Oprah Winfrey not the answer to Democratic electorate exhausted by political correctness

By Liu Weidong Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/16 20:23:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

After Oprah Winfrey's inspiring speech on gender and racial equality at the 75th Golden Globes on January 7, discussions supporting a 2020 presidential bid dominated US social media.

Even if the billionaire talk show queen herself denied any presidential ambitions, quite a few celebrities and media are still overexcited about her landing a seat in the Oval Office, or as Time magazine put it, "the audience couldn't stop begging her to run for president."

Meanwhile, conservative US media are satirizing the phenomenon. "This is absurd. The left latches onto any celebrity with an anti-Trump message and urges them to run for office. Why?" asked the Right Observer.

The answer is obvious. After Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump in 2016, the Democratic Party has not yet pulled itself together, with no one emerging able to lead the party in a fight against the GOP.

Among the Democrats, there are also two factions - traditional Democrats represented by Clinton versus democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders. As the party appears internally divided and leaderless, many seek a figure who is influential throughout the country and can be accepted by both factions to run for president in the next election.

Republicans are thus gloating. They believe that for the moment, old hands in the Democratic Party have no alternative but to pin their hopes on a TV star to fire up American voters against the backdrop of the nation's new domestic situation and societal contradictions.

However, being a woman of color will be a disadvantage for Winfrey if she really was thinking about running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Since she is a woman of color, voting for or against her is a matter of political correctness.

Since Trump kicked off his campaign in 2015, he has been blatantly opposing political correctness. The reason he won in the end was simply because an increasing number of people in the country are tired of political correctness. They might not articulate such a sentiment in public, but when they voted, they voted for the billionaire who seemed to be truly fighting political correctness.

For the moment, the ideological trend - attaching importance to different races, which was shaped during former US president Barack Obama's tenure - is facing more and more resistance. The rise of white supremacy in 2017 was a proof, which mirrored the country's long-accumulated dissatisfaction with political correctness. Such a sentiment is probably deeper and wider than we can see.

Since former US president Lyndon Baines Johnson's administration, the US has been promoting African-American civil rights movement and taking care of different races. However, it is in fact in conflict with the US mainstream values with which the country was established. In US society, the value that ranks first is freedom, followed by equality and democracy. Freedom means one should fight for a better life by him/herself instead of depending on assistance from the government. 

Nevertheless, quite a few immigrants to the US are not diligent, but rely on government subsidies to maintain their livelihoods. Blue-collar whites, in the meantime, may not have much earning potential, but are very hard-working. Therefore, they look askance at immigrants and believe that providing excessive welfare for them is encouraging indolence.

Even within the Democratic Party, not everyone supports so-called political correctness. Democrats view African-Americans and women as eye-catching figures to win more votes, but that does not mean that they genuinely support people of color or women.

Obama's success and Clinton's standing out as a female candidate stemmed more from their political résumé as well as their social networks within the party than their gender or the color of their skin.

Winfrey, however, does not have any connections within the party. Thus, although Winfrey's fans are eager to see her storm the Oval Office, the hard truth is that the possibility of the Democrats taking her seriously is not likely, let alone all US citizens.

The author is a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Newspaper headline: Oprah not solution for divided Democrats

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