Oprah 2020: An Idea But Not a Campaign

Oprah & Celebrity Presidents

The year is 2023 and America is a nightmarish dystopia.

Citizens across the country are suffering in poverty as they cannot afford the taxes on the constant gifts they receive. Libraries have been redesginated "Book Clubs" and are filled with the readings required by the state. The poor, while continuing to expand in numbers are well fed yet suffering from sodium-induced hypertension due to food benefits being replaced with microwavable frozen Weight Watchers entrees. Surgeon General Oz has recently been implicated in a scandal for taking bribes from ionic copper bracelet manufacturers. Daily, Americans must tune into the O Network to repeat the state affirmations of positive thinking and then search under their chairs for the prizes hidden there by the Secret Prize Police in the night. Universal health care exists, but it only covers plastic surgeries and weight loss programs. All religions have been banned in favor of The Secret. This is America under President for Life Oprah.

This is what you wanted, people. 

After her Golden Globes speech, America went absolutely nuts at the idea of "President Oprah." Many, if not most, took the idea lightly and with some amusement, but far too many were deadly serious. Over on the right side of the room, people fumed at the idea of a billionaire populist having the audacity to play with the idea of becoming president, while over on the left side people rejoiced at the idea of electing a billionaire populist. I guess being an inexperienced billionaire is a "your mileage may vary" situation.

It's fun to play with the idea of Oprah turning America into a horrible dystopia of frozen meals, sketchy psuedo-science, and taxable giveaways, but only because America is already a dystopia of economic inequality, climate change denial, and tax cuts for the wealthy. People really want a break from the constant barrage of Donald Trump, and after Oprah's speech and the occasional rumors, some people really latched on to the idea of an Oprah presidency. I hate to break it to you, you don’t really want an Oprah presidency.

I believe all the stories that Oprah is an amazingly generous and kind-hearted woman, and her charity work is the envy of many. She went from being dirt poor in Mississippi to being a billionaire in ...  Chicago or Santa Barbara or L.A., or wherever she lives now. She seems like a shrewd businesswoman, clearly maxed out her charisma stats, and is an inspirational type — but that doesn't mean you really want her as president. I get that she has dealt with some real scumbags in her time as a media mogul, but the scumbags who often run countries can be real bastards (look no further than Washington, D.C.). I don't think that getting Middle Eastern leaders to sit down on the couch and trying to get them to cry because she's very disappointed in them is really going to solve anything there.

Don't forget that Oprah, as president, is going to have to do some really awful things, like order drone strikes and Special Forces attacks. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be there when Oprah has to explain to the country why she ordered a bombing that accidently killed a busload of children. I don't want to do that to her, do you? Also, just because you're a successful business person — she is actually a successful business person, unlike the Oval Office's current occupant — or entertainer doesn't mean you'll be a good president. Government is a whole different animal than business; and it involves negotiating complex international treaties and dealing with international crises and massively complex economic issues. As America is learning, experience counts.

Lots of people have defended their earnest desire for Oprah with "Well, she can't be worse than Trump." OK, that's true, you can't do much worse. You would probably have to elect a literal dumpster fire to do worse. Hell, you could elect me president and I would do better than him, and my only reason for existing is to serve as a warning to others. But that's the main problem, isn't it? Trump has so damaged the presidency and left us desperate for some semblance of competency and normalcy, we would almost be happy to have Ted Cruz as president. Almost. Our expectations are so diminished and lowered, our desperation is so great, we're nearly giddy at the idea of an Oprah presidency.

That's really what it is, though. The idea. Oprah's speech was inspiring, hopeful, and uplifting. Through her, not just black people, but women and girls of all races, and probably all decent people, felt inspired. It's the idea of what a person like her could accomplish and be to us. We want a good, decent, and well-meaning person to lead us again. That's what we're hungering for; not Oprah herself, but the idealized image of someone like her. Oprah just isn't qualified to be that leader in a competent way, but her inspiration can help us flesh out who we actually want to see in 2020. 

AMANDA KERRI is an Oklahoma City-based writer and comedian, and a regular contributor to The Advocate. Follow her on Twitter @amanda_kerri.

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