News coverage hyping a potential Oprah Winfrey presidential campaign has revealed that many in the press don’t believe Democrats have any chance of winning the White House in 2020 without a celebrity like Winfrey or President Trump.
Reports on Winfrey’s widely discussed speech at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony have speculated that the former queen of daytime TV may be positioning herself for a political campaign. Her longtime partner Stedman Graham stoked curiosity by telling the Los Angeles Times that it’s “up to the people” and that “she would absolutely do it.”
In response, news outlets were quick to note that Democrats lack a clear and substantial choice in their lineup, which includes people like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Indeed, the magical thinking fueling the idea of Oprah in 2020 is a worrisome sign about the state of the Democratic Party,” wrote New York Times Magazine contributor Thomas Chatterton Williams on Monday. “That Ms. Winfrey could probably beat those considered likely front-runners — Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand — is testament to how demoralized and devoid of fresh political talent the post-Obama party has become.”
A Washington Post news article said, “The calls for Winfrey … to look hard at entering the 2020 race against President Trump revealed a longing among Democrats for a global celebrity of their own who could emerge as their standard-bearer and his foil.” The story added that speculation about Winfrey “also exposed how the crowded class of Democrats mulling over bids for the White House so far lacks a front-runner or someone who could easily unite the party’s key coalitions of women, minorities and working-class voters.”
Eugene Robinson, a liberal columnist for the Post, said of a potential Winfrey White House bid, “It’s not as if the Democratic Party has a lineup of potential candidates who begin to match Winfrey in charisma and star quality.”
Winfrey did not say anything during her speech that suggested she was interested in entering politics. A spokeswoman said as recently as October that the media mogul “is not running for office.”
But given President Trump having now fully opened the door for celebrities in politics at the highest level, coupled with no clear Democratic leader, the media continued to speculate about Winfrey filling the gap.
“Never mind that many Democratic senators along with several other current and former officeholders appear poised to take on President Trump in 2020,” said a news story on the RealClearPolitics website. “The potential for an Oprah bid drew more excitement than all the other possible contenders combined. As Democrats plot their way out of the electoral wilderness, discussion Monday centered on whether Oprah Winfrey could be their deliverance.”
The Atlantic’s David A. Graham wrote that “the excitement, however fleeting, about an Oprah candidacy is a sign of the despair within some elements of the party. … With a packed-but-shallow bench ahead of the 2020 election, it’s easy to see why some Democrats might be tempted by the siren song of a Democratic Trump.”