Get Used to ‘President Oprah’ ( ... and President Zuckerberg, President the Rock, President Bezos, President Beyoncé, President Kardashian, Etc.)

Oprah Winfrey (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
Oprah Winfrey (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Every so often, I’ll be in a public and predominantly white space—the Pittsburgh airport, maybe, walking through the Ross Park Mall, perhaps, or at a high school basketball game in the Pittsburgh suburbs—doing whatever it is I’m doing there. Not thinking about anything, really, other than going through security, browsing Kyrie Colorways at Foot Locker or watching my nephew break a zone press.

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And then, out of nowhere, it’ll hit me. With no warnings and no obvious triggers (other than the whiteness of my surroundings).

“HOLY FUCKING SHIT, THEY VOTED DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND DONALD TRUMP IS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!”

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And then I’ll be overcome with a full-body chill, sweaty palms, heart palpitations and dizziness. And then also a compulsion to watch the last 10 minutes of Django Unchained.

Sometimes, when digesting, processing and assessing the absurdity of the day-to-day minutiae of existing as an American during the Trump presidency, it can be easy to forget just how fucking insane it is that Trump is president in the first place. That the dude with the weird hair and oft-imitated voice from The Apprentice and the dozens of girlfriends and wives and the gold-plated toilets, and whose name is a common synonym for a certain type of shamelessness and performative gauche, is president of the United States of America. And was voted to be president by tens of millions of people despite having absolutely no experience, no competence, no agenda and no platform other than “I’m famous and, um, racist.” We made the guy who was the inspiration for the main antagonist in Gremlins 2 the leader of the free world.

Naturally, a recurring theme in the pushback against Trump is a hope that the next election provides a return to normalcy. In this context, “normalcy” would be an actual politician in the White House instead of our Stable Dotard. The thinking being that we (the American people) will have tired of this celebrity-as-a-world-leader sociological experiment. Basically, Trump broke America, and we need a grown-up to fix it.

But I’m not so sure this is going to happen. If there’s anything his election has proved—well, anything other than white people’s willingness to self-destruct if said self-destruction helps to preserve whiteness—it’s that our (collective) affinity for celebrity is the tie that binds us. Trump didn’t break America. He broke the celebrity-for-president dam.

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Of course, we’ve elected famous people with no history in politics to elected office before. But as president? Putting someone with no political experience into the highest office in the land seemed too far-fetched even for us. Even Ronald Reagan was a governor first. But after witnessing Trump’s “success,” what would stop Mark Zuckerberg or Mark Cuban or Jeff Bezos or Beyoncé or any other insanely rich and popular and powerful person from throwing his or her hat in the ring?

And, most important, what would stop us from voting for them? You know why there’s so much conversation now about Oprah potentially running for president? Because we know now that she could win.

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This, by the way, isn’t intended to be any sort of commentary on whether I think Oprah could (or should) run. She should do whatever the hell she wants to do. She’s earned that right. All I’m saying is that an Oprah Winfrey-Gayle King(?) ticket ain’t nothin’. Wait until we get the Rock-Taylor Swift. Or Beyoncé-LeBron James. Or Neil deGrasse Tyson-Mike Tyson. Or Bill Belichick-Elon Musk. Or Joe Biden-Kim Kardashian.

The celebrity avalanche has begun, and the only thing stopping it will be ... whatever the hell it is that stops avalanches. (The ground?)

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Yeah, I know this seems too funny to even consider to be true. But Gremlins 2 was funny, too.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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DISCUSSION

We need to stop this. This idolizing of celebrity and thinking that being rich and famous qualifies you for everything is why we have El Cheeto with is tiny hands on the button. Uhm, has anyone ever heard Oprah take a real stand on any issue? No? That’s because she won’t risk offending her followers who if we really want to be serious are mostly white. I like Oprah and think she has accomplished a lot but this is a woman who espouses “positive thinking” as a real answer to any problems, who gave us Dr. Phil an Dr. OZ, quacks both of them and gave platforms to junk science idiots like Jenny McCarthy and Suzanne Sommers! Come on, yeah it was great speech, but let her stay in her lane, she and any other celebrity who becomes are “squirrel” of the moment is NOT qualified to be President.