I understand the misunderstanding that Oprah would be the anti-Trump – a black woman, a real billionaire, a famous celebrity (rather than infamous), who actually did come from nothing, who really does listen to people and would hopefully really hire the best people, etc, etc. She even sort of wins the doctor comparison: Oprah gave us Dr Phil, Trump gave us hippy dippy Dr. Bornstein and his ridiculous letters. Well, actually, maybe that’s a wash.
But that’s not really an anti-Trump, that’s just a Democratic Party version of Trump. Which, again, I understand the impulse, I just don’t think that’s where we’re going to be in 2020 or what we need. American politics tends towards pendulum swings, not mirror images. So I am very wary that the party will get whipsawed into making a not-completely-thought-out choice in 2020 like they were in 2016 because of excitement by a certain faction of the party. I do hope that if Oprah does actually run, good, experienced public servants won’t be cowed into backing away. I don’t think that would happen this time – largely because Hillary was so unquestionably qualified and well, Oprah isn’t, except by the Trump standard.
So who is actually the anti-Trump? Anybody with actual experience and dedication to public service, a thoughtful honest person with simple dignity and progressive policy ideas and the ability to enunciate them. Someone sincere and professorial who owns a dog – the things Trump reviles the most.
I’m not advocating for anybody specific here but I heard a snippet of Bill Krystal on the radio this morning talking about how Oprah would be a good choice (thanks Bill, we’ll handle this), I am paraphrasing here “because she came from nothing, she relates to the heartland.” Well, Krystal just also described Elizabeth Warren, but apparently nobody recognizes that. Warren was born and raised in Oklahoma to a struggling working class family – that’s why she’s made the rebuilding of the middle class her life’s work. Warren didn’t go to fancy schools, she went to state schools and earned her way to teach at Harvard. I do understand how a Republican pundit (who has been wrong about absolutely everything for the last 30 years except Trump) either doesn’t know Warren’s backstory or discounts it – Warren is the Republican’s nightmare of a brilliant fighter for middle class values. Is Oprah? I don’t know.
Nobody really does. People think they know what Oprah thinks about things. They assume what her political framework would be – but nobody really knows and probably neither does Oprah because she’s never had to actually put out a policy paper. She’s never had to debate issues in public or private in the deep way a public servant has to, accounting for every faction, every contingency, every nuance of an issue. She could be brought up to speed by a team of wonks on foreign policy and health policy and taxation and so forth, if she actually wants to sit with briefing binders and the nerds that prepared them in the way that Trump didn’t and wouldn’t do!
But I still think it’s more likely that we’ll choose someone who has already been in that room, done the hard work of governing, been through the crucible of running for office and has seen the legislative sausage get made. And we should choose that person. That’s the anti-Trump.