy going.

Pizzagate is the logical descendant of her shows that featured people claiming there Jewish satanic rituals in which babies were sacrificed — and she didn’t show a scrap of skepticism.

I am constantly being told that Winfrey is going to be groomed for the presidency, that Democrats are just as superficial as Republicans. I don’t believe that for a moment. But if the worst case scenario happened, and we had a 2020 presidential election to decide between Trump (isn’t he going to be impeached before then?) and Winfrey, it would be the end of the American experiment and the complete failure of democracy.

Comments

  1. rodw says

    . But if the worst case scenario happened, and we had a 2020 presidential election to decide between Trump (isn’t he going to be impeached before then?) and Winfrey, it would be the end of the American experiment and the complete failure of democracy

    I’m inclined to think the American experiment has already failed but perhaps we can view the election of Trump as an aberration and a wake up call to get things right. But if dems pick an incompetent person to run against Trump it will be over. The US will no longer be a nation. It will be a bunch of competing racial, ethnic and religious factions living in the same geographical space.
    The pundits I watch on MSNBC are completely at a loss to explain why Trump and the Reps love the Russians so much but I think its obvious. The Russians are white, and Russia will remain white even after Europe and the US have transformed to majority non-white countries. The republicans have more allegiance to Russia – our enemy for decades- simply because they are white, than they do to their fellow Americans of a different race.
    Rachel Maddow, Mathews, O’Donnell etc go on and on about how scarily incompetent Trump is. But hes still just one man and we’ll be rid of him eventually. The ~50% of the voting public that elected him aren’t going anywhere and they get to vote in the next election. I don’t have much hope for the future.

  2. blf says

    If it’s between Trump and Winfrey, can we finally have a third-party?

    Name one that is, or will be, viable in 2020. There are plenty of third parties already, some are even perhaps plausible, but other than in a few local areas, none are viable, perhaps especially at a national level. E.g., admittedly without bothering to check the numbers, there are currently very very probably more independents (“no” party) in Congress than the combined number of third-party critters.

    This is not a good situation. So improve it. Two suggestions, starting with this year’s mid-term elections: (1) Not (re-)electing any thugs to any office; and (2) Replacing some of the ousted thugs† with third-parties or independents. If the number of such replacements is adequate (let’s just pull a number out of a hat here and say 5% (a typical(?) threshold used in some other countries), then the viability problem can be readdressed.

      † For those who don’t know the code, thug, from “rethugliecan”, means Republican. Similarly, dummie means Democrat.

  3. robro says

    laurian @ #3

    Oprah has a great life. She’s too smart to fuck that up.

    Does she? Or does she just have a great brand? Perhaps she would decide to run for the same reason The Donald ran…enhancing her brand.

    I hope she’s smart enough not to run. There are lots of potential candidates with experience in politics, some of them are black, quite a few of them are women. She could throw her support behind someone like that.

  4. dali70 says

    Our future elections will come down a Kardashian vs. a Duggar or some other “reality” celebrity idiots. Welcome to the Idiocracy.

  5. Dunc says

    I’m inclined to think the American experiment has already failed but perhaps we can view the election of Trump as an aberration and a wake up call to get things right.

    People said that about Reagan.

  6. vole says

    Democracy has failed before. Back in the thirties, the Germans elected Hitler. Let’s hope the current aberration in the US doesn’t need a world war to fix it.

  7. HidariMak says

    The Democrats don’t even need Oprah though. Elizabeth Warren would likely do well if she were to decide to run for the 2020 presidency. (Hillary probably would have won if she had Warren on the VP ticket rather than Tim Cain.) Corey Booker is another Democrat who has a shot. After the Republicans had a “President famous TV person” heading up their party, it’s time for the Democratic party to prove themselves to be better.

  8. says

    “that Democrats are just as superficial as Republicans. I don’t believe that for a moment.”

    Oh, I am very sorry to say I believe they really are.

    People believe “putting it out there in the universe” more than progressive talking points. I have had more ghost, illuminati, salt crystal conversation with democrat voters then philosophy, science or economics.

    To them, Oprah is a successful woman who is in important movies, has a magazine they heard about, and gave everyone cars once.

  9. says

    “(Hillary probably would have won if she had Warren on the VP ticket rather than Tim Cain”

    I thought the same thing when he was chosen. It should have been warren. But, no, Hillary decided to be even more generic than she already was.

