Sunday, March 18, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For

Progressive/liberal blogger and Hillary Clinton enthusiast Taylor Marsh has noticed Oprah Winfrey on the sideline and believes OWN "is missing history."     She asks

at a time when women are utilizing power to move policy and politics in America, with Democrats depending on women to win in November to keep the Senate, what’s the network’s contribution to the discussion?

As far as I can tell it’s silence.

Nodding to her own book about former Senator Clinton, Marsh notes

Secretary Clinton’s former presidential campaign unleashed the Hillary Effect, with female ambassadorships in Washington growing dramatically once she came to State. But long before that the Hillary Effect helped put a woman on the Republican Party’s national ticket, which ignited a conservative women’s movement that lit the Republican Party on fire, with Sarah Palin’s Tea Party power, before it collapsed, leading to huge wins in 2010 and historic victories for the right across the country in state legislatures. In media, it catapulted women across network and cable shows, from morning shows to evening news.

While "women are leading in ways that seem revolutionary, from reproductive demands to economics and Occupy," Marsh notes "on Oprah’s OWN network it’s as if time has stood still or remains viewed from a pillow."       Nevertheless, she states, Winfrey "has the power and money to bring the best of liberal, conservative and independent thought to her network, putting together a political division that could be unique."

She could, but she won't.     An enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama in 2008, Winfrey campaigned for the Illinois senator in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.  Wikipedia cites a study by two economists who, without considering Texas, Michigan, North Dakota, Kansas or Alaska  (to which their methodology was inapplicable), concluded that Winfrey's efforts netted Obama 1,015,559 votes toward his nomination.      The researchers argued that the then- talk show host boosted the campaign's coffers and was especially influential in Iowa, in which Obama scored a critical, early victory.

Marsh, a solid progressive and staunch feminist (not in that order), clearly believes Oprah could join the "women(who)  are leading in ways that seem revolutionary, from reproductive demands to economics and Occupy."     But those issues do not seem to be at the top of the Oprah Winfrey list of priorities.    At the Democratic convention, she declared

And what I saw with Barack Obama was something that was transcendent and I felt transformational for me as a human being and for this country. And I only pray in the deepest part of my being that America will rise to this moment. And I feel that what he was able to offer us as individual citizens and as a united country was something that we have never seen before. I really, I think it's the most powerful thing I've ever experienced. I often wondered what it would be like to sit and listen to Lincoln speak or Roosevelt speak or what it would have been like to have been old enough to understand what Martin Luther King was saying 45 years ago today. And what he did brought that home in a way that I could never have imagined.

Barack Obama was nominated- and Winfrey disappeared, choosing not expend her political capital  in the race between the Democratic nominee and the McCain-Palin duo.   While in 2010 Republicans "shellacked"  (as Obama later put it) Democrats and set back the goals of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and King, Winfrey tended to her entertainment kingdom.     Predictably, she now is back on board, telling CNN she is "100%" (points for not saying 110%; or 200%; or 1,000%) behind Obama, calling him a "masterful leader" and vowing ""If he or his office called me tomorrow and said that they needed me I would do whatever I thought would be of service."  

Progressives yearning for an activist Oprah Winfret might  ponder how reliable an ally she would be.     We know she cares about Barack Obama.     Not so obvious is whether she is  a Democrat (not necessary, but germane) and a progressive.    And it is even less clear that she cares about the women's movement, the security net for the elderly and the poor, or the stranglehold the ultra-wealthy have on American government.  

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