Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
How Oprah Winfrey Helped Create Our Irrational, Pseudoscientific Fantasyland (slate.com)
197 points by anarbadalov 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 115 comments



I have a nice example on how people will always choose celebrities over good politicians.

In Belgium, there is this political party NVA, who used to say that politicians shouldn't appear in entertainment programs. This party also lived by it. They only appeared in political debates. Back then that party was small.

At the time, there was this popular politician Steve Stevaert, of an opposing (big) party. He always appeared at TV entertainment shows, and people loved him. They thought he was a very sympathetic. People voted for him because they probably felt close to him.

NVA saw that their (in my eyes politically correct) strategy wasn't working. So one of their major politicians, Bart De Wever, started to appear in entertainment shows. Now this guy had a hidden talent: he could make really funny dry jokes, and people loved him for that. Because of his entertainment value, all kinds of shows invited him.

Guess what, that political party became huge, one of the biggest in Belgium. People voted for him.

So unless there is a law that forbids politicians to appear in entertainment shows, I guess people will vote for the ones who appear in the popular media. Sad but true.


To everybody considering this a good thing (and even to those considering this a bad thing), I suggest reading Neil Postman's excellent cautionary analysis Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985 and subsequent revisions): basically he predicted that a 24-hour news cycle and bombastic personalities with debates framed in terms of fifteen-second sound-bites would result in politics becoming nothing more than a form of entertainment, and that citizens would begin to respond to it as such. That was with few-to-many traditional mass-media; with social media the tendency has become (counterintuitively) if anything even more heightened. It's a horrific state of affairs. Anyway, it’s a book I first read in 1998 and though written in the Regan years struck me as being unbelievably pertinent even to the world when I first read it, let alone now.

I remember that right after the Columbine mass-shooting in 1999 my best friend and I were sitting in his bedroom. We were late teenagers (18), expatriates living in Italy, getting our “international” news from the very first online news sources such as cnn.com and the bbc website. George W. Bush was clearly on track to become the Republican candidate and was equally clearly under the thumb of the NRA. I remember muttering that if the Democrats had any sense they'd deploy against him with a candidate with mass-market appeal... “Oprah Winfrey or Jerry Springer, and sod the consequences”. My friend, wise beyond his years, presciently remarked “Jerry Springer I shan't deign with a response, but Oprah Winfrey and the touchy-feely feel-good stuff of folks like Robin Williams is all that is bad about what is good about America... the day a party will nominate one of those to run as their candidate you'll know it's all over, the experiment of the Founding Fathers will have gone down the drain, it'll be the end of everything because the system will have the means but no incentive to recover”. Those words have haunted me ever since. I reminded him of that grim pronouncement of his just the other day (coincidentally the day Oprah gave that speech was also the exact same day he became a father) and he just looked at me with tired eyes that glasses over with sadness.


ridiculously how Americans are agitating for Oprah as the best chance to save us from Trump...just goes to show the sad state of affairs in US. Oprah and Trump are two sides of the same coin.


The much more common sentiment among my liberal friends is that after Trump they want someone who knows what the hell they are doing and Oprah is not that person. Maybe it's just the liberals I know but they have so far all been hostile to her running.


Fingers crossed, but then again, all the conservatives I know detested Trump too, and yet here we are.

If the field is fractured, a surprisingly small group of fans can push a highly disliked candidate to the top of the heap, and once that happens, the inexorable logic of the electoral system can make it difficult to reverse. (I'm thinking here of Trump, of course, but Clinton is almost as good an example.)


2018 Jan 1-7 87% of Republicans approve of Trump, 5% of Democrats approve, 32% of independents approve

http://news.gallup.com/poll/203198/presidential-approval-rat...


Right, but the situation was very different prior to and during the primaries. Only once he became the nominee and (especially) president did Republican's start to come round. As, I'm sure, most of the Democrat's asking Oprah not to run would do so if she won the nomination.

My point is, if popularity 2+ years before the election was any guide, then we would probably be talking about how weird it is to have a third President Bush right now (I still remember headlines from 2016 about "Bush surges to 2016 GOP frontrunner"). A year later and Jeb was an embarrassing fizzle.


The point of my citation is to contrast with the anecdote about conservatives detesting Trump. Overwhelmingly Republicans (not necessarily conservatives) approve of what he's doing. It'll be vaguely interesting to see if these numbers weakend meaningfully after the most recent week's episodes of Celebrity Chaos Clown.


Trump was polling at 3.6% among republicans as late as June 2015...


Speaking from the center, yes, I'd love to see someone who knows what they're doing. (But worst of all would be someone who knows what all of us our doing. If forced to vote in a Winfrey vs. Zuckerberg primary, I suppose I'd choose her).


Oh, good god, yes. There is no way in hell I'd vote for a technocrat who believes he knows more than Obama thought he knew.


