Donald Trump, via Wiki­media Commons


When Oprah Winfrey took the stage at the Golden Globes to speak about the evils of sexual assault, pundits began to spread rumors of a 2020 pres­i­dential can­didacy. The speech was so well received that we just might forget Oprah is a longtime friend of Harvey Wein­stein.

Rich Lowry, editor-in-chief of National Review, warned con­ser­v­a­tives to take Oprah seri­ously. According to Lowry, Pres­ident Donald Trump’s election proved “that a celebrity with charisma, per­for­mative ability, and gobs of free media can, in the right cir­cum­stances, stomp con­ven­tional politi­cians.”

Ben Shapiro bemoaned that “electing the pres­ident has become the equiv­alent of voting for the royal family, rather than voting for a person to implement policy.”

Eugene Scott wrote in The Wash­ington Post that con­ser­v­ative argu­ments of inex­pe­rience against Oprah are invalid in light of Trump.

But Scott, Lowry, Shapiro, and others do not acknowledge the argu­ments for Trump. He won, not because he was a celebrity out­sider, but because he chal­lenged a decades-long bipar­tisan con­sensus on three key issues: immi­gration, trade, and foreign policy. Though errat­i­cally and impre­cisely, Trump pre­sented a renewed under­standing of cit­i­zenship, nationhood, and sov­er­eignty. The idea that the American gov­ernment ought to serve the American people ani­mated his cam­paign.

This is not to say his out­sider status hurt him. Trump himself is a sort of paradox to the flyover state Christian; he’s a rich, irre­li­gious, coastal elite. But at the same time, of all those in the political sphere, Trump appeals to them the most. He talks like he just sat down on the barstool next to you. Although he is no political philosopher, he rec­og­nizes truths that seem blurred when looked on from above. Truths that can only be seen, as Machi­avelli says in the preface to “The Prince,” from the place of the vulgar.

Former Repub­lican pres­i­dential can­di­dates Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson were also political out­siders. Where was their auto­matic support? And Trump was far out­spent by can­di­dates such as Jeb Bush. It wasn’t about the money. This is why the thesis of Lowry, Scott, and Shapiro falls short; it attributes Trump’s meteoric rise to his celebrity status, his bom­bastic tone, the myopia of the masses, really any­thing but his message.

Trump ran a fairly con­ven­tional cam­paign. He picked a few major issues and stuck to them. As it hap­pened, those issues were important to the American people. By cham­pi­oning these common sense “America First” policies, Trump demon­strated pru­dence and courage. Although his past may not be spotless, he must be eval­uated on his ability to rule.

Plato points to pru­dence, not chastity, as the virtue of the statesman. Indeed, look to our own American history: Alexander Hamilton and Ben­jamin Franklin were both instru­mental to the American Founding. Neither was known for his sexual restraint.

Trump also dis­played a certain courage on the cam­paign trail. He called Hillary Clinton an enabler and lined up her husband’s accusers by the debate stage. He advo­cated for a total shutdown on Muslim immi­gration until we have ade­quate vetting mea­sures. He spoke uncom­fortable truths on crime and immi­gration. He chal­lenged the “fake news” media head on. The list goes on. But most impor­tantly, Trump denounced the inability or refusal of the political class to serve the American people.

Can one imagine a Jeb Bush or John Kasich openly humil­i­ating North Korean tin-pot dic­tator Kim Jong Un? But only after Trump’s “unpres­i­dential” tweets did “Little Rocket Man” open talks with South Korea for the first time in more than two years.

Shakespeare’s acerbic pen rings right: “Truth is truth to the end of reck­oning.” And Trump, for all his crassness, seems to have the courage to speak the truth. Courage, as Solzhen­itsyn warned the West in his famous “Harvard Address,” is in short supply. It’s only gotten worse since he uttered those prophetic words in 1978.

Oprah may be in a position to run for pres­ident. Iron­i­cally, one of Trump’s first incli­na­tions toward pol­itics was an interview with Oprah herself in 1988. He told her he probably wouldn’t ever run for pres­ident — unless things got really bad. In Plato’s “Republic,” Socrates describes the just ruler: he “drudges in pol­itics,” not out of a desire to rule, but because he does not want to be ruled by someone worse than himself.

Trump was tired of being ruled by people worse than himself. But his out­sider appeal only gets him so far; stances, not status, cat­a­pulted him to the White House. He is doomed in 2020 if he abandons those core issues. If all he brings to the table is his celebrity status, he’ll be any old bil­lionaire — like Oprah.

Gar­rison Grisedale is a junior studying pol­itics.

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    Let Oprah run, I think it’s a great idea. Trump would take the starch out of her knickers in the first debate, she wouldn’t know what hit her. But she won’t run, because if she does people will start asking a lot of unpleasant ques­tions about the nature of her rela­tionship with Harvey Wein­stein. Oprah has managed to hide behind the Hol­lywood curtain and project an image as a self-made woman. She wouldn’t stand up well to the scrutiny she’d get in a pres­i­dential contest. And she knows it.

  • PeteM

    My question to the author is — what makes you think Trump has or will stay con­sistent in his embrace of core issues? I agree that one reason is he won is that he rejected tra­di­tional GOP free market policies, claiming that his trade and immi­gration policies would protect indus­trial jobs. His major achieve­ments, however, are appointing a tra­di­tional con­ser­v­ative to the Supreme Court and passing a tax cut that tilts toward business and the wealthy. Also, I think the author mis­un­der­stands what people say when they ascribe Trump’s success to his celebrity. Yes, he had a message as would Oprah if she ran. What Trump had in greater supply than most politi­cians was an ability to read a crowd, which is some­thing celebrities have to have to survive (politi­cians too, but to a lesser degree).