In my novel, Roll the Dice, rock star Tyler Sloan exits the Las Vegas stage to campaign for Nevada’s seat in the United States Senate. Oprah Winfrey, like Sloan, has personal and political skills that would render her a serious political figure. There is no doubt Ms. Winfrey has many qualities that would make her a major player for President in 2020.
Personally, Oprah is smart, successful, charming and empathetic. As an African-American woman who is a self-made billionaire and national celebrity, whispers of her candidacy have created fluttering hearts in Hollywood.
Politically, she has what every candidate desires; very high name recognition and skill as an interviewee. And apparently, she has very few negatives. Based upon her Golden Globes speech, her oratory skills are a given. She gave a hell of a speech.
In my novel Roll the Dice, Hall of Fame rock star Tyler Sloan is no political neophyte or dilettante. His father was the former governor of California and nearly captured the presidency. Just like Oprah, Sloan has a record of political activism, philanthropic achievements and business acumen. They both are the complete package.
Oprah would be a formidable candidate on day one; but the dozen or more politically experienced Democrats will not step aside for her. Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Eric Garcetti, Andrew Cuomo, Cory Booker and a handful of others will not be intimidated.
Her progressive social views should be welcomed by the Democratic base; but she may not engage in the demagogic anti-business rhetoric as sought by the Sanders/Warren wing. While many Democrats may be very comfortable with a social progressive who does not demonize corporate America, will Move On, Media Matters and other progressive groups stand behind her, or rally around the rhetoric of someone challenging business at every turn?
Where Oprah could fail is with the “reaction voter.” Many candidates are elected as a contrast to perceived failings of the incumbent. The reaction to the present bestows the future candidate. Jimmy Carter was the honest tonic after the scandal-plagued Richard Nixon; and the bold vision of Ronald Reagan was overwhelmingly elected after Carter was perceived as feckless and ineffective.
In 2020, many voters who oppose the current President may yearn for a more experienced hand at the wheel. Even if you love and admire Oprah, there is a lack of experience on major foreign and domestic policy issues.
Will she run? An emphatic no! Oprah will not subject herself to the grueling, two-year gauntlet of campaigning. She, like all candidates, will be scrutinized as she has never been before. Republican and Democratic opponents will scrutinize her life. All of Oprah’s past speeches, partnerships, business dealings and her personal life will be viewed with a laser intensity by forces bent on her defeat.
Trump received a “pass” from the national media during the Republican primary. The sheer number of 17 candidates and his skill at obtaining media attention allowed him to avoid tight scrutiny. During the campaign, he was seemingly on CNN every night. The media never pursued Trump’s business dealings, his lack of policy knowledge and his temperament.
In the Age of Trump—it is foolish to rule out any candidacy or political scenario. However will Oprah subject herself to a very difficult candidacy and the microscopic scrutiny of her past? I wish her well, but I don’t see it.