Monday, December 10, 2007

Oprah: Power Behind the Throne?

I must confess that I’ve never been a starry-eyed worshipper of Oprah Winfrey. Why? I do not know. But for some reason I’ve never been seduced by the image she shows to the public.

Her foray into Presidential politics on behalf of Democratic candidate Barack Obama comes as no surprise to me. It merely confirms what I’ve always suspected about Oprah: that she’s never been content with being the maven of afternoon TV or the ultimate hostess of American culture. Nay, Oprah has always aspired to being a mass media power broker, a 21st century Walter Winchell with the power to make or break celebrities (and now politicians) with a casual word of endorsement.

The footage of Oprah on the hustings fascinates me. Is she really banging the drums for Barack Obama? Or is she really campaigning for herself? In other words does she truly want to help Obama enter the White House or is she more concerned about making herself the ultimate determinant of whom, we, the People, should vote for in every election? Is she really concerned with the future of our country or is this the latest in a series of arrogations of power she has performed on the American consciousness in the past several years? Is she no longer content to become the maven of what books we should (or should not) read? Now it’s politics?

These are legitimate questions voters must ask themselves when they see Oprah strutting her political stuff. Is Oprah truly qualified to decide who is worthy of the White House? (Indeed is any talk show truly qualified or entitled to dictate to the American people whom they should vote for?)

Advocacy is one thing but blatant partisanship alters the equation with regards to her role in American mass culture.

Another question nags at me, does Oprah really want Obama to enter the White House or is she testing the waters for the day when she will campaign for the nomination for the office of President of the United States? Such an idea cannot be discounted. She has all the ingredients for her own future Presidential run. She’s a popular household name accessible to billions of people every week day. She commands a devoted fan base and she is rich enough to finance her own Presidential campaign without breaking a sweat. Does Oprah really only want to be the kingmaker (or in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s case, Queenmaker) of American politics or does she want to be the Queen herself? For those who scoff at the notion just remember in 1980, Ronald Reagan, an elderly former B-movie actor and former Governor of California won the Presidency and went on to achieve apotheosis in American politics. If Reagan could achieve that much what’s to stop Oprah?

But the question remains: is what Oprah’s doing truly a good thing for America, now and in the future?

The jury is out on that question and, personally, I have my doubts. Voters beware.

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