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Oprah Would Make a Better Queen Than President

“A new day is on the horizon!”

As Oprah Winfrey landed that climactic line with a fist pump and a standing ovation, I began to picture crowds at campaign rallies across the country repeating it with her, like a new and less obnoxious “Make America Great Again.”

At the Golden Globes Sunday night, Oprah accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award with a speech [1] that had host Seth Myers, a number of prominent celebrities and pundits, the official Twitter account of NBC, and even several members of Oprah’s own inner circle floating the idea of a 2020 presidential run [2] for the revered actress and television host. The woman behind “EVERYBODY GETS A CAR” [3] now joins the men behind “Imma let you finish” [4] and “Can you smell what The Rock is cooking” [5] on the list of celebrities now publicly considering running to unseat Donald Trump.

Trump’s own candidacy was once considered at best a publicity stunt and at worst an act of egotistical self-delusion. But somehow he won, and I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to put that genie back in the bottle. As blogger Matt Walsh observed [6], “every argument against [an Oprah presidency]—she’s just a celebrity, no experience, etc.—has already been rejected by Republicans in order to elect Trump.” And honestly, she’d be better than meatheads like Kanye West and The Rock.

change_me

If the celebritization of our politics is here to stay, we would do well to explore how we got here. My theory is that celebrity politicians are a direct result of the lack of apolitical state recognition in American society. Sure, there’s the Presidential Medal of Freedom (which Oprah was awarded in 2014), but that honor seems like more of an afterthought than the culturally integrated institutions of British knighthood, nobility, and monarchy. There’s no title attached to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, so when we see someone, like Oprah, Trump, or Ben Carson (a 2008 recipient of the Medal) who has contributed to our society and has a vision for its future, we feel the need to grant them one. Section 1, Article 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits us from calling them “Sir” or “Lady,” leaving “Congressman,” “Senator,” and “President” as our only options.

In a recent article on the state of the international monarchist movement, [7] the New York Times summarized the arguments for monarchy thusly: “royal families act as a unifying force and a powerful symbol; monarchies rise above politics.” In America, nothing rises above politics, not anymore.

According to a recent Gallup poll [8], Americans are most likely to name Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as the man and woman they admire most out of anyone currently living anywhere in the world. The runners-up were Donald Trump and Michelle Obama, rounding out the list with two more political figures. In contrast, a worldwide version of the poll conducted by YouGov [9] produced very different results. The most admired man in on earth, according to their survey of 31,000 individuals in 30 countries, is Bill Gates, while Angelina Jolie and Queen Elizabeth II hold the top two spots for women. The organization concluded that “it’s safe to say the global public values humanitarianism over politics.”

In America, we have no significant apolitical state institutions. Everything is political, so, as the shared cultural values that united us for over 200 years begin to deteriorate, politics becomes everything: humanitarianism, culture, even religion. Our head of state is also our head of government and, as Gary S. Smith of The Center for Vision and Values has argued, [10] in some sense our high priest. If Trump and Oprah face each other on the 2020 debate stage, we will see a clash between two rival American political churches. Donald Trump professes the “power of positive thinking” prosperity gospel [11] and the jingoistic civic religion that insists on reciting the creed of “Merry Christmas” [12] and makes standing for the pledge more important than kneeling in repentance. On the other side, Ross Douthat has correctly identified Oprah [13] as “the pope of American gnosticism,” and Rod Dreher here at TAC has dubbed her [14] “the Pallas Athena of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” which is highly averse to the idea of sin and judgment, but relies on a vague concept of God to provide comfort and sustain sentimental morality.

If the 2020 election is between Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey, it will mark the moment when every aspect of American life was subsumed by politics. If we are to avoid such a reckoning, we will need something beyond politics to unite us. Acts of supposedly apolitical patriotism like respecting the flag and standing for the pledge have become increasingly politicized. Most of us still support the troops, but if the only thing holding our country together is war, then God help us. Elizabeth II is the second most admired woman in the world because she embodies a British identity, a Christian faith, and a set of ideals that transcend politics. I’m not saying we need an American monarchy to fix our problem—I’m not not saying it either since, after all, everybody’s a monarchist for a few weeks after finishing “The Crown”—but unless we invent or rediscover some way to depoliticize the people and values we esteem, we can expect to see many more celebrities on the debate stage.

Grayson Quay is a freelance writer and M.A. student at Georgetown University.

