Earlier this month, Oprah Winfrey gave a dignified and impassioned
at the Golden Globes about women standing up to the patriarchy. Not only were Ms. Winfrey’s words an inspiring testament to the growing #TimesUp movement, they also led many to call upon her to run for president. Among
for a 2020 Winfrey run were Meryl Streep, Brad Anderson, and what seems like a sizable portion of Twitter. While Ms. Winfrey hasn’t announced any plans to run (yet), the suggestion that she
Photo: David Beale on Unsplash
Ms. Winfrey isn’t the first celebrity to aspire for the Oval Office. America has an illustrious recent history of celebrities announcing their intentions to run for president, from Dwayne Johnson in December to Kanye West in 2016 to, of course, Donald Trump himself. However, encouraging celebrities to run for president— even if the celebrity in question is as beloved as Oprah Winfrey— is extremely troubling for our democracy.
I do not doubt that Ms. Winfrey would make a formidable presidential candidate, but that’s not the point. The point is that the presidency — the highest office of leadership in the United States – should be held by the most qualified of public servants. If a celebrity is, indeed, invested in improving society through politics, it’s important for her to gain experience first, whether that’s through community leadership, running for Congress or Senate, or even serving as governor.
There’s also the argument that when celebrities enter politics, they risk turning our democratic process into a circus. And it’s true: celebrities do tend to suck up all the media attention in a race, limiting the ability of more experienced candidates to appeal to voters in the primaries. (One doesn’t have to look farther than the Donald Trump debacle for proof.) Ultimately, the race to the presidency shouldn’t be about which candidate is the flashiest or most electrifying because, at the end of the day, the presidency isn’t always a flashy and electrifying job.
After the 2016 elections, it’s easy to support an Oprah Winfrey candidacy out of sheer catharsis, simply because we need somebody to run on our behalf. The thing is — there already is somebody.
There is no shortage of qualified, experienced, and passionate women of color who are running for office around the country. At the presidential level, California senator Kamala Harris is already being considered as a possible 2020 candidate. And across the board, fantastic organizations like
She Should Run
are empowering women to make a difference in their governments. These actual, real-life female candidates deserve all the attention and support that we gave Ms. Winfrey.
It’s one thing to encourage our beloved celebrities to run for president and improve the world on our behalf. It’s a completely different thing to improve it ourselves, starting in our communities and at the grassroots level. In other words, it’s time to stop hiding behind the “successful” to enact change — we all saw how well that worked out in 2016 — and start throwing our support where it really matters. Each one of us has the potential to do our part, even if our names aren’t Oprah Winfrey.