Same - could be a bubble but I haven't seen anything supporting her running, just pieces on why it would be terrible if she did - which I agree with.


> I haven't seen anything supporting her running

I have. More specifically, I've seen a bunch of posts criticizing the criticism of her potential candidacy, basically for ruining the good vibes from after her speech. This might be another filter-bubble effect, too. I know a lot of people who are a certain kind of progressive activist.


I think it's more the sad state of America's 2 party system - elections are less about voting for the "best" candidate, and more about voting for the least bad of the only 2 viable choices. A vote for a 3rd party candidate is effectively a vote against your favorite of the main party candidates.

I think some sort of ranked voting system would be better.


The 2 party system is a product of a lot of things, but when it comes time to vote for president, almost all large American cities have literally 0% say in who gets elected. The electoral college system is an absolute joke


People who live in upstate NY, and northern California would probably have something to say about that. As would the people who live outside of Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Eugene, and Minneapolis/St-Paul.


What would they say about that? That there are more democrats in their state so the majority rules?


The cities I listed definitely have a huge influence over the state as a whole, and if they didn't exist, they would red states. More rural areas tend to vote Republican and cities tend to vote Democrat. There's nothing really new in that statement. You can see it http://brilliantmaps.com/2016-county-election-map/


But I think the point is that the electoral college is specifically designed to lessen the influence of those mostly liberal cities in the federal election.

So you can end up with the winner of the election going to the candidate with the fewest votes, which has happened more than once:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_ele...


No, it isn't designed to lessen the influence of liberal cities. It is designed to lessen the influence of more populated states over less populated states. It is an attempt to level influence a bit. More populated states still obviously have an advantage in absolute terms, but it allows for more states to override a single large state.


As long as you have "first past the post" and voluntary voting, you won't really get anything better. The compulsory voting and specifying the order of who want in is, somewhat better, in that there can be non-major candidates that end up getting elected.

Isn't perfect, but then again, what is?


It also signals that someone who got 60% doesn’t necessarily have a “mandate”. People may have just really hated the other front runner.

If 20% cast a ranked vote for a more centrist or extreme 3rd party candidate you know which way you have to lean your policies within your comfort zone to do what you meant to without tanking your approval rating.


With more than two parties the likelihood of a President having a mandate is even lower.


Yes, let's trade one narcissist for another who is on the cover of every issue of her own magazine.


Are there really Americans calling for Oprah though, really?... I mean, who of your friends or family actually said that Oprah should become president? All I'm familiar with is the media that keeps talking about how not Oprah, but 'insiders' keep saying she should run. It's an absolute joke. To me it seems obvious that Oprah wants to run, and that there wasn't anyone calling for that until she started a media campaign of anonymous-insiders talking about her run for presidency.

I hate these self prophesying stories. You can hardly not respond to this nonsense, but responding to it doesn't seem to help either.


> I mean, who of your friends or family actually said that Oprah should become president?

Several people in my social media circles almost immediately after the speech, before any media traction from it.

Since then, several more, often reposting/sharing/retweeting others outside my circles.


The American media in no way represents the American public.


Based on what data? Most of the American media is privately owned, and for-profit. Someone's paying for that. If it's not the American public, who is?


You just answered your own question.


I'm not sure that they are? Nobody asked for it, but the media started talking about it, for some reason.

I think part of why it still has some life, is that it is so outlandish to even think about (like Trump) - its great click bait.


> ridiculously how Americans are agitating for Oprah as the best chance to save us from Trump

It's actually not uncommon even in normal times for a bried “so and so for President” thing to pop up after a particular speech or event that has large viewership in which someone has a performance which resonates with a segment of the population.

While I’m mildly concerned about it, I’d be cautious to give it much weight unless it doesn't fade in a couple of weeks.


Guys, can we just, as a society, agree not to elect any more celebrities to public office.

I just want my next president to be boring. Just some dweeby guy/gal in a suit who isn’t part of some political dynasty, that went to school, studied hard and got a law degree, and served for a few years in a relevant public office, like governor or senator. You know like a normal politician. Or what used to be one.

The American political system for all its faults, is pretty good and maybe we should like try and do something normal instead of throwing a tantrum because the last guy tried to fix health insurance.


I agree with your post, but:

> The American political system for all its faults, is pretty good

It just isn't. The American political system is one of the core reasons why the country is so divided. Why Trump got elected at all, despite being supported by the minority. Why people are now talking about Oprah running.

The American political system was broken before Trump. The current president is one of the gross symptoms of a much more insidious disease; one of the roots of that disease is in fact, that political system.

Of course, it's not some tv star that'll fix it when it benefits them. In fact, statistically it's unlikely you'll find a president (who got elected, ergo benefited from the system) who will change that.