  10. Zeppelin says

    @vole: Nitpick — Hitler came to power in a democracy, yes, but he wasn’t elected. He was offered the post of Chancellor, after the previous one had stepped down, by conservative ministers who wanted to use the Nazis to stay in power and stave off a left-wing uprising. He then led an internal coup of the NSDAP and the government. Still a failure of democracy in that he was elevated to power by elected officials, but a different sort.

  11. Raucous Indignation says

    The hoi polloi at Daily Kos have largely rejected her as a legitimate candidate. I’m not sure who you’re talking to or listening to, PZ.

  12. Rich Woods says

    @rodw #2:

    but I think its obvious. The Russians are white, and Russia will remain white even after Europe and the US have transformed to majority non-white countries.

    I don’t think that’s the reason at all. I think Trump admires Putin because he can do whatever he wants: he’s tsar in all but name, with 70% of Russians in favour of strong leadership regardless of how it comes about. And the wealthy Republican love the oligarchs because they too want to be able to strip-mine the country and make billions from it, bypassing the law whenever it suits them just as long as they do what the tsar says on the few occasions he feels the need to throw a bone to the little people.

  13. kural says

    Paul, thou does protest too much. After going gaga over the Globefest, and yet another banal speech, you don’t want Oprah now?

  14. birgerjohansson says

    I do not care who you Mercuns run against the Morlocks in 2020, as long as he/she is somewhat competent and has a good chance to win.

    For chrissake, DT just boasted about selling a fictional aircraft to Norway; the “F-52” fighter from “Call of Duty”!
    Stop him from destroying the world! I don’t care who you pick, just stop him!

  15. blf says

    Oprah Winfrey is less popular among Democrats than Joe Biden, poll says:

    […]
    Oprah Winfrey is less popular among Democrats than Joe Biden, a new poll looking ahead to the 2020 election reveals.

    And the TV star […] would be beaten by both Biden and Bernie Sanders in a four-way Democratic primary that also included Elizabeth Warren, the RABA Research survey says.

    In the poll of 345 registered Democrats about the 2020 election, the former vice-president was better liked than any of his most prominent potential competitors. RABA interviewed the Democratic voters between 10 and 11 January via an online survey. The margin of error was five points.

    […] Biden was the most popular, winning 26% of the vote in a four-way race. Sanders was at 21%, Winfrey at 20% and Warren at 18%.

    […]

  16. says

    @rietpluim

    Trump was elected. The system that allowed it might be unfair and have countermajoritarian measure but it’s still a form of electoral politics.

    The American experiment (and democracy) has failed.

  17. lpetrich says

    Here’s a big problem with third parties: Duverger’s law. Sociologist Maurice Duverger noted that the spoiler effect causes convergence on two parties. So if Oprah Winfrey wins the nomination, we’ll be stuck with voting for her as the lesser of the two major evils. I despise her promotion of pseudoscience and quackery, but at least she isn’t an asshole as Donald Trump has shown himself to be.

    Maurice Duverger also noted that other electoral systems are more friendly to multiple parties. Proportional representation is very multiparty-friendly, to the point that many nations have some threshold for getting into their legislatures. So why can’t we Americans have proportional representation? We can get it for the House of Representatives by changing electoral laws, and likewise for state legislatures.

  18. lpetrich says

    There is an alternative. Get involved in the primaries. One will often have much more choice of candidates, and much more chance of finding one worth backing. That’s the big problem with the Left — those in it often seem to think that the Presidency is the only position worth paying attention to.

  19. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I lost any thought of not being being able to vote for a black woman when I saw Barbara Jordan on 60 Minutes many, many moons ago. But I can’t vote for Oprah. She lacks the political experience. Even Reagan served two terms as governor of California prior to being elected president.
    If a “media personality” black woman is needed, try Joy Reid. She is certainly competent with a large Rolodex.
    And there are others.

  20. chrislawson says

    Reiterating Zeppelin@13 — Hitler never won an election. His best result was 36.8% of the vote in the 1932 presidential election, way below Hindenburg’s 53%. Hitler bullied his way into being granted the chancellorship (which was given largely to shut him up) and then used that position to hollow out all the constitutional protections against dictatorship and simply took over when Hindenburg died 2 years later.

    Also reiterating Mike Smith@20 — Trump was elected. He failed to win the majority of votes and only won because of a combination of an outdated electoral college system combined with partisan election rigging by Republican traitors who in a true democracy would be in prison for their actions. So, sure, he shouldn’t have been elected. But he was.

