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Not Oprah For President

January 13, 2018

8f918e72-f441-11e7-8693-80d4e18fb3a2_1280x720_105436.jpgI sometimes think about which Presidents I’d like to have to my house for dinner. Who would I welcome in to spend time with my family? Who would it to be an honor to meet and have a real conversation with. I think most of them. Reagan, Bush 41 and 43, Obama. Even some of the candidates—Romney, McCain, Sanders. They all seem like good, decent people, and despite our political disagreements I’m sure we’d find other things to talk about. Oprah Winfrey would definitely be in that category. I’m sure I’d find her as warm and thoughtful, full of energy and kindness as all of her fans do. If someone asked if I’d want to meet Oprah, of course I would.

But Oprah should not be our President.

There’s been a lot of chatter about it since her Golden Globes speech, a rousing take on feminism and the state of the world. She’s a great role model for everyone (men and women). I think Oprah is smart and thoughtful and has amazing ambition, not to mention the kind of charisma that would make her an ideal candidate.

But that is the problem. What makes people ideal candidates these days is not what makes them ideal presidents. Trump was a great candidate. He sucked all the oxygen out of the room, pulled the spotlight to him and bullied seasoned politicians in front of everyone. He said outrageous, outlandish things over and over—things that by the laws of common sense and common decency revealed him to be completely inept, immoral and a straight-up asshole. We got a very clear picture from Trump the candidate of how Trump the President would behave. Because that’s Trump, the man.

Given the opportunity, I would not want to meet him. I would not shake his hand. I would not want him near my home or near my family, President or no. And yet, millions of people voted for him, either because they were suckered by his empty pandering, because they ignored the personality in favor of policies that seemed to align to their own, or because he was the better of two evils. Let’s leave that at that.

In many ways, Oprah is the polar opposite of Trump. Her message is that everyone is good, everyone deserves compassion, the world is better with all of us. Her political beliefs probably align very well with mine. But it’s her other beliefs that are a huge problem.

Like Trump, Oprah is a magical thinker.

Yes, it’s a different brand of magical thinking. Trump’s world conforms to his own ego and his own opinions, and he will say—if not actually believe—things that are patently, demonstrably false, even at the time he says them. The debate about Trump is not whether he is a purveyor of convenient falsehoods, it’s whether or not he actually believes them (i.e. the Trump is mentally insane argument) or just a bald-faced liar.

Oprah, on the other hand, has a long history of promoting quack beliefs of her own. Homeopathic remedies, mystical energies, the rampancy of satanic cults, anti-vaccers, The Secret, the dangerous Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, Eckhart Tolle—a long, long list of quacks and quack ideas. Because until now, Oprah has not been held to a standard of objective reality. She has a legion of dedicated followers who believe whatever malarkey she peddles. Because she’s Oprah.

And that is a problem.

It’s fine if belief in some dubious mystical or spiritual energy gives you confidence and inner strength. If you want to believe you can change the world with your thoughts, or that your prayers will lead to financial success or that some magic diet will give you superpowers, you’re free to do so.

But I don’t want you making policy. I don’t want your magical thinking taught in science class, your magical supplements in my food or your magical God-is-on-America’s-side delusion guiding our foreign policy.

Oprah built her empire on ratings. She’s magnetic. She’s an entertainer and a very good one. And shows about the latest magical thinking or magical cure are apparently entertaining, very good for ratings.

But we need someone who believes in the real form of reality. Who, when it comes to science looks to, oh I don’t know, the scientists maybe. Who believes in doctors with actual medical degrees. We do not need another entertainer. We do not need another quack. We do not need another magical thinker.



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