I would argue the country would be divide regardless of the political system.

And having lived outside the US, other countries are easily as polarized although maybe in a less adversarial way.


If we had a remotely reasonable voting system—i.e. if we got rid of first last the post—the divide wouldn’t be as dramatic and we wouldn’t have everyone’s crazy racist uncle as president.


I don't even think should expect a president to have a law degree. Many east asian countries and germany have engineering phd's as their leader.


> got a law degree, and served for a few years in a relevant public office, like governor or senator. You know like a normal politician.

I hate the preponderance of lawyers in the U.S. political system. I would much prefer engineers, who have experience building large systems, and executives who have experience managing large organizations.

But I agree with the desire for boring, "dweeby", competent people.


As an engineer, I still want someone with a law degree to be president. As much as I want to see some large, overhauling change for the public good like Interstate Highways under Eisenhower, I also concede that US law is extremely nuanced and I think someone who studied law (and maybe history or political science) will best be able to think about how decisions will affect everyone.


Congress writes laws so it makes sense many politicians in that body are lawyers for the reasons you state. The court is made up not merely of lawyers but judges, their skill set is interpreting law, and dealing with their inevitable conflicts including legal hierarchies.

I don't agree the president needs to be a lawyer. That person can surround themselves with many good lawyers. The office of the president has the White House counsel, to deal with executive branch legal issues. The attorney general is completely separate, who is the head law enforcement official representing the entire government.

Ostensibly any issue arriving in front of the president is something important and difficult to decide on or someone else would have already done that. Good presidents have such decision making ability without getting stuck in minutia and petty arguments that serve no purpose, rather than acting like it's a TV show. They should have a firm grasp of ethics because often they're going to have to choose one among many good choices, or one among many bad choices. They should have a very good executive reasoning skill, cause and effect, consequences for their actions a decade or more down the road, rather than merely the next election, or the next Tweet. A good president needs to be a decent orator because they get their political capital from the people, and there will need to be many inspiring speeches, and condolence speeches. In this I'd include when to speak, and when not to speak.

Blah - there's more to it than that. But the point is, the president does not need to be a lawyer.


I was reading your comment thinking to myself, “by these characteristics, a Mathematician would make a great President!” but then I read “must be a good orator” and all hope was lost.


No I said decent. A president will get a better than decent speech writer [1], but the writer doesn't make policy. The president has to have a distinct, clear opinion about policy, and a good writer makes it convincing and evokes an emotional response in the listener. And then a president makes the delivery.

[1 Barack Obama was a little unique among recent presidents in that he wrote most of his own speeches.


⎡I just want my next president to be boring. Just some dweeby guy/gal in a suit who isn’t part of some political dynasty, that went to school, studied hard and got a law degree, and served for a few years in a relevant public office, like governor or senator. You know like a normal politician. Or what used to be one.⎦

If something happens to Trump you might get your wish in Mike Pence.


I think it sort of depends on the person but I mostly agree. There is massive power in someone who truly believes "anything is possible" and takes massive action on extremely high goals they set for themselves and achieve. The Napoleon-Hill-Approved humans who let nothing get in the way of their self-designed "definite life purpose". Better examples of celebs-turned-political are Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who put the effort into learning the material and acknowledging the crowd.

Although Trump and Oprah are undoubtedly the kinds of action-takers who make their extremely high goals a reality, in my opinion they both lack one or two other vital presidential qualities that come with their personality types. Trump lacks the humility to admit what he doesn't know and learn it— instead he lashes out on Twitter, taking every unimportant comment personally; he is always thinking about competition and personal problems rather than considering all-inclusive encouragement. Oprah has the opposite problem; I can't judge her until she's given a chance, but I imagine her relying too much on people-pleasing, and would perhaps struggle to deal with constant decisions millions of people will dislike her for no matter what she chooses (unless she can afford a few hundred million "free cars" to give away to her new audience).


Since Ronald Reagan there's been a precedent set that it isn't a bad thing for conservatives to have previously been in showbiz. Same is definitely true on the "other" side.

I honestly would prefer to see some salt-of-the-earth person not involved in politics elected to office ala Ricky Muir in Australia (where I'm from).

I don't necessarily think lack of political experience is a bad thing for a politician to have. Many of the positions which hold the requisite political knowledge and support elected officials are hired, not elected.


It helps to be charismatic, which celebrities have in spades. And you have to be attractive. I’d rather there be intelligent debate rather than overgeneralized tweets. Twitter is toxic. Even here on hacker news we can’t have lively debate. Critical thinking is going extinct. And nobody cares.


I don't think its as bad as all that! I think people do care that reasoned argument seems to be drowned out by toxic soundbites, but there's just currently no good way to interact with the world without using toxic channels. I'm optimistic about someone finding a solution. I also definitely think people care. I think its just that those that don't care are currently amplified.


