If it happens I will now only be able to say you read it here second. For months I’ve been thinking about, and failing to get round to, writing a piece suggesting that the obvious person to run against Donald Trump at the next US election is Oprah Winfrey. Friends from the US have mentioned the idea and it sounds a little implausible only until you remember that Trump is President and that it will take someone with a superior self-made career and emotional connection to Americans to beat him.
“If you think that Trump can be beaten by a two-term governor of a Midwestern state with really good ideas about health care, or by a senator who really attracts young people, think again. The idea that a relatively conventional elected official will differentiate herself from Trump by dint of her seriousness or that an unconventional elected official can out-populist Trump is crazy.”
You need a star to beat a star, as Podhoretz says, and that means a successful opponent for Trump must be someone Trump can neither intimidate nor outshine. Oprah is the modern American Dream embodied, having started from nothing and made her $3bn fortune entirely legitimately by being smart. In TV terms she is at the top of the premier league, whereas the The Donald never was.
We’re through the looking glass here. America is discarding old approaches in politics. Democrats will have to do the same to match the mood to the moment. And that’s where Oprah Winfrey comes in. She is the mirror image of Trump, but more so. Of course, she’s female and he’s male; she’s America’s generous aunt and he’s America’s crazy uncle. And yes, she’s black and he’s white, she’s liberal and he’s whatever he is.
It was Oprah’s hosting of a segment on Sixty Minutes recently, where voters in Michigan discussed their differences, that sparked Podhoretz’s interest. She listened, asked, spoke without judgment, and tried to find common ground. In a place as starkly divided country as the US, isn’t that approach going to be a rather powerful proposition after three more years of Trump’s tweets and him calling his young fellow Americans “Sons of Bitches” and generally going on like a complete clown shaming a great country?
Think of the potential for her to revolutionise campaigning too. Oprah really can fund her own campaign. Imagine that. No donations. She could say when offered money by donors:
“No, I’m running, I’m picking up the bill. I am beholden only to the voters. Please instead put your money into one of the many projects listed on my website that across America, in grassroots projects, work to improve opportunity and heal divisions.”
An Oprah run would be worth it just for the look on Trump’s face when he realises a bigger TV star is coming after him.