26 Comments (Open | Close)

26 Comments To "Oprah Would Make a Better Queen Than President"

#1 Comment By Celery On January 9, 2018 @ 11:38 pm

Some people’s rush to embrace Oprah as a presidential contender lies in their seeing her as someone with character who you could trust, unlike politicians. If the electorate is looking away from politicians to find leaders that’s an indictment against the quality of our present leaders, many of whom claim a Christian identity. If the Christians aren’t Christian, who can blame the masses for looking for their own candidates among those whom they feel they can trust?

#2 Comment By Ken T On January 10, 2018 @ 12:13 am

I think the author has it backwards. The problem is not that our celebrity culture has become political. The problem is that our political culture has for the most part lost the ability to engage in debate and oratory. Oprah’s speech stands out only because she and other celebrities are the only people making speeches like that. Our politicians, who should be laying out visions and principles are instead spending their efforts composing the next crowd-tested sound bite. And even if one of them does try to say more than that, the news media will ignore 90% of what they say in order to pull out one “money quote”.

The only reason people think Oprah sounded “presidential” is because they are comparing her to the twitterer-in-chief. And yes, by that standard, she would certainly make a far better president. But that is really not saying very much, is it?

#3 Comment By LouisM On January 10, 2018 @ 12:44 am

I have an immense amount of fear and pity for the US should Oprah become president. Oprah like Obama would rekindle the exploitation of victim politics: more protests, more riots, more false rape allegations, more false statistics on minorities facing prejudice and discrimination.

Oprah has no economic philosophy, no foreign policy philosophy, no record on job creation (a talk show does not create the jobs that a real estate developer creates).

With Oprah in the Whitehouse, Obama and Hillary Clinton and Wasserman Schultz and the corruption and the collusion of the DNC and deep state would all be back. The swamp would be restocked with fresh alligators and snakes and slimy snails while she reassures americans with her Diana Ross over teased hair and photo shopped weight loss.

We have already ignored Obama’s idiocy because he was black but I think the polish is off deference to someone because they are black, female or minority. Oprah will face a hurricane of controversy and hate that she has not seen since her court battle over beef. Trump took the gloves off battling political correctness and empowered the working class. More blacks and Hispanics are employed than ever before and the methods Trump used to force marginal minorities into the workforce are completely anathema to the DNC and Oprah. Neither the DNC or Oprah would ever deny an illegal immigrant to protect the job of a black or Hispanic US citizen. Never!

Would Oprah be likeable? Yes
Would Oprah get the black and female vote? Yes

Unlike Trump, Oprah has no guts and no substance for presidential or gubernatorial politics. Congress or Senate: Maybe. Unlike Trump, Oprah’s whole career has been a feel good self help secular politically correct bowl of manure. Like the Beef Lawsuit, she collapses like jello when she is disliked and embroiled in controversy. Conversely, Trump has always survived and thrived both when he is despised and hated, in the whirlwind of controversy or liked/popular.

These women are running to be CEO’s and President of the US. They are also proving they cant handle it and working women all over the developed world are the most unhappy in history.

#4 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 10, 2018 @ 1:12 am

“we can expect to see many more celebrities on the debate stage.”

And then shows like “Entertainment Tonight” will have fully replaced “The Evening News” as the summa qua non of journalism.

#5 Comment By Paul On January 10, 2018 @ 6:35 am

I urge Mr. Quay not to take his arguments in favor of monarchy from the New York Times. The powerless sham of a monarchy that it advocates in that piece is nothing beyond the vestigial remnant of liberalism’s defeated enemies. Its continued existence is a concession to the emotional attachments remaining in those who are less consciously radical in their liberalism, but at this point, we are all liberals, even the “monarchs.” While in the first instance, this was not the case — it took a long time for the burghers to control all institutions and to initiate us all into their new religion — it most certainly is now.

In this way, the British monarchy, for emaple, *does* perfectly “embod[y] a British identity, a Christian faith, and a set of ideals that transcend politics,” as Mr. Quay says, in that these are either paid lip service to, disregarded, or destroyed by redefinition. How well has the Defender of the Faith performed in that role? Consider that African bishops now justifiably criticize Canterbury for what is, in essence, heresy. As for British identity, the idea that there is some common consensus on what that is, and that this maintains continuity with and preservation of the past consensus, is ludicrous on its face.