The internet is toxic! It's not even anonymity, since on places like Facebook people know who you are. It's more the one (or more) steps removed from personal consequences.

Hacker news is one of the few places I find intelligent thoughtful discussion. Occasionally people are jerks, but compared to the internet in general, this place is a calm like on a mountain top.


> Since Ronald Reagan there's been a precedent set that it isn't a bad thing for conservatives to have previously been in showbiz.

Being previously in showbiz isn't the issue; having no government experience when running for President is.

Reagan was two-term governor of California before running for President.

> Same is definitely true on the "other" side.

Er...what? The Democrats haven't nominated a Presidential candidate with a Reagan-like showbiz background.

> I honestly would prefer to see some salt-of-the-earth person not involved in politics elected to office ala Ricky Muir in Australia (where I'm from).

I'd prefer an inexperienced government head about as much as an inexperienced brain surgeon.

> I don't necessarily think lack of political experience is a bad thing for a politician to have.

A lack of government experience may be fine in someone running for city council, or the lower house of their state legislature. President of the United States isn't really an entry level job, though.

> Many of the positions which hold the requisite political knowledge and support elected officials are hired, not elected.

Sure, there's several rings out from the President, both in and through the cabinet and in the executive office of the president, that also aren't ideal entry-level jobs.

But your not going to be able to evaluate what you get from those people effectively without substantial grounding in government as President.


Extremely strong concur. I want someone competent, qualified, and trying to be basically decent to Americans and non-Americans. There are many elected officials in high office in both parties who would roughly fulfill that description.

BoringPol 2020 :)


I hope we will at some point get some diversity in the background of politicians. Seems there are way too many lawyers.


This is a website for tech and for startup culture, hosted by an incubator. A lot of startup culture is about "disrupting" industries, reshaping society, and streamlining the inefficiencies in the ways things are currently done. But politically, I find the discourse here pretty uncritical of the status quo, aside from a bit of libertarian contrarianness, which doesn't have any ideas that fall that far away from business as usual.

> The American political system for all its faults, is pretty good and maybe we should like try and do something normal

What do you consider normal in American politics? Here's what I think has been pretty normal historically:

- wealth inequality - war - corruption - union busting - labour exploitation of poor people and immigrants - racism - in recent decades: the decline of government spending on public services and investment in infrastructure and other projects that benefit the average citizen (rather than just subsidies to the already wealthy) - interference in international politics, often for the worse (installing military dictatorships, sometimes only to go back to war with the same regimes, fighting expensive pointless wars against an ideology across the globe, offering unreasonable foreign aid to poor nations which cripple their economies, pressuring privatisation via IMF and other international bodies which cripples economies) - as with the last point, I would have put this higher on the list but I figured it would make this comment even more unpopular than it already will probably be: genocide

I think many of these normalities of US politics in recent times have sort of inevitably led to the state it is currently in. So the election of celebrities at this point is something which, to me, seems to be more or less a continuation of US politics as normal. The absurdity of it all has just been allowed to go this far.

Saying that you want things to go back to "normal" really says something about how you have been affected by all the above points. It seems, for much of middle class America, that the detrimental consequences of past policy have only just now started to encroach on the parts of society that were previously protected from it.

So now that we are finally upset in this space of tech startups that has so much power and a desire to make radical change in the world, why ask for "normal" again? Why not ask for a radical change to a new kind of politics? Why can't we be critical and wonder whether the current system really is all that good as we're told, or whether the faults in the system are actually much worse than we previously thought?

I don't want another celebrity present. I also don't want anyone like the corrupt warmongers of the past either. I don't see why we'd want a president at all really.


90% of those things you listed apply to a lot of Western countries including genocide (UK, Australia). Not sure you're saying anything unique.


Care to expand more on the genocide remark? (Coming from a position of ignorance)


Native Americans used to live in North America, the colonists who became the United states nearly annihilated the native americans, and certainly annihilated their way of life.


USA has also been silenty complicit in other genocides, such as the mass killings in Indonesia.


> You know like a normal politician. Or what used to be one.

Oh you mean the guy or gal who ships your jobs overseas with a smile?


>The American political system for all its faults, is pretty good

It's actually fucking atrocious: 2 parties, and you depend on the money of the elite to become elected. If our system was decent, people wouldn't have looked towards Trump to reject it. We voted for Democrats in 2008 to fix healthcare, and the public option was denied by Lieberman and Ben Nelson (former insurance executive).


As an outsider I have always found it interesting Oprah has a huge gathering from her talk shows. While there are stories outlining her rise, I wanted to see some of her "best" interviews, especially during her early years. But Google or YT have not been very helpful.


