Oprah, Really?

Oprah Winfrey’s inspired and noteworthy speech at the Golden Globes on Sunday night has reignited rumors of her potential candidacy for the White House.

Rich, influential, charismatic … the popular talk show host has all this and more, and her fame is an undeniable advantage.

Donald Trump says that he has set his sights on a second term in 2020. To beat him, the Democratic Party will in all likelihood need to find an exceptional candidate.

The problem, as it stands, is that none of the potential candidates really stand out. Former Vice-President Joe Biden, for example, is probably not inspirational enough to spark wild enthusiasm across the United States.

So what now? Do we give up on experienced politicians and move towards the lure of celebrity?

Oprah’s inexperience does not discredit her. We must hope, however, that American voters will display a healthy level of skepticism, rather than thinking that butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

When you are president of the most powerful country in the world, political inexperience is a handicap. We have unfortunately observed this over the course of the last year.

An experienced politician would have a better chance of understanding how the political system works, the nature of executive power and the role of the president. They would also have a better understanding of how to create effective public policy to improve the lives of citizens and are more likely to possess the necessary knowledge and skills to make informed decisions in a number of areas.

Trump himself has confirmed on many occasions that his inexperience is a weakness. Let’s remember that he even exclaimed last February, “nobody knew health care could be so complicated”! Of course that is not true. If he were interested, he would have known! And his judgment on the matter would have been better.

The idea of only ever having career politicians in the White House, or among other elected officials, is not right either. The contribution (and viewpoint) of those who have known something other than politics is essential.

On the other hand, the position of president of the most powerful country in the world is not the best place to learn. That is putting the cart before the horse, especially nowadays. The challenges that face any politician in this role have become as complicated as the world in which they play a fundamental role.

Even actor-turned-president Ronald Reagan understood this. It is often forgotten, but he was governor of California for eight years (from 1967 until 1975) before beating Jimmy Carter in 1980 and taking control of the White House. He had paid his dues.

That said, Oprah’s inexperience does not mean that she would be a bad president. She has qualities that Trump is obviously lacking, notably her empathy and eloquence.

Her emotional intelligence also seems clearly superior to that of the correct president. Unlike Trump, she could perhaps surround herself with exceptional advisors who could make up for her lack of political experience.

Despite all of this, it is a little disconcerting to see that there is already real enthusiasm in the United States for the idea of handing the keys to the White House to another TV star in 2020. Especially as this move would send a troubling message at the same time − that the best way to achieve the presidency in the United States is now to become famous.

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