The Democrat Party has no shortage of candidates jockeying for position in anticipation of the 2020 presidential election.
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, the self-described Democratic Socialist who refuses to call himself a Democrat, is the front-runner. A slew of other senators, including New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has spent the last year abandoning her trademark centrism to become more attractive to the activist Left; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who revels in showmanship but has displayed little substance; California Sen. Kamala Harris, the fresh-faced freshman who’s relationship with Wall Street offends the progressive purists; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who has been preening and posturing for this moment since being elected to the Newark city council.
And that’s just the Senate! Beyond that there’s former Vice President Joe Biden, who if nothing else is the meme-iest candidate on the list; former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe who’s looking for a next entry in the career politician resume after being term-limited out of office in Virginia; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s neoliberalism and triangulation don’t exactly capture the liberal zeitgeist; and California Gov. Jerry Brown, who also happened to run for the Democrat nomination in 1976. Oh and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Let’s not forget about him.
Democrats were apparently extremely excited about this stacked field of presidential hopefuls right up until the moment they heard Oprah Winfrey give a speech at the Golden Globes. At that point, the conversation quickly turned to “Oprah or bust.”
As Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Obama, tweeted the day after the awards: “I slept on it and came to the conclusion that the Oprah thing isn’t that crazy.” Not only is it not crazy, countered Hillary Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon, “I think she would clear an otherwise crowded field and be tough for any of the conventional pols to beat.”
Unfortunately for Democrats, that has very little to do with the abilities of Oprah Winfrey and everything to do with the weakness of the current field. As Matthew Walther writes for The Week:
What Democrats really need, say cooler-headed analysts with presumably wagging fingers, is an experienced, statesmanlike, politically savvy, charismatic centrist, preferably under the age of 70, whose last name is not Clinton.
The question is whether such a person actually exists.
Only a few months ago, Democrats might have been delusional enough to think that Sen. Al Franken (Minn.), who is charming for roughly the exact segment of the American population that thinks Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! is comedy gold, might fit the bill. Now the choice seems to be between three septuagenarians: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), and Vice President Joe Biden. Only one of these is in any sense a moderate, and Uncle Joe’s handsy jet ski-owning uncle routine has not worn well in the era of #MeToo.
Oprah might really be the Democrats’ best bet.
There is a leadership vacuum right now in the Democratic Party. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is such a toxic brand that many in the party wish she’d step down just to reduce the size of the target on their backs and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer may be a strategic thinker, but he carries the charisma of a block of tofu. Hence the crowded field which roughly breaks down into two categories: Geriatrics and no-names. And in an odd twist, it’s the seventy-somethings that are the charismatic ones of the bunch. ‘
Although Democrats are no doubt panicking at their prospects and fawning over the idea that an awards-show speech drew far more excitement than any action by a potential contender thus far, it’s unlikely that Oprah Winfrey will be their deliverance.
“It’s desperation, it’s a lack of creativity,” Christina Greer, a Democratic political analyst and NYU McSilver Institute fellow told Newsday. “It’s a lazy approach. Oprah’s supposed to come in and do what her TV show does, which is make you feel good without challenging you.”
And there is no such thing as politics without challenge. Our nation faces issues that cannot be fixed by promising everyone in the studio audience a car.