Fabiola Santiago

Another celebrity president — even beloved Oprah Winfrey — is bad for America

Oprah Winfrey backstage at the 75th Annual Golden Globes at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills on Sunday.
Oprah Winfrey backstage at the 75th Annual Golden Globes at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills on Sunday. TNS

I admire Oprah Winfrey for all that the talk show host, magazine publisher, network owner and actress has accomplished — but most of all, for the way she comes across as genuine and caring. We can’t help but relate to her as if she were a wise and highly regarded friend.

A visionary who has used her life to build a deeply philosophical and spiritual brand that has transcended race and impacted millions, she’s as solid as celebrities come for many reasons — not the least of them her intellect. As a reader of quality literature and biography, her intellectual depth alone places her way above the “very stable genius” currently occupying the White House.

But the “2020 Oprah buzz”" is perplexing.

Have we not learned a thing from the presidential election of 2016? With all the chaos of the last year, have we not acquired any wisdom on the issue of electing to the most powerful position in the world a celebrity without substantial political leadership experience?

While “President Winfrey” sounds dreamy, electing another celebrity is bad for this country and the unstable, complex state of the world.

I expect first and foremost sound policy from the president, and I have no idea where Winfrey stands on important issues. We haven’t had a chance to ask her, to prod, to measure her knowledge on domestic and international policy.

We know she’s a master of message, and yes, as Inspirer-in-Chief — the quality we saw in her Golden Globes speech Sunday that launched the talk of a “President Oprah” — she would be a most desirable change from the divisive Trump.

But that we’re seriously vetting her candidacy after a television appearance doesn’t bode well for Democrats. It speaks to a dearth of qualified candidates with the ability to connect and inspire, and places the party in a similar position as the Republicans found themselves when Donald Trump rolled along: an election hijacked by celebrity, hashtag #Oprah2020.

As a friend half-jokes: “The stupids are in charge now.”

If your presidential dreams must go there, at least start by calling her President Winfrey. Remember the cutesy references to “The Donald”? Ugh.

Me, I want to know where Winfrey really stands.

The Dreamers’ lives, to name an issue out there, are on the line now that Trump has ended protection from deportation, Congress has failed to find a permanent solution, and negotiations to vote on a clean Dream Act go round-and-round in partisan circles.

Where has Oprah Winfrey been when immigrants and Latinos need her? Not in view.

In fact, all I know is that her magazine and network are lily-white-majority and black-minority, in that order. Latinos make some token appearance every now and then in O Magazine, but only after they’ve made it big in America: Ricky Martin, Salma Hayek, Isabel Allende. And she’s taken some flak for the lack of diversity.

What does President Winfrey mean for Hispanics, the largest and fastest-growing minority in the United States? Where does she stand on immigration reform? Remember that progressive President Obama was nicknamed “deporter-in-chief” at one point.

We don’t know.

But I do know this: Winfrey would need to win Florida.

Yet her only connection is a Fisher Island apartment off Miami Beach where she holes up after flying into town in a private plane for events.

I’m told that she’s not a fan of Cuban Americans because she gets her Cuban politics from celebrities like Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover (who says paying tribute to dictator Fidel Castro was a great moment in his life) and Alice Walker, a writer I loved dearly until I came upon her uninformed nonfiction on Cuba. When those who most suffer from the (white) Castros’ Communist rule — and the poorest islanders — are Afro-Cubans, I can’t help but wonder where the brain cells go when these African Americans visit Cuba.

Will President Winfrey care?

This is only a sliver of what we don’t know about a smart, generous communicator with no expertise in constitutional law, public policy, or international affairs — not a political leader by any stretch — but on whom people are already pinning their hopes.

In another era, Oprah’s Golden Globes speech would have made industry history as simply a moving and timely speech. But after the election of the ignorant, nasty Donald Trump, her trademark stirring words become presidential material and a Hollywood awards ceremony magically turned into the moment in which a candidate for the highest office in the land is made.

The cult of celebrity is a heady thing in this country.

She’s smarter and nicer than our president, but whether Trump or Winfrey, the easy reverence is fanaticism.

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