Opinion |

Oprah: A Female Version of Donald Trump and Yair Lapid

An Oprah candidacy would be another example of the Western worlds obsession with a culture of celebrity and ratings over expertise and experience

Iris Leal
Iris Leal
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Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey and Yair Lapid.
Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey and Yair Lapid.Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster, Jordan Strauss/AP, Olivier Fitoussi
Iris Leal
Iris Leal

I remember this with a clarity that the years havent blurred at all: Oprah Winfreys program was on television, and I was listening, occasionally glancing at the screen, while planning to leave the house. And then, after a brief introduction, Oprah entered the studio, pulling a wheelbarrow piled with an ugly, white, quivering substance.

For a moment, the audience was struck dumb, then a roar filled the studio. This, she said, pointing at the pile, is the amount of fat Ive gotten rid of in the last few months. The women in the audience were beside themselves.

Then Oprah, the queen of drama, timing, pathos and achievement, grabbed her belt and announced excitedly that she was wearing size 38 Calvin Klein jeans! She was once again wearing size 38 Calvin Kleins! And the studio audience waved its hands and stamped its feet in an outburst of collective religious ecstasy.

Even the sophisticated Hollywood audience was on its feet when Winfrey spoke at the Golden Globes ceremony and did what she has done with phenomenal success for three decades now: inspired people. Perhaps that is why, when talk show host Larry King asked Donald Trump a hypothetical question back in 1999 as to whom he would want as his vice presidential candidate should he decide to run for president, Trump responded that hed want Oprah. He likes Oprah, Trump said; Oprah would be his first choice.

Judging by the media buzz since Oprahs Golden Globes speech, Trump is liable instead to find her running against him in 2020. Oprahs associates have been feeding the rumor mill. Perhaps for this reason, her speech was built out of the climaxes of victory speeches, like the moment where she raised her fist and shouted, So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon!

Its important to examine Winfreys relationship with her viewers and the studio audience in order to understand the ecstatic response to her speech. Her television program was based on a secular version of a Christian sacrament, and this formula recurred again and again: confession, listening, forgiveness and, at the end, joint purification for the guest who made the confession, the host and the audience.

Oprah has been the spiritual shepherd of daytime television and housewives for many years. Now, it turns out shes the head of the liberal secular community.

On one hand, shes obsessed with female body images, but on the other, she has spoken openly about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. Like Trump, shes filthy rich, but she has turned generosity into her trademark. Shes a career woman who chose not to have children, but shes a mother to all the young women who are trying to fulfill themselves while raising their own children.

Winfrey is not just a reaction to Trump. As a candidate, she would be a black, female, liberal version of him, and the desire to elect her as president stems from the same flaccid logic. We, here in Israel, are familiar with a more modest version of this: A talk show host who became a high-profile news anchor and then decided to try his luck in politics. And its certainly possible that hell be Israels next prime minister.

Yair Lapid, Trump and Winfrey are a reflection of the Western worlds vulgarization and its culture of celebrity and ratings, which scorns knowledge, expertise and experience. Therefore, they are candidates of reaction rather than anything in themselves.

Trump is a reaction against eight years of a black president. Oprah is a reaction against a president who has ridden roughshod over his predecessors achievements and liberal values. Lapid is a reaction against Netanyahu, who was himself once a handsome young man who resembled a talk show host.

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