She's not a good interviewer. Her success has nothing to do with any kind of interviewing skill, it has to do with choosing hot button issues and topics that her audience find compelling. That's it. That's why there's so much woo-woo on her show over the years, and so many total fluff interviews, and so much panic about child safety. Because it was a daytime show aimed at housewives.


Oprah is less of an interviewer than a cooperative promoter for those selling feel-good narratives, social panic, and (often health-related) woo.

The first is probably mostly harmless, the second and third decidedly not.


Her shows over the years have largely been about reaffirming people's delusional beliefs for headlines. But that's what gets the viewers.


In her early years, her show was more like a salacious talk show, like Jerry Springer.


Dave Rubin has a good take on a potential presidential run by Oprah:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41d9DFsfmrA


He makes some great points. The issues no longer matters for US politicians. All that matters is their cult of personality building around politicians.


It's his second point that I found the most concerning - the increasing trend of governing by executive order, coupled with the cult of the personality is a recipe for disaster.


If it's Oprah vs Trump 2020, I feel like we're rapidly approaching Fahrenheit 451 crazyland politics (just specifically the politicians, nothing else about the book).


Oprah v Trump would be straight-up two cable television stars running for “leader of the free world”. (A phrase that already sounds even more ridiculous than it did a few years ago.)

One popularized the racist Birther / “born in Kenya” meme. The other is biggest promoter behind Dr Phil, probably the most prominent modern American quack doctor.

They’d be representing opposite parties, but they have a lot in common. Both have publicly promoted the uniquely damaging lie that vaccines cause autism.

Both are media people first and foremost, hucksters, promoters, peddlers of false hopes and false fears.

Waves of dangerous Mexicans are not, in fact, “pouring across our southern border”. Dr Phil does not actually have a magic solution for weight loss. Trump does not now, and never did have a plan to “Make America Great Again”.

It’s all for show.

Just curious, if it comes to Trump v Oprah 2020, how many of you currently in America would consider starting or joining a venture outside the US?


> Just curious, if it comes to Trump v Oprah 2020, how many of you currently in America would consider starting or joining a venture outside the US?

Based on the amount of people who promised to move to Canada if Trump won, my guess is next to nothing.


And it's a bit odd. IIRC, when Bush won, it was the same. I mean, I had hoped he'd lose, but I wasn't about to run just cuz.

Beside, when was the last time a conservative said, dammit, Bill won, or Obama won, I'm off to [some country]. It's mostly Dems who almost never actually go through with it. Sure, you get a very small trickle but nothing like they promise.


The equivalent for conservatives is to consider secession. There were a good number of petitions for some states in 2012 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_state_petitions_for_seces...


I think "Calexit" (and WA and OR)[1] musings speaks to that not being a uniquely conservative phenomenon. But point taken they "talk" the talk.

[1]http://mynorthwest.com/470605/oregon-california-washington-s...?


> Beside, when was the last time a conservative said, dammit, Bill won, or Obama won, I'm off to [some country].

If you mean, follow the patterns of suggesting if so-and-so wins, I'm out, a number of Republicans did that with Obama (and maybe the Clinton reelect in 1996.)

Though in the wake of the 2008 Obama win, there was also a big upswing in conservatives not specifically saying it about themselves, but predicting the wealthy in general would economically rebel by withdrawing from the economy and “Go Galt”.


Maybe I don't listen to conservative radio or whatever, but while I believe you that there are people who said those things, it was never something you had front and center by celebrities, and other cultural personalities, etc.

What I do notice about conservatives is a rush to "buy guns" --that's their knee jerk moreso than, "screw it, I'm leaving."


> Just curious, if it comes to Trump v Oprah 2020, how many of you currently in America would consider starting or joining a venture outside the US?

Talk about a miserable situation.

But no, I would much more quickly join a third party initiative (I voted third party in this last election), because I do think the fundamental underpinnings of our government are hard to beat, even if that means dealing with cranks and morons being able to elect the same.

I do fear our democracy turning into a greater circus than it already is, but I also generally trust the wisdom of the crowd for the end result (though definitely do not trust the crowd for philosophical, moral or intellectual opinions).

I feel like the current status is more a bug that we might be able to cure, but I wouldn't want to abandon the entire system because of that bug.


  the racist Birther / “born in Kenya” meme
1) how is that concept racist given that he would have had the same ethnic makeup wherever he was born?

2) the whole "born in Kenya" media rant was meaningless given that he would be qualified to serve as President wherever he was born under US law at the time of his birth, given his mother's natural-born citizenship.


It felt racist to me and many others because Obama was consistently portrayed as 'the other', as non-American, as unpatriotic, as a muslim, as an African, as non-Christian, as not-us but something else, something foreign.

Now candidates have always criticised in various ways, harsh ways. But not to this extent. It's completely different from the way Ted Cruz's Canada born story was treated. Or McCain's (then US territory) Panama-born history.

