Oprah Winfrey’s broad appeal key to taking down Trump in 2020


However unlikely, Oprah Winfrey as a presidential candidate is not implausible.

First, she’s the antithesis of Donald Trump. Where Trump spent his pre- and post-political career limiting opportunities for middle class families, verbally and physically abusing women who came into his circle, rejecting calls to diversify the voices advising him, and using his law and order mantra to enshrine white supremacist ideology in the White House, Oprah used her platform to give Americans — particularly women — a voice, allowing them to author their own narrative, share their experiences broadly, and create a strong sense of community. For voters, she presents a clear choice — a titanic distinction from her opponent.

As Oprah weighs her candidacy, there’s a lot of work to do while Trump is commander-in-chief.

(Andrew Harnik/AP)

Presidential campaigns are also about creating a social, political or economic movement around a candidacy.

Consider Obama’s hope and change vision. As is the case with many early candidacies, his was light on details but after listening to him, voters believed he could deliver on his promises. Oprah’s relatively short remarks provided a window into similar rhetoric — the kind that should wrest voters from their apathy and drive them to the polls.

The trouble with Oprah is the trouble with Trump

She’s worth $2.8 Billion and can self-finance a campaign.

At a time when much of the national discussion revolves around choices between white working class, rural, coastal, suburban or identity politics, Oprah is one of the few people that can transcend all of it. Her appeal is broad and, to borrow from Rudyard Kipling, “she can walk with kings and keep the common touch.”

Stars who ran for office

Her story of leaving a tough childhood to become a self-made media mogul with an international footprint is highly relatable without having to conflate economic nationalism and ethnic nationalism to make the point. It is a message and narrative of inclusion rather than exclusion.

To be clear, we may not be having this conversation were it not for Donald Trump’s improbable victory in 2016 and the hammer to the glass ceiling wielded by Hillary Clinton, Geraldine Ferraro, Shirley Chisholm and so many others not named in this piece. 2016 was a change election and leading up to 2020, typical candidates are positioning themselves as a return to good governance and sound policy. All very important. But will voters still want a political outsider to drain the swamp?

America, give Oprah a shot

Basil Smikle is a political strategist and senior advisor to the New York State Democratic Party.

(Craig Warga/NYDN/NY Daily News)

In the meantime, 200,000 Salvadorans are about to be expelled from the US; in the new tax bill, corporations win and working families lose; and we are having open conversations about nuclear bombs and which capricious and volatile leader has the bigger button.

Rest assured, there’s lots of work to keep us busy until Ms. Winfrey makes up her mind.

Basil A. Smikle Jr. is political strategist and senior advisor to the New York State Democratic Party.


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