A so-called monarch as window-dressing for a liberal society may not be particularly harmful, but it serves little, and solves nothing.

#6 Comment By collin On January 10, 2018 @ 9:30 am

in 30 countries, is Bill Gates, while Angelina Jolie and Queen Elizabeth II hold the top two spots for women.

The organization concluded that “it’s safe to say the global public values humanitarianism over politics.” TBH, where is the humanitarianism successes and really if that is the key measurement why in the hell is Jimmy Carter not on the list. His humanitarian successes eclipses all three and his politics ended decades ago.

And with compared to like Barack Obama, explain to me why Queen Elizabeth was any more successful than those two in their lifetime. Even outside of politics, Barack Obama story is for the ages and way beyond a self-important Queen. At this point, Barack Obama is a great example of anybody can be a success in the US.

#7 Comment By blackhorse On January 10, 2018 @ 11:02 am

Granted the President, as chief of state, is invested with more weight than a PM, which makes speculation about the office more subject to hot takes by a gossipy media.

As to the lack of binding institutions? We have no equivalent to London or Oxford or the C of E, so of course things are going to be a little diverse.

Our hold-together has always been the Republic itself. Sadly, its power is diminished. Hardly surprising, when its honor has been damaged by imperial wars, and when when one of our major parties denigrates government at every turn, while and capitalizing on racial division to stay in power.

#8 Comment By JWJ On January 10, 2018 @ 11:26 am

“According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans are most likely to name Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as the man and woman they admire most out of anyone currently living anywhere in the world.”

Let’s take this with a grain of salt. Obama “won” with about 17% out of 1,049 people voting.

Seriously, what rational person puts any stock in this kind of poll. Gallup supposedly calls 1,049 “random” Americans (on only their landline?) and asks people off the top of their head “who do you admire most?’.
Of course, the names most in the news are going to get the most answer.

Let’s take this with a grain of salt. Obama “won” with about 17% of these 1,000 people votes. (I have never believed that 1,000 people who pick up their landlines at night and are willing to answer questions are representing ALL AMERICANS).

If 10-12% of the 1,049 are black, of course a vast majority are going to choose Obama. If 40-60% are leftists, then the big surprise is why Obama isn’t getting more votes from these 1,049.
And why is Herself only getting 8%?

9% to 13% of these 1,049 voted for relatives/friends.
25% voted for nobody and just wanted to get off the phone.

#9 Comment By Youknowho On January 10, 2018 @ 11:41 am

We should take a look at Ireland who solved the problem by having a President who has the ceremonial and cultural duties (apart from a limited political power) and the Prime Minister (or Taoiseach)

This way, we could have a Trump or an Oprah President, while our Prime Minister would be a dull, competent individual to do the hard work.

#10 Comment By Conewago On January 10, 2018 @ 12:09 pm

Queen Elizabeth embodies a set of ideals that transcends politics…

Hogwash.

The Anglican Church and the modern English monarchy were set up because of a political struggle that manifested itself in a rebellion against the Church of Rome.

The modern English dynasty, the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (or “Windsor” if you will), was invited from German-speaking Europe because Parliament got itself into a political fight with the Stuart dynasty.

Good Queen Bess only transcends politics to the ignorant.

Just look at how the great British monarchy kowtowed to tinpot communist nepotist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu (!!) simply because British Aeorospace had a lucrative contract in the offing with communist Romania. [15]

#11 Comment By One Guy On January 10, 2018 @ 12:10 pm

I do declare, I have never seen such pearl-clutching and couch-fainting…except maybe by the liberal media when Trump does something else stupid. I don’t know much about Oprah, but let her run, I say; or not. Surely the Republic will endure? Surely there are more important things to discuss?

#12 Comment By joeG On January 10, 2018 @ 12:14 pm

I totally disagree. Most Americans see Washington as a side show and don’t see any reason to prefer one person over another. Every four years there is a presidential election,every six years a Senatorial election, every two years a house election. Many promises are made, few are kept, and nothing ever changes for the better. If there were a choice of none of the above that would be the winning ticket.With Washington DC just as degenerate as Hollywood, both being populated by egotistic, self aggrandizing, clueless individuals who think themselves above the law and the better of the people they will rule I can see why a celebrity might run for president.But, celebrity is different from fame. Famous people are people who have actually accomplished something besides becoming wealtht and well known. They are true heroes, with real accomplishments, and many are not even wealthy. They work real jobs, are good husbands, wives, parents, and grandparents. Every politician and celebrity can die right now and the world will still go around.