Now why is there a discrepancy, why did opponents push blatant lies and why did the birther movement take hold on Obama and not others?

Precisely because they're grounded by racist notions. Calling Obama a muslim wouldn't be a negative thing, or an attack, in a world where there wasn't islamophobia, if people didn't equate muslim with terrorist. Calling him an African, stressing his non-Americanism, wouldn't be a successful attack on his character if racist old white people didn't equate themselves and themselves only with patriotic 'original' Americans.

None of this had to do with any interest in upholding constitutional law. Trump has shown very clearly that politics trump accountability to our legal system. This was an attack on Obama's character that only worked because it inspired racist notions. Have you not seen the rallies and protesters of the birther movement, are you really not seeing anything racist about that?

This isn't racist to you? https://www.mediamatters.org/static/images/item/foxnation-20...

or this? http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.115633.131395031...

It's an absolute joke of an argument, and was obviously racially inspired. (and please don't tell me not to use racism as the now commonly accepted umbrella term that includes ethnic discrimination too, e.g. islamophobia. we've long passed the point of arguing those semantics.)

2) agreed, see aforementioned Cruz for example. Which is precisely why it's racist. It wasn't about upholding constitutional law, it was about painting him as Kenyan. It didn't matter whether he was born in Hawaii, Kenya or a different solar system, it mattered that he was black and had parental roots in a country that could be painted as muslim despite 5 out of 6 Kenyans being Christian. That's what they got him on and got people bothered, precisely because of racism.


>It’s all for show.

Maybe this is the role of the president in the future? Just a buffoon celebrity who can say whatever they want and best represents the fickle fancy of the people?

Somebody else handles the actual governing.


> Somebody else handles the actual governing.

Somebody else chosen by whom? Following what agenda, according to which principles? Overseen by whom? Presumably, chosen by the buffoon President to act in his/her stay, following the agenda set forth in his/her election platform, and within the principles of the Constitution... but even merely one layer of remove makes it difficult for the other branches of government to exert their roles in providing checks and balances, and for citizens of the Republic it becomes even more difficult to figure out who is doing what and whether what is being done is grossly in their interest or not.

Also, it’s by no means clear anymore that voting the incumbent out of office and somebody new into his place creates that discontinuity necessary to avoid a dynasty arising. If much of the machinery of government disappears behind an opaque veil and elections are contested between idiots then we no longer have any clue what is going on behind the curtain, and behind that curtain there may be an éminence grise of such power even a new (notional) President fears to disrupt, or even if these unseen powers are not powerful enough to intimidate the newcomer, it might just be more convenient for the new guy (or gal) to “go with the flow” and and leave the hard business of real governing to a experienced set of hands.

It really ain't pretty.


I would consider anything outside the USA now, where I wasn't thinking about it prior to last year. I probably too much of a generalist now for anyone to go through the trouble of getting a work visa for me, though.


I'm pretty sure I'd find plenty of reason to dislike the leaders of state no matter where I live. Most of what is great about this country isn't done in Washington - we can survive bad leaders (hopefully).


True, and maybe it is just a case of the grass being greener.

The closest analogue to Trump/Oprah in modern western history is probably Silvio Berlusconi.

That fiasco wasn’t even a swift dramatic thing—just a grinding two decades and counting of stagnation, inept government, corruption and brain drain as your best youth go abroad.

I hope it doesn’t happen here and I want to do anything I can to help.

Past some hypothetical point, though, I think my wanderlust and sense of pride would take me elsewhere.

Innovation can happen anywhere, and fortune favors the bold.


I thought old Silvio was thinking of making a "comeback"[1]? I mean, who knows.

[1]https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/06/world/europe/sicily-elect...


Yup! Having grow up outside the US you'd be kidding yourself to think it's any different elsewhere.


You seem to be mixing up Dr. Phil with Dr. Oz.


I have never upvoted on this site but for you, I will.

As far as I know from my studies, the Americans have given their President loads of power. It would be quite a challenge to rewrite and redistribute powers of President, should he become a mere Public Figure like the Queen of England. If Americans were to accept undergoing such a change, might as well have more than two main parties and take money out pf politics. I suspect us to be dead by then.


The President has much less power than the average person believes he does. The Supreme Court and Congress provide serious limitations on his power.

In addition, because there is no clear definition of "high crimes and misdemeanors", congress can pretty much remove The President whenever they want. The House only requires a simple majority to impeach and the Senate requires a 2/3 majority to convict.


Being command in chief of one of (if not the) most powerful military on the planet gives one a whole lot of power...


>(if not the)

It's definitely the most powerful. No one else is even close in raw military power.

Yes in world terms he's clearly very powerful. Compared to the rest of the world a single US aircraft carrier or ballistic missile submarine captain is more powerful than most world leaders.

