Everyone just calm down and breathe.
That’s what Oprah Winfrey would have us do in a moment like this. Many Democrats are aflutter with the prospect of her running for president in 2020 after her dignified and inclusive Golden Globes speech on Sunday night. Essentially, if someone like President Donald Trump who knows the media, has a built-in following, and has connected with certain factions of the American public can make it to the highest office in America with little intellect or curiosity, then Oprah is the perfect foil to Trump.
Oprah is someone who preaches inclusivity, is well-read and world-traveled, has launched several incredibly successful and sustaining businesses both nationally and internationally, and has served as a global ambassador and beacon of hope to millions of people around the world. But before we look under our seats to find the antidote to Trump, we need to evaluate a few important factors.
I am not saying that Oprah is not qualified or that she should not run. She rose from poverty and became a millionaire at age 32. She clearly has an unparalleled work ethic, and was an early supporter of Barack Obama. He became one of her “favorite things” and in turn she used her power, money, and influence to outmaneuver the most powerful Democratic family in the latter 20th century (the Clintons) and helped create the first black U.S. president.
Unprepared, underprepared and unqualified men run for office all the time and very few people seem concerned with their qualifications or naked ambition. Social scientists have well documented that the personality traits that are most often praised in men are the same traits for which female candidates are vilified or disqualified — see discussions about Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and her road to the White House in 2020.
Oprah’s business prowess and success have been packaged in a self-help strategy aimed at women to assist them in living their best selves. This is a powerful concept, but here is what I want to see from Oprah: I would love for Oprah to use her billions to assist female candidates to run for office and make their way through the pipeline. Social scientists have shown that it is more difficult for female candidates and candidates of color to raise money for elections, largely due to the nature of their pre-existing social networks, feeder occupations, and long-standing wealth and gender inequities.
Instead of running Oprah, why can’t the Democratic Party see her as the vehicle to spread her wealth but also her message of inclusion. In the past few months, Republicans in Washington have almost completely abdicated to the president and have systematically become sycophants in front of our eyes. As many of them retire (aka cash out) now that the tax bill has passed, a blue wave is indeed coming to Washington. With Oprah’s assistance and wealth, the blue wave would hopefully extend to state houses and governorships, too.
There is no doubt that Oprah is a magnetic force, savvy, thoughtful, and more qualified than today’s occupant of the Oval Office. However, before Democrats begin to make Oprah their favorite, I hope they look at the many women already in the party who have been working tirelessly on policy and politics for quite some time.
Christina Greer is the 2018 NYU McSilver Institute Fellow and an associate professor at Fordham University. She is the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” and the host of “The Aftermath” on Ozy.com.