I love Oprah Winfrey. It’s hard to think of anyone who has been a better role model for Americans of all backgrounds to look up to. She is empathetic to the plight of the least fortunate, investing her own money to clothe and educate children all over the world. She has inspired tens of millions of men and women with her personal journey through poverty, sexual assault and bias within the entertainment industry to reach a level of success that few could even dream of. But most importantly, she’s been able to fulfill her wildest dreams while being humble and relatable, an ability few others have been able to master.
In short, Oprah is a once in a lifetime talent whom we should all try to learn from. But she is not a politician. Could Oprah become a successful candidate for the presidency? Absolutely. Could she even win a presidential election against Donald? Without a doubt. Do I want her to run? Not a chance. One of Oprah’s most powerful tools in her toolbelt is her ability to unite Americans across party lines. She is one of few Americans who has a platform just as big as the president. When Oprah speaks, people listen. The same won’t be true if private citizen Oprah becomes presidential candidate Winfrey.
Presidential candidate Winfrey will have her philanthropy turned into a weapon used against her, rather than an example of her devotion to equality. Does that sound familiar? Presidential candidate Winfrey will have her personal relationships placed under a microscope. Need I go on? Presidential candidate Winfrey will be attacked from every direction. I think you get it.
Politics is an ugly game. Oprah wouldn’t be spared from any of the mayhem. All of the good she has done and would be able to continue doing as a private citizen would instantly be paused, if not irreparably harmed. All of the outreach she has done with women of all colors would be weaponized by conservative-leaning networks. All of the efforts she has undertaken to address the most divisive issues in our national dialogue would be forgotten the moment she announces her intention to run for president. That is the political reality that we live in. It’s sad, but unfortunately true.
Oprah can do much more good from the outside. I would love it if we lived in a country that overwhelmingly values honesty, empathy and integrity as much as controversial tweets and oversimplified talking points. But that’s not where we’re at as a society. That’s where we hope to one day be. Barack Obama’s presidency is evidence of that.
Americans of all political affiliations trust Oprah’s judgment. That is not a characteristic that should be overlooked. Much like when Oprah endorsed candidate Obama, her true political power lies in her ability to be a king and queen maker. As Democrats prepare to put together a list of candidates willing and able to run against President Trump in 2020 and win, they would be smart to consider what type of candidate Oprah would endorse.
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Much like Obama in 2008, Democrats must run a candidate that can appeal to the “Oprah constituency.” That includes Americans of all backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints. That is what has made Oprah different from almost every other television personality. That has been the key to her longevity and her ability to relate to everyone.
The Democratic Party should pause for a moment. America cannot afford to lose Oprah to the political process. She has been the conscience and the equilibrium for so many Americans. She has been a role model, an icon and a national treasure for more people than I can count. She has been everything that anyone could have hoped that she would be and more. It’s unfair and illogical for us to now ask Oprah to save us from ourselves.
Instead, I hope that Oprah will help Democrats identify a candidate that can not only defeat Donald Trump, but also address the racial, sexual and economic divisions that are destroying this country. I hope that Oprah will continue to show Americans what the manifestation of our collective dream looks like. I hope that Oprah will refuse to fall into the trap of being our savior. But most importantly, I hope that whatever decision she makes, she continues to “speak her truth” and never stops being the Oprah that we all love and adore. We can’t afford anything less right now.
Michael Starr Hopkins is an attorney and former member of the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He regularly appears on Fox News and CNN to talk about national politics. You can follow him on Twitter @TheOnlyHonest.