Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Oprah for President: Another American Delusion


Oprah Winfrey, the American queen of TV talk shows, is reportedly set to run for the US presidency… and liberal Hollywood and the media are ecstatic at the prospect. “Oprah for president” broke out like a delirium across social media after the TV star made an “electrifying” speech at the Hollywood Golden Globes ceremony last weekend in which she spoke eloquently in defence of women over sexual harassment and for racial minorities. The 63-year-old African-American Winfrey declared, “A new day is on the horizon”. She is one of the most-recognised celebrities in America after decades hosting a top-rated talk show. CNN and other media outlets (who hate Republican President Donald Trump vigorously) think that they’ve found their political saviour in Oprah. CNN reported that she’d be the “perfect anti-Trump candidate”, on breaking the news from “close friends” that Oprah is considering a run for the White House at the next election in 2020. A CNN comment swooned:

Winfrey has deep pockets, an even deeper well of charisma, and instant name recognition, thanks to decades on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

On a superficial level, Oprah might seem the perfect ticket. She has millions of fans amongst ordinary Americans due to her years of hosting wildly popular TV shows and also from an award-winning acting career. She had an Oscar nomination in 1985 for her performance in Steven Spielberg’s film, The Color Purple. Oprah has the backing of legions of celebrities and media because of her undoubted charisma and humanitarian character. This week, Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep was one of the first to hail her presidential ambitions. “She’s got to do this”, Streep emphatically told the Washington Post.

Oprah’s life story is also appealing to masses of ordinary folks. She was born into poverty to an unmarried mother who worked as a housemaid in the Deep South, in Mississippi. Through sheer talent and grit, she worked her way to the top of the entertainment business. Today, Oprah personal net worth is about 3 billion USD (170.66 billion Roubles. 19.56 billion Renminbi. 191.4 billion INR. 3.74 billion CAD. 3.84 billion AUD. 2.52 billion Euros. 2.22 billion UK Pounds), and owns her own cable TV network and a movie production company. She’s also given hundreds of millions to charitable causes in both the USA and Africa. There’s no doubting her empathy with the downtrodden in society, owing to her own experience of hardship and pain. Her younger sister died from cocaine addiction, and as a child Oprah used to wear clothes made from potato sacks, such was the grinding poverty of her family’s life.

Previously, at the height of her TV fame, she campaigned for Barack Obama in 2008 when he became the first African-American president. She also backed Hillary Clinton in 2016. Therefore, in many ways, Oprah has impeccable credentials to galvanise the American electorate behind a liberal Democrat president… and become the first woman to occupy the White House. However, here’s where the fairytale story starts to unravel. It really is a sign of how decrepit the American political system is when the parties are obliged to seek celebrities as their figureheads. It’s a sign of how the public holds “professional” politicians from both parties in such low esteem that the parties have to court a reality-TV-type candidate to represent them. Ironically, the Democrats and liberal media pundits deprecated the Republicans for recruiting reality-TV star Donald Trump as their leader. Now, the Democrats are mulling the same formula by choosing Oprah Winfrey.

Admittedly, Oprah has a very different character and set of moral values from Trump. Her lifework and charitable giving mark her out as a genuine humanitarian with natural leftwing social sensibilities for justice and equality. Nevertheless, putting faith in Oprah to transform American society into something more “progressive” and humane is a pitiful delusion. It really is a touchstone of how degenerate US politics have become when so many people might even contemplate that one benign individual could overturn a backlog of systemic problems, from gross wealth inequality to a culture of endless war-making around the globe.

Oprah’s would-be campaign slogan, “A new day on the horizon”, sounds a lot like Obama’s “hope and change”. Or, Trump’s “America first”. In the end, it’s all soundbite and no substance, much like an advertising jingle. American politics now has sunk to being a commodified pursuit, like buying soap powder or a fast-food snack. It’s delusional for Americans to think that they can solve the many deep-seated problems in their nation through one individual, no matter how well-intentioned that individual might appear.

America’s political problems are systemic in nature. They arise from the plutocratic nature of how it runs its capitalist economy for the benefit of the élite few. Trump’s recent 1.5 trillion USD (85.33 billion Roubles. 9.78 billion Renminbi. 95.7 billion INR. 1.87 billion CAD. 1.92 billion AUD. 1.26 billion Euros. 1.11 billion UK Pounds) tax giveaway for Wall Street and corporate America is a classic example. So too is the relentless annual military spending… 1 trillion USD (56.9 billion Roubles. 6.52 billion Renminbi. 63.8 billion INR. 1.24 billion CAD. 1.26 billion AUD. 840 million Euros. 740 million UK Pounds) by some estimates… by the American government. A fraction of this allocation of taxpayer money would provide all Americans free education and healthcare if the government chose to. However, Washington doesn’t provide that humane option because the military-industrial complex dominates it; it dedicates itself to élite corporate interests, not those of the ordinary people. America’s systemic problems require a systemic solution. That involves electing a president and an administration that truly represent the interests and needs of the majority of working Americans. That, in turn, depends on Americans mobilising as a mass movement of informed citizens aware of what needs to change… the systemic corruption stemming from a capitalist economy dedicated to oligarchic privilege and war-making.

Indisputably, Oprah Winfrey is a wonderful human being and an inspiration to millions from her soulful life. All credit to her for what she stands for as an individual. However, for Americans to place faith in Oprah as a would-be political leader is pathetically misplaced. Americans need to stop looking for individual “saviours” and to start organising themselves as a mass movement for a socially-just and peaceful government. That’s a tall order. Nevertheless, they need to do it. The flurry of media excitement this week over Oprah’s projected presidential ambitions shows how brain-dead American political culture is. Moreover, to be sure, the plutocrats and oligarchs just love it that way. Watch how they’ll lionise and package her to become just another American delusion.

9 January 2018

Finian Cunningham

Sputnik International


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