For days now I have heard discussion and arguments about Oprah Winfrey. Is it a good thing that she is backing a politician, does it matter that the politician is Black, does it violate regulations and restrictions in the media? They go on with, can Oprah affect politics like she can book sales, does this help or hurt Senator Obama and the Democratic party, how much effect will women and African Americans really have in this next election, and on and on.
But I have to wonder.
Ms. Winfrey is a noted entertainment figure, of that there is no doubt. And there is no question that her fans are legion. To question the impact of her ability to lend credibility to anything she advocates is to have blinders on to the recent past. Ms Winfrey is unique among virtually all her entertainment peers, past and present, in that she moves mountains.
There is no coincidence that because of Ms Winfrey, an 18,000 seat arena was sold-out in virtually no time, in Columbia, South Carolina. The fact is that she wields power. And at the match of that is Senator Obama.
In the beginning of the year, when the average citizen was ignoring the early start of the Presidential race, Senator Obama was called a ‘young Senator without a chance.’ That he would ‘make an interesting distraction until real candidates got involved.’ That was the opinion of the pundits across the major media outlets. How wrong they were.
Suffice to say that Senator Obama is a real candidate, with appeal to all Americans, and his own goals for the country. He is no cookie-cutter politician, nor is he flustered by the Clinton political machine that has ground many other opponents to dirt.
So given the high credentials of both these figures, the fact they have spoken and discussed issues in the past that are mutually aligned, and that they have a media presence individually that is impressive, why are there questions?
When Don Cheadle, George Clooney, and others have spoken about Darfur, the media did not blink. When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie made efforts to help millions in Louisiana and Africa there was barely any attention. When Hanoi Jane Fonda, and Tim Robbins protested the war in Iraq, few centrists (where I think most of the nation is) cared.
But in this one instance we get something different. We get a real media powerhouse backing a real candidate. That is not to say that Barbara Streisand, Bon Jovi, or Sir Bono, among others, are (were) not powerful in a manner, but they are not powerhouses. Moreso they are not minorities. And I think that scares more than a few.
I think the huge media argument has been very simple and well disguised. Some fear that 2 Black figures at the top of their respective fields can make things change. No one questioned Oprah while she avoided politics. No one worried about how Senator Obama campaigned or who backed him. But the second both were linked there was frenzy.
Because they both are articulate individuals, and in a manner that does anything but evoke the stereotypes and back-handed compliments usually attached to that phrase. Because millions agree with their views and most of those are citizens that have not historically used the power of their vote. Women, African Americans, and the youth. None of these groups have been noted for actually voting in high numbers or in a block. And some are terrified if they do.
If these 3 groups come out in force and vote, the traditional political power lines will fail and things will change. It doesn’t matter if they vote for Senator Obama or not. The result will be a shift, and many in America are terrified by such a change. Its implications could end the control some have had for centuries.
This is the reason why some pundits try to belittle the “Oprah effect”, knowing that said effects reach and power is known and unmatched. It is the reason why some pundits state it will not help Senator Obama. It is why 18,000 rushed to hear these 2 people in the middle of the South, a point that has not been duplicated in the past or present and cannot be underestimated.
In everything I have heard I come back each time to one thought. Some are afraid of having 2 Black powerhouses, saying the same thing together, signaling the real end to the ‘White Old Boys Club’ in the most significant way. If my supposition is correct, then I herald that chance. I look forward to that change. I am not endorsing Senator Obama, but I am recognizing the impact.
I once wrote if celebrity endorsements affect how some vote. Perhaps I should have asked and discussed if a triumvirate of minorities coming out to vote in force can improve America. That is the real question behind Oprah and Senator Obama. That is the real fear. For some.