  21. Ed Seedhouse says

    Well, up here in Canada we don’t have a vote in the matter. But if I did and the two names on the ballot were Trump and Winfrey I would have to vote sadly for the lady. I surely hope you can come up with a better Democratic candidate though.

  22. Pierce R. Butler says

    … a viable Democratic candidate … of the political left …

    Damnit, make up your mind!

  23. zibble says

    @14 Raucous Indignation
    Why do you think DailyKos matters? Oprah has a ton of money to spend on a campaign. If she runs, the media is going to devote the entire election to talking about her, like they did with Trump; hell, they’re probably going to be speculating about it for the next few years regardless, draining coverage of other Democratic prospects and damaging their ability to get their name out there or be known for the actual governance they’re doing.

    Because she’s a celebrity she has basically no political record and no one’s going to hold her accountable for her record as a business owner (see: Trump) while picking apart every other Democratic primary candidate, all of whom will have negatives to harp about because of the difficult choices they’ve had to make while, you know, actually governing. The crackpot left loves her for her quack nonsense. Hollywood loves her, and rich socialite women love her because they’re her target audience. Low-information voters like her (and the bad part about people leaving the GOP in droves is that they’re going to be voting in *our* primary).

    So, yeah, I think she has a pretty damn good chance, and despite everyone assuming that she’s some kind of genius just because she’s rich, her love of The Secret and her willingness to be duped over and over again while learning nothing speak to the mindset of a rich narcissist, so I think she’s going to run. It has me in despair.

    The only thing I think that could stop this is if traditional Democratic voters en masse voiced their disapproval, but I’ve been on twitter; tons of regular Democrats are into #Oprah2020, and even the smart people that know better are more interested in triangulating hot takes like “Even if you don’t like Oprah as a candidate, comparing her to Trump is racist and sexist” instead of recognizing their responsibility to simply shout “NO” over and over again through the loudest bullhorn.

  24. says

    @#11, ParaLess

    “(Hillary probably would have won if she had Warren on the VP ticket rather than Tim Cain”
    I thought the same thing when he was chosen. It should have been warren. But, no, Hillary decided to be even more generic than she already was.

    “Generic”? A guy who said the financial sector should be even further deregulated, and less than a week before getting the nod was trying to intercede with federal authorities to prevent Too-Big-To-Fail banks who had been caught committing fraud in his state from being prosecuted? No. That’s not “generic”. Kaine was chosen specifically to send the signal “it doesn’t matter how much the base wants populist, progressive policy, the Democrats are going to let Wall Street run rampant; those of you in the 1% may open your checkbooks now”. That’s the Democratic Party, as it has been since the DLC took over.

  25. says

    @5

    There are lots of potential candidates with experience in politics

    Honestly.. I can kind of see this as important, but.. I keep also getting hives every time its brought up. Every freaking person I see that is “experienced in politics” recently seems to be one of two types – 1. Those that would sell their own mother, if it benefited the dogma of their political motivations. 2. People who will bend over backwards to find “compromises” with even worse people, and drag us, albeit slightly slower, further into the same tar pit that the GOP is currently running towards, while stripping off, like its a hot spring, which someone told them is the fountain of youth (or more likely fountain of wealth).

    While I agree we don’t need yet another incompetent hack, which will go wildly off the rails, or some lost lamb, who will let themselves be led around into doing just as bad or worse, I am not sure our current “definition” of “political experience” is viable – it seems to turn out people who are either incapable of standing up for anything, including their own principles, fanatics, or loose cannons, who won’t listen to anyone, including experts. The latter of which I suspect would be Oprah, if she ran – a nicer, less war mongering, clown, who still thinks you can cure the worlds ills using cotton candy and popcorn, instead of evidence and sound policy.

  26. lanir says

    So… the factual arguments that would convince me not to vote Oprah into high office have been made. But the argument for is not factual, it’s a feel-good emotional thing.

    Hmm. We probably need a feel-good reason not to go there then. Let’s try this one:

    I don’t think the US needs the public spectacle of watching a decent African American woman clean up after another self-serving, rich old white guy. Especially one whose only accomplishments in life amount to realizing that theft is profitable.

  27. KG says

    kural@16,

    Are you too stupid to distinguish between admiring a speech, and thinking the person making it should become head of state and government? And too rude to refer to people by the name they prefer to use? Well, yes, clearly, in both cases.

Leave a Reply