But his power is very limited. Congress can remove him, they can even completely defund the military if they wanted to.


It's a completely different discussion topic as to if we have the most powerful military. We have a lot of resources sunk into using aircraft carriers to project force around the world, and the current generation of carriers have not faced the current generation of anti-ship missiles.


We have current generation anti-ship missiles as well. So let's say that in a full scale war all surface vessels are gone, and let's say there are no nuclear exchanges.

Our submarine fleet and long range bombing ability are still far superior. Russia and China have near zero force projection capability. Even with surface ships gone, we still have more.

Russia and China both accept that they can't match the US, and all of their strategies for war with us are defensive strategies designed to make it too expensive for us to bother.

No one seriously doubts American military dominance today--not even potential rivals.


I would say that one very important mitigating factor is that Oprah has clearly demonstrated that she's capable of delegating tasks in order to achieve something larger than what would otherwise be possible with the force of her own personality. This is a material and important skill in a leader. People's view of trump as a success at building businesses by any reasonable measure is absurd but Oprah has been wildly successful by many metrics the right has consistently agitated for in their leaders.

To be clear I'm a pretty staunch socialist so I find little solace in the idea that she could be president, but I also think it's not quite right to say that they are steps down the same path: if I had to make this sort of a metaphor it would be that Trump yields Fahrenheit 451 and Oprah yields a cyberpunk dystopia something akin to Blade Runner.


People's view of trump as a success at building businesses by any reasonable measure is absurd but Oprah has been wildly successful

Forbes says Oprah is worth $2.8B.. and Trump is worth $3.1B. Oprah is 63; Trump is 71... so they've had about the same amount of time.

By what reasoning is one a failure and the other wildly successful?


Oprah is a Black woman born into poverty at a time when being Black and a woman was even more of a disadvantage than it is today.

Trump is White, male, 3rd generation millionaire.


Trump started out by inheriting his money, and he would have made much more by investing it in an index fund than he has by playing businessman.


Yes... but even accounting for that.. the return for trump is roughly 8% annually since '82.

Oprah posted some great growth numbers early in her career with her TV show.. but if you start from when she reached $1B in 2004 to today, she has a return of 7.63% annually.

If I had to pick, IMO Oprah is more impressive. But it isn't like we're comparing Bill Gates and the owner of the local dry cleaner. Neither is growing like Facebook or Google. These numbers aren't substantially different. Both have subpar returns. After 2004, Oprah--just like Trump--could have earned more money in an index fund.

If we're really looking for business leaders with good growth numbers, it's probably a better idea to turn off the TV and start looking at the people building companies that are actually growing.


> These numbers aren't substantially different. Both have subpar returns. After 2004, Oprah--just like Trump--could have earned more money in an index fund.

You're just picking and choosing to get the comparison you want.

Oprah went from $0 -> billionare. If she'd investive passively, she'd still have basically nothing.

Trump went from something like $500 million -> billionare. If he'd invested passively he'd be ahead.

In conclusion: Trump is a shitty businessman, which was really my only point.

> Neither is growing like Facebook or Google. These numbers aren't substantially different. Both have subpar returns.

> ... it's probably a better idea to turn off the TV and start looking at the people building companies that are actually growing.

This is weird valley-think. Those people were lucky more than anything, being in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills. They're not supermen. Running the country is not something I'd want any of them to be doing. Running a government sub-bureaucracy, maybe, but only one without much policy-making power.


You're just picking and choosing to get the comparison you want.

My intention was to exclude her earnings from TV. She was successful at that, but a TV host is not a business person.. and the claim was that she was "wildly successful" at business. TV success != business success.. and Oprah has had a difficult time developing business outside of her TV success.

She's no more a great business person than Bieber or Taylor Swift. If Taylor Swift took her money and put it in an index fund that returned what Oprah and Trump have earned, she would be worth $3B when she's 60. Does this make Swift a great business person worthy of being president?

In conclusion: Trump is a shitty businessman, which was really my only point.

No disagreement on that.

Trump went from something like $500 million -> billionare

You're just picking $500m randomly. The highest number for his inheritance was thrown out by Rubio during a debate of $200m. Which is the number I used to calculate the 8%.

This is weird valley-think.

First, I don't live in the valley. Second, both Oprah and Trump have subpar growth. If you turn off your TV, you'll find the average business grows faster than these two. No need to go to SF, better business people are literally all over the country.


>This is weird valley-think. Those people were lucky more than anything, being in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills.

_Yes._ A person with a billion dollars does not work a billion times harder than a person with 1 dollar. A programmer should be keenly aware of this, I think, given what a monumentally complex task it is to evaluate the value of labor in our industry. I also do not begrudge an individual their success carte blanche even if I am highly critical of capitalism (best to judge them for the specifics of their actions) but we should be clear about whether or not someone has shown evidence of being better than a coin flip before we start saying they're qualified for something.


