If anything, the election of Donald Trump proved that anyone can be elected President. After his inauguration, there were calls for anyone from Michelle Obama to Mark Zuckerberg to save America from another Trump term. At the recent Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey gave a resounding speech that many called “presidential.” Her speech touched on her humble beginnings in a rust belt state, her support of the #MeToo movement and a general sense of hope for a better America. Now, many are calling for her to take up the mantle as a Presidential nominee.
Oprah would make a great President. She has influence, she is an engaging public speaker, she has a track record of supporting worthwhile causes, and she’s a woman of colour. Her speech was inspiring and America wants an inspiring President. America deserves a President with all of these characteristics, but should also expect a President that has a basic understanding of how to govern. If Oprah had everything she has now, and could also point to a track record of representing constituents, she would be a powerhouse candidate that would surely cause Trump’s tiny hands to shake with fear.
We have seen Donald Trump fail impressively at many aspects of his position, especially when it comes to knowledge of basic functions and institutions of government. He has failed on countless legislative proposals in his short term, such as when he tried to reform health care before commenting that “nobody knew healthcare could be this complicated.” If he had any governance experience whatsoever, he would understand that finding enough consensus to pass legislation on a contentious topic like American healthcare would be a difficult task to undertake.
Oprah is an activist for many causes including children’s rights, race relations in America, and empowering women. She certainly has an impressive resume of activism and philanthropy, but she is missing a crucial ingredient: actual legislative experience. Being passionate about issues isn’t enough when it comes to creating policies about those issues. Policy-making is about more than broad ideas of social change. Creating good policy requires a deeper understanding of the constitution and laws, and knowledge of budgets, economics, past legislation, and state relations. There are norms that the majority of conventional politicians have upheld that help inform the public and ensure healthy democracy, and someone who has no political experience will have a difficult time meeting the same standard.
Being President is not an entry-level job. The person in this position has access to one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals, decides policy direction for one of the world’s largest economies, and should have intimate knowledge of the inner workings of government. Donald Trump has shown an unwillingness to grasp these concepts, as shown by his dealings with North Korea, handling of the Russia investigation, and relationships with Congressional leaders. Just being famous isn’t a good enough qualification to be President, and simply being “better than Trump” is a very low bar. People should prove themselves on their ideas and on their actions in the public sphere, not just by being a recognizable name.
Donald Trump went straight for the Oval Office, but Oprah doesn’t have to make the same mistake. If she had a term on Congress or the Senate, or even legislative experience at the State level, she could prove her knowledge of issues and her ability to make change. Not to mention, these other levels of government do important work that is often overlooked. Adding a term of representing constituents and debating policy in government to her already impressive resume of activism would prove that she is ready and capable of sitting at the most powerful desk in America.