Oprah Winfrey hadn't yet finished her Golden Globes acceptance speech when social media began to shudder, almost in unison, with the fervent hope it was the beginning of a remarkable new journey for the iconic black entertainer.
One that concluded in the White House in 2020.
"She launched a rocket tonight," declared actress Meryl Streep, after watching her friend accept a lifetime achievement award. "I want her to run for president. I don't think she had any intention [of declaring]. But now she doesn't have a choice."
Ms. Winfrey's long-time partner, Stedman Graham, only fuelled speculation when he was asked if his soulmate was considering such a move: "It's up to the people. She'd absolutely do it." His words were barely audible above the din of actors and actresses, and a myriad of others on Twitter, urging the Queen of American television to take a run at the job.
To which I say: America, have you lost your mind? Oprah versus Donald Trump? This is madness.
Let me begin by declaring my unreserved admiration of Ms. Winfrey for any number of reasons: the poverty and sexual abuse she overcame growing up to rise to the top of the U.S. entertainment industry; the manner in which she revolutionized the talk-show genre; her incredible acting abilities; her bottomless reserve of empathy; her generosity. Now a 63-year-old multibillionaire, she's earned everything she's got.
Her speech on Sunday unquestionably benefited from the moment in American life amid which it was given: the fierce reckoning underway around the sexual harassment and abuse of women that has spawned powerful movements such as #MeToo and Time's Up. Given her own back-story, Ms. Winfrey was the perfect choice to deliver an important statement about the critical social juncture at which the U.S. finds itself.
"I want all of the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon," said Ms. Winfrey, in a line that many interpreted as foreshadowing a 2020 run.
I hope my friends in the States take a step back and think about this for a minute.
I understand getting caught up in what was a beautifully poignant moment and imagining, for a second, what a perfect antidote Oprah might be to the intolerant, heartless bully that is Mr. Trump. But what would that say about where American politics is heading? That celebrity culture is now so deeply and firmly entrenched that only rich television and movie stars need apply for the most demanding job in the world?
That Oprah could never be as bad as Donald Trump is hardly the point. And I understand that having the ability to make an emotional connection with people (a gift Oprah has) is an asset for a president. But having critical experience in government is one too. A huge one. People remember Oprah as the person who gave away cars on her show. ("You get a car! And you get a car! Everybody gets a car. …") What will they think when she's suddenly the one presiding over a faltering economy or an ugly showdown with the Chinese or a deepening opioid crisis claiming the lives of thousands and thousands of Americans each year?
Will she turn to her vice-president, George Clooney, for advice?
I think there is a tendency in the U.S. to gravitate toward shiny objects. Not long ago, the media and others were touting Michelle Obama for president after a rousing speech she gave on behalf of Hillary Clinton during the last election campaign. More recently, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, movie action star and former professional wrestler, was being encouraged to run. (He said he'll seriously consider it for 2024.)
Is this honestly where we've arrived? Where political experience counts for nothing and celebrity, everything? Ronald Reagan was once an actor, yes, but he was also a two-term governor of the most populous state in the U.S., California, which boasted the world's fourth-largest economy. That experience helped inform his decision-making in the Oval Office.
Ms. Clinton was arguably the most qualified person to ever run for the presidency. It should have counted for more than it did. She should have won. Just because she was rejected, it doesn't mean you go for someone who would be the least qualified Democratic candidate in history.
I hope a woman wins the White House in 2020. Time's Up. I just hope she brings along with her the kind of crucial political experience that the most difficult job in the world demands.