For those not familiar with Bradbury's work, Seth Macfarlane's comment is a concise summary of the problem:

"Oprah is beyond doubt a magnificent orator. But the idea of a reality show star running against a talk show host is troublingly dystopian. We don’t want to create a world where dedicated public service careers become undesirable and impractical in the face of raw celebrity."


If the likes of Oprah and Trump become the norm, it will have seemed obvious in hindsight that politics always was showbizz.

Politician in democracies seem to lose more from specific bad events they gain from good ones. This gives them an incentive to push responsibility away from themselves out to unelected officials (regulators, judges, cops) and non-government lobbies (big businesses, NGOs, public-sector unions). And this pushing has been progressing for decades and decades already.

So by now, while politicians collectively could seize the reins of their own power, they don't actually have them in their hands. In such a world, the "job" of the politician is then engage with the public, putting on a show of attacking the system, while not having, or even desiring, the power to change it.

Who better for that job than Trump and Oprah?


I can see the Dem machine in action now. If Oprah were to run, they would run her out of town. I think they are afraid of her because she'd provide a weak candidate against Trump. I have read a few are actually wishfully hoping H runs again. But who do the Dems even have? I mean Warren is a bit too left for most Americans. Bernie, I don't think he'll go another go after they threw him under the bus like that.


> But who do the Dems even have? I mean Warren is a bit too left for most Americans. Bernie, I don't think he'll go another go after they threw him under the bus like that.

Warren is less left than Sanders, who AFAIK remains the single most popular politician in the country. Sanders might not want to make another run at his age, but while he might have a grudge against the former DNC leadership, he and his supporters have been actively engaged in DNC reform efforts and made some significant advances; I don't see any reason to expect he wouldn't continue to positively engage with the national party.

As for other candidates, Sen. Kamala Harris (CA) has been hailed as a rising star and potential near-future Presidential candidate. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (IL) likewise has been floated as a potential candidate. Rep. John Delaney (MD) is certainly running, and not obviously implausible as a nominee.

Actually, rather than going on, I’ll just drop the WaPo’s lost of potentials (which I just found, and overlaps mine; I don't necessarily agree with their ranking, but they are mostly plausible and, but for Dwayne Johnson and Oprah, experienced candidates.)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/12/22/th...


Of all those, perh Patrick or Sanders. Defo not Harris. She's a progressive's progressive and does not really represent me in many instances. I like Sanders because he truly cares about Americans, the jobs unions represent (not that I like unions, they are corrupt). Now, he is a bit idealistic, and I think that's his fatal political flaw. He's also an anti-globalist and I'm alright with that.


To what degree are Facebook and Twitter responsible for this?


More Idiocracy than F451, IMO.

And not just the politicians.


It’s closer to Idiocracy than Fahrenheit 451.


I'm no fan of Oprah or even know her politics but it's funny that when someone says "I'm considering a run for President" you can expect a queue of negative news articles.

Makes me wonder if they're sponsored by political opponents. I find it hard to believe that Slate had this story in the queue and that her announcement was simply a coincidence.

Or does the news media simply want to ride the Oprah for President wave?


It is possible that it is simply an attack peace but I don't think so. Opera is now a person of greater interest. That means that more people are likely to read an article about her. Therefore news sites want to write things about her.


> more people are likely to read an article about her. Therefore news sites want to write things about her.

This is what journalism is supposed to do. Oprah switched channels from talk show host to potential politician. I want good journalists to inform me on her.


I had no idea about some of the connections brought up in the article. All I had to say was lol. She is opposite of Trump but still share same attributes: outsider from DC, rich, and media savvy.

It's not really her fault that she took off with her unscientific stories. There definitely was an audience ready for it. People usually hear what they want to hear. Or so I'm told.

Edit


> She is a kid of opposite of Trump in a way. Outsider. Rich. Media savvy.

What? Those are all traits they have in common. Not really opposites. Do you mean she's a liberal counterpart to Trump?


Yes, Oprah is a mirror version of Trump: take a trait, find its left-right, up-down, and you can place both in opposite ends of the spectrum.

"Progressivism" became so stale that it allowed Trump to become elected, and with Oprah we would see "progressivism" struggle to pull its own Trump card in desperation.


Yeah, I agree, it's not really a fraudster's fault that people fall for their lies. If people are prone to fall for fraud, how could it be the responsibility of others to not abuse that susceptibility?


This is not something you can fix overnight. I am afraid the US has begun its downward spiral into the gutter already. It will be very difficult to extricate yourselves now. I apologise for the harsh words but I live in one such democratic gutter already and am speaking from experience.





Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: