What Oprah 2020 Buzz Tells Us About Celebrity and Politics

Jake Neher/WDET

The White House

Politics and celebrity are not natural bedfellows in America, but they are also not terribly estranged. They are both about personality. And they are both about power.

President Trump, an entertainer who had never held political office before winning a seat in the oval office, has probably changed the discussion about politics and celebrity forever.

And maybe, just maybe, we’re seeing some of that unfold this week.

When Oprah Winfrey delivered a moving speech about sexual harassment and power at the Golden Globes last Sunday, one of the instant responses was a very loud discussion about whether she might run for president.

It has been written about in every serious publication that covers politics, and even the vaunted Rasmussen poll took measure of her chances against Trump.

What does that say about American politics? Has there been a more dramatic marrying of politics and celebrity that might play out repeatedly over the next few election cycles? And if so, how might that alter not only politics, but governance?

And what about Oprah Winfrey, one of the most dynamic entertainers in the history of America? Could she be the kind of celebrity politician who might unite the nation and move us forward in a way that we could not imagine?

Jenn White is a host and anchor for WBEZ, and she’s the host of a documentary podcast called Making Oprah. She joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about what Oprah’s past can tell us about her ambitions for the future.

I think the control around the brand and the image largely could be about trust and who you trust with it,” White tells Henderson. ”Her brand is so powerful, it could be turned to ill so quickly. I think the person she trusts the most with it is herself.”

What would Oprah actually be like as a candidate for president? And what does that buzz say about the value we Americans put on celebrity in politics today?

David Graham writes in The Atlantic:

The cases for and against Oprah as the Democratic nominee are substantially similar: She’s a charismatic billionaire who has never run for office but has an enormous national profile and seems (though who knows) generally amenable to the party platform. Of course, it’s helpful that she’s a black woman in a party that depends heavily on African American and female voters, meaning she could be at once the Democratic Trump and also an anti-Trump.”

To hear Graham and White on Detroit Today, click on the audio above.

Image credit: obamawhitehouse.archives.gov

About the Author

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.


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