Will 2020 Be Oprah vs. Trump?

The reaction to the media mogul's Golden Globe speech opens a window into our increasingly absurd politics.


Carlos Amaya/Sipa USA/Newscom

The next presidential election is almost three years away, and yet it appears the race already has its frontrunner: Oprah Winfrey.

Center-left Twitter, where endless optimism about government in general mixes with apoplectic rage and fear about the government we currently have, is suddenly swooning over the idea, with numerous media personalities and fans tweeting out their endorsements:

This isn't the first Oprah-for-president boomlet. (Reason covered similiar musings last March.) This latest Winfrey craze was sparked by a speech the media mogul gave at the Golden Globes last night about sexual harassment and the role of women in society. That set off a sycophantic chant of "run, Oprah, run" on Twitter, complete with a trending #Oprah2020 hashtag.

Adding fuel to the fire was a tweet NBC issued during the ceremony displaying a picture of the anointed one with the caption "Nothing but respect for our future president."

That was more than enough to trigger a bevy of right-wing twitter voices, who responded to the obviously light-hearted NBC tweet with pure disgust:

NBC was sufficiently shamed so as to delete the tweet and issue a new one explaining that no, this was not an actual political endorsement.

Just a few years ago, that kind of follow-up would have hardly been necessary, as no one would really take the idea of Oprah being a viable, mainstream political candidate seriously. But with Donald Trump shattering every political, constitutional, and sociocultural norm in sight, a lot more seems politically possible, even acceptable. After all, Winfrey does have a lot to offer over President Trump, including a compelling rags-to-riches story and a far more impressive record of business success.

And just as many on the right found something oddly compelling about the "tough guy" boss persona Donald Trump cultivated from his years hosting the apprentice, many in the center and on the left seem decidedly primed for candidate Winfrey, whose vapid feel-good ideology mixed with lots of sweet prizes seems tailor-made for today's political times.

Even Donald Trump himself suggested Oprah would be a decent vice-presidential candidate when he was running for the Reform Party's presidential nomination in 1999:

And in 2015, he floated the idea again.

Winfrey herself might even be starting to believe some of the hype generated from her Golden Globe speech. CNN cites two reportedly "close friends" of Winfrey, who say she is "actively thinking" about a presidential run.

Libertarians have been hoping for the breakdown of the two-party system for a long time. Whether a presidential campaign between two TV stars will be the thing to tear it asunder remains to be seen. At the very least, such an outcome should kill any veneer of seriousness our partisan politics once possessed. If smaller government isn't in the cards, at least we could get a more transparently absurd one.