Evan Minniti staff writer
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle famously postulated that a vacuum couldn’t exist in nature and that something would inevitably come in to fill the gap. Modern-day physicists have proved Aristotle wrong, showing that the vast majority of the universe is empty space. But, when it comes to politics, Aristotle might have been on to something.
Trump’s first year in office has been that of a long, scary and deeply reactionary administration; the Trump Administration has launched attacks on the environment, women’s rights, labor rights, immigrant rights and seemingly basic human decency itself. And with the Congressional Democrats not offering any real resistance to Trump (backing Trump and the GOP in increasing the defense budget, warrantless surveillance, against universal healthcare and voting down impeachment) many Americans are rightfully looking for an alternative to fill the political vacuum.
That is where Oprah Winfrey has come in. Because of her rousing speech at the Golden Globes, many establishment media sources and individuals want her to run for President. What started as a joke seems to have evolved into a real possibility. Even Shaun King, the rightfully lauded progressive journalist-activist and important Black Lives Matter organizer, is open to a possible Winfrey presidential campaign. Winfrey’s supporters, like King, would have people believe that Winfrey is a feminist and anti-racist juggernaut whose broad popularity is enough to take down Trump-Pence in 2020. And while Winfrey herself is adamant that a presidential campaign is off the table, any hypothetical Winfrey presidency would most likely represent a continuation of the neoliberal policies that galvanized many white, rural, middle income Americans to support Trump in the first place.
Winfrey has tried very hard to present herself as a relatively apolitical figure who had a moral obligation to take a stand against Trump. In reality, she has a long history of using her platform as a way to subtly support the claims of the Bush Administration that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Any major political or media icon who supported the Iraq War should be viewed as entirely unfit to hold any sort of political office, let alone the Presidency of the United States.
The support for Winfrey is simply a new (very desperate) attempt by some in the billionaire class to recapture the White House from its more extreme right wing minority. They know that their policies are completely discredited in the eyes of the majority of Americans. And while most members of the ruling elite may prefer a more serious option than Winfrey (perhaps Corey Booker or Elizabeth Warren), they want someone like the French President Emmanuel Macron or the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; they want a charismatic politician who can distract from the austerity cuts, police brutality, erosion of civil rights and increased war abroad. Should Winfrey run for President, she will represent the status quo repackaged.
At the end of the day, a Winfrey 2020 campaign is wishful thinking and wouldn’t represent a serious opposition to Trump. But, again, nature abhors a vacuum and something has to fill the role of the opposition.
There has been a dramatic increase in support for leftist and socialist ideas in the United States, especially among the youth. Right now, the majority of millenials and young people openly support socialism over capitalism. In addition to that, six in 10 Americans want a third major political party. These undercurrents in American society have found ways to express themselves: first in Occupy Wall Street, later in BLM and Fight For $15. Bernie Sanders rallied millions to his banner during the 2016 Democratic primary. The Democratic Socialists of America have grown by leaps and bounds under the Trump Administration, and DSA-endorsed candidates swept local elections in November 2017.
Malcolm X said that the future belongs to those who prepare for it today. A long march lies ahead to take down Trump and the two-party political establishment that has so loyally represented the interests of the billionaire class. Winfrey isn’t the answer to Trump; a bold grassroots alliance of progressives and socialists outside the confines of the Democratic Party is the answer.