#13 Comment By Gerald Arcuri On January 10, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

Face it. The vast majority of the American people is nothing more than an audience. When the audience gets to vote, you call it “Dancing with the Stars”. Or, a political election. Either way, you have the democracy of celebrity, not actual democracy. So, Oprah fits right in. Neil Postman covered this best in his classic book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”. A nation so ill-informed, ignorant, and juvenile cannot survive.

#14 Comment By Lenny On January 10, 2018 @ 12:26 pm

This country has debased itself by electing Trump, that Oprah look like a giant improvement.
Having said that, enough with this outsider nonsense. POTUS need to be a competent and knowledgeable about policies, not some reality star TV who will sign whatever Congress give him.

What if Democrats take over congress next November? Would the Conservative crowd still be happy if Trump signs whatever Congress pass to him, just so he can claim a win?

#15 Comment By Jeeves On January 10, 2018 @ 12:40 pm

Riffing on Rod Dreher, we could elect Oprah the Hippocrates of Shamanist Medicine.

#16 Comment By TR On January 10, 2018 @ 4:51 pm

LouisM: Get your facts straight. She created a magazine and a cable network. And she won the Beef lawsuit. In Texas, no less.

#17 Comment By Theodore Harvey On January 10, 2018 @ 5:05 pm

As a real American monarchist long before “The Crown,” and presumably long after, I think I’ll stick with my loyalty to the justly admired Queen Elizabeth II. It was nice to see the New York Times acknowledge recently that people like me exist.

#18 Comment By Youknowho On January 10, 2018 @ 7:47 pm

@Lenny

She certainly would be a great improvement on Trump.

For one thing, she is a better business person than he is. She built her business, not inherited it, and never declared bankruptcy.

#19 Comment By blackhorse On January 10, 2018 @ 8:20 pm

Joe and Gerald. Cheap cynicism re the process invites poseurs like Trump.

#20 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 11, 2018 @ 2:45 am

Putin might well decide that as long as he’s being accused, he might as well weigh in on the side of Oprah, and buy a dollar or two of Facebook ads, extolling cute puppies, or something.

#21 Comment By Leslie Jacobs On January 11, 2018 @ 3:08 am

I despised America from an early age, once I knew that they alone had dropped nuclear weapons on civilian cities. As a child we drove across mile after mile of scrub pine forests that had been farms before the Yankees came and destroyed the South. As an adult I moved to Canada, mostly to no longer be associated with these killers who attack one country after another as the Jews direct them. Naturally I react to the possibility of an Oprah presidency with great glee and anticipation. I can think of nothing more humiliating for my brothers who stayed behind, nothing that would more degrade America in the long run, nothing that would be more of a joke around the world.

#22 Comment By kevin on the left On January 11, 2018 @ 11:09 am

“More blacks and Hispanics are employed than ever before and the methods Trump used to force marginal minorities into the workforce are completely anathema to the DNC and Oprah. ”

Leaving aside the rest of your spittle-speckled rant, this is a classical lie with statistics. This link contains a long term graph of African American unemployment. I will gladly give 5 dollars to anyone who finds a Trumpian inflection point, when things went from hell on earth to utopia based on Trump’s methods.
[16]

(And that’s leaving aside that unemployment statistics were all fake until January 20, 2017, and then suddenly became real.)

#23 Comment By Youknowho On January 11, 2018 @ 11:51 am

I wonder why Oprah is not a conservative icon. She shows the opportunity in the USA. From a poverty-raised child that had to wear dresses made out of bags, she became a billionaire.

And instead of asking for government action, she asks her viewers to be involved in charity action to solve the problems they see.

But then… she is black…

#24 Comment By MM On January 11, 2018 @ 3:39 pm

YKW: “I wonder why Oprah is not a conservative icon.”

For the same reason Ben Carson isn’t a progressive icon. Pure, unadulterated ideology.

#25 Comment By Dale Matson On January 11, 2018 @ 5:43 pm

I can actually see Oprah winning the presidency and now that her yard is full of mud, her story has even more street cred.

#26 Comment By Phree Man On January 12, 2018 @ 11:47 am

Queen Oprah would be a perfect successor to King Donald.