Obama should have waited. I voted for him twice and would gladly do it twice more but I felt a curdling ambivalence when he entered the race in 2008. After his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention I thought he could be the first African-American president. But in ’08 John McCain was right when he called Obama a celebrity which does not qualify someone to be President of the US. He should have completed at least one term in the Senate to gain some working knowledge in government, since the job of being president has something to do with the workings of government. In a somewhat sane political ecosystem, multiple Senate or Gubernatorial terms would be the norm.
By coincidence, Barak Obama had an elegant broad-based intelligence and lifelong intellectual curiosity which enriched every molecule of that intelligence. Toss in communication skills, sense of humor, an inclination to weigh competing viewpoints, chill under pressure, a strong moral compass and a past free of scandal – lack of experience aside – he was the most qualified president since FDR.
But, as I feared, he launched a potentially disastrous trend: celebrity as a pretext for being taken seriously as a presidential candidate. A newbie politician who finds an opportune news cycle event to concoct a viral youTube moment; a corporate CEO who achieves fame for turning a company around or for getting fired, a flamboyant reality TV celeb or anyone who can fire up a base by any means necessary. Duane the Rock Johnson? Kid Rock for Senate? Remember when it was assumed that a couple weeks of cramming would make Sarah Palin knowledgeable enough to make crucial foreign policy decisions.
Oprah Winfrey is pretty damn impressive. Morally decent. Seems to care about people’s well-being. Strategic, focused, busted through all the societal barricades against minorities and women. Might be the ideal presidential candidate. If she had a lot of experience in government and politics, a broad knowledge base developed over a lifetime in, at least, geopolitics, history, sociology and economics.
We’re a society that worships celebrity above all things – their rise, their romances, their dysfunctions and downfalls. It takes extraordinary achievement in a particular field to be a celebrity. Or being the designated asshole on a reality show, intentionally or accidently caught on camera being loudly odd while pretty; or doing anything on camera while pretty. A sex tape will do.
In the 21st Century America, we live a major portion of every day on pavement and in rectangular rooms, often in a seated position. When a large part of life is projected on a screen – even our own lives – politics is a reality show, part Survival or The Apprentice and part sports. Aside from a few journalist-type venues, politics and current events reach us as a form of entertainment with cliffhangers preceding every commercial break. Cable news is a room full of people, most of them pretty, fighting for attention and legitimacy. Education has been delivered as though an antidote to pleasure and entertainment, so much of the voting public has no factual back story for political dramas and no desire to be bored with the details. Choosing a president or senator is choosing a film or a playlist.
We lived through 8 catastrophic George W Bush years – the fallout still dropping. A guy with no intellectual curiosity or knowledge base, who assumed he could be a governor (a part-time occupation in Texas) and president simply because it was the family biz. And now Trump. How can anybody seriously be pondering an Oprah Winfrey candidacy? Yeah, way better than Trump, more charismatic than Hillary and time for a woman president.
If politics and government actually were a reality show I’d vote for Oprah Winfrey. If the presidency was a tagteam I’d vote for the Coen Brothers. But it’s not a reality show, so please, Oprah, please have enough reality-based intelligence and sanity to tell us we’re all fuckin crazy and it’s time grow up real fast.
— Polar Levine, News Goo Dissection, January 11, 2018
© Polar Levine 2018 content should not be reproduced elsewhere without prior permission