A political mentor had a saying when he looked at a good political commercial: “There’s votes in that spot.” That phrase came back to me yesterday when I saw Oprah Winfrey say, “This land was made for you and me.” The phrase makes a powerful rallying cry for a lot of Democrats in 2018 and beyond, and the reigning queen of all media rolled out this line while stumping for Stacey Abrams in the race for governor in Georgia.
While Winfrey has denied interest in running for office herself, the rumor that she will lingers. The rumor itself isn’t all that interesting. But listening to her yesterday, I thought her candidacy for president would be fascinating.
The Democrats have a number of high-profile candidates who have been mentioned to take on the Republicans’ reality-show star in 2020, many of whom rose outside of politics. In addition to Winfrey, there is Howard Schultz of Starbucks, actor Tom Hanks, former New York City mayor and multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg and Disney’s Bob Iger.
Trump, of course, knows Winfrey well, having appeared on her show. And he’s had nice things to say about her in the past. He undoubtedly still envies her mastery of branding and media as she built an empire after starting as a local newscaster in Nashville. Lately, he hasn’t been as kind, calling her “insecure” and saying he would love to run against her because (cue innuendo) he knows her “weakness.”
But Trump presumably knows her strengths, too. She has spent a lifetime interviewing people and understands how to give meaning to the struggles and aspirations of a wide cross section of Americans. If Trump is our national storyteller for fear and loathing, Winfrey is ours for hope and striving. Trump screams about an America under siege and beset by internal and external enemies; Winfrey has spent a lifetime in conversation with us about how we are all redeemable and that we can all have our piece of the pie.
It may be unlikely, but a presidential race which pits the slogan, “Make America Great Again: The Sequel” against “This land was made for you and me” would get huge ratings and present our country with a very clear choice. Time will tell how the show plays out.