Monday, December 10, 2007

The Oprah Factor

Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, left, wave to supporters with Oprah Winfrey, center, during a rally today in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

From one of my favorite sites, The Carpetbagger Report:
* Barack Obama campaigned over the weekend with Oprah Winfrey,
drawing some of the biggest crowds I’ve ever even heard of for a
pre-general-election campaign event. There were a variety of estimates, but it
appears that the Obama/Oprah show drew nearly 20,000 visitors in Des Moines,
10,000 in Cedar Rapids, nearly 10,000 in New Hampshire, and a jaw-dropping
30,000 yesterday in South Carolina.
* Recognizing Oprah’s appeal with women voters, Hillary Clinton’s campaign did its best over the weekend to counter Obama’s events with some women guests of its own. The New York senator campaigned alongside her daughter and mother on Saturday, in addition to events in Iowa with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
I heard during our morning drive this morning about the huge crowds that Oprah and Obama are drawing. They even played a sound clip of Oprah, channeling MLK and dredging up that long-lost Southern accent, talking about change and hope and trying to inspire the crowd. The NPR news guy then talked about the number of black women voters in South Carolina and how they’d be a powerful voting bloc if they go for Obama.

My question is this: Just how many people will actually be influenced by Oprah to vote for Obama? Sure, a lot of people came to see them – but how much of that is because she’s Oprah and she’s on TV, and Obama’s a leading candidate for president?

Kat and I discussed how many African-Americans will actually go to the polls as a result of seeing Oprah and think, “yeah, I’m voting for Obama! Because Oprah likes him!” I mean, what kind of influence does Oprah really have in the black community, among everyday people? None of the African-American people I know even watch Oprah. Most of them call her an “oreo” (black on the outside, white on the inside). Will her appearances really translate into votes in November? Or will black people just link their perception of her oreo-ness with what they perceive as Obama’s oreo-ness?

Maybe I don’t really have a feel for Oprah’s influence in the black community; most of what I’m saying and thinking here are really just some impressions based on my interactions with the few African-Americans I know in my mostly-white community. So, because I am after all a member of another minority group, I’m trying to think of a similar situation happening: What if there were a Hispanic candidate—someone relatively young and energetic, educated, talking about hope and overcoming the barriers, and all that—and he (or she!) was a leading candidate for president? How would I feel? And what if that person came to town with some big Hispanic icon—I’m trying to think of one! Um—I don’t know, with Gloria Estefan or somebody. (Not a whole lot of brown people in the bigtime, man.) Now I’m no big celebrity ass-kisser and I’m certainly not much of a “La Raza” type Hispanic. I majored in English, had a college-educated professional for a dad (though he was a migrant worker as a kid—does that count?), and all my siblings attended college as well. I’m not exactly your first-generation-to-make-it kind of Hispanic; I don’t even speak very good Spanish!
But back to my little scenario. Despite the fact that I’m not all into that ethnic thing or whatever (especially up here in rural PA!), I gotta tell ya – the very idea of this happening with a Hispanic candidate kinda excites me.

What do you think? Will Oprah make a difference?


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Oprah might make a difference to the soccer mom set who watch her but I doubt it will be much of a difference. But of course I could be wrong, after all I did vote for Kerry in 2004.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm just jaundiced, but I think the whole Obama thing is bs and I think Obama/Oprah is double bs. I've read part of Obama's book about his heritige and it really is a pretty interesting book, so I give him some kudos for intelligence, eloquence and sensitivity, particularly re some crucial issues. Race remains in some ways THE central issue in America, in my opinion, despite the fact that it seems to be continually downplayed. I'm pretty darn sure that if MLK were resurrected today, he'd have some very, very strong words about how the bottom seems to have fallen out of the economy and the community structures of black people in America, and the way there are more of them in the unfair, gulag-like prison system than there are in college, etc..


THAT'S the real issue for black people right now, in my opinion. Their electoral power as a community has been largely destroyed by vote suppression, and the Dems don't seem to mind that and the black community seems to be lettting it happen, or - more properly - their leaders seem to be ignoring it. If black leaders don't address that, then whatever celebrity tours they concoct are, in my opinion, worse than meaningless.

I'd love to see a black president. It sure as hell would be about time. But right now, I think Edwards and Kucinich are blacker than Obama. If that sounds absurd, well it is, but riddle me this: would Condi be a real black president? You know, Condi, the gal who seems to be quite content to ignore Darfur, AIDs in Africa, to unleash the horror of war on brown peoples from Somalia to Iran - that Condi? In the literal sense, yes, Condi is surely quite black. But when it comes to caring about the problems of black people in America, she was out buying shoes while a lot of black people were drowning in their homes in New Orleans.

And while I'm on the subject of brown people, if you ask me, the resentment that seems to exist between hispanics and blacks reminds me a lot of the 19th century resentment between Irish and blacks. I see it as classic divide and conquer strategy.

And as much as I'd like to see an Hispanic president, I don't see Richardson as a very good choice.

The "soft prejudice of low expectations" - what the hell, did Karl Rove feed Obama that line? What about the hard core prejudice of poor schools, of a skewed 'justice' system, of red-lining and neglect of black neighborhoods and white flight, of job discrimination, of vote suppression, etc.? And what about the historical fact that black people virtually built America and NEVER received reparations for centuries of slave labor and underpaid labor?

And, you know, I don't know what Oprah does with her money and maybe it' s unfair of me to even speculate, but I can't help but think, when she supports a school in Africa, that there are a lot of primarily black schools right in Chicago that could probably REALLY use her help.

So color me waaay cynical about whatever star power Obama and Oprah have. I'm sure Charles Barkley would draw a crowd too. Now there's an enlightened individual...

Randal Graves said...

I'm with Dr. Monkey on this. She'll draw some soccer moms (formerly security moms) in, which can only help. Hey, we're dealing with Americans. How politically astute are those who still get most of their info from the propaganda known as television? I'll take any bit of help we can get. Lesser of two evils man. A crappy Dem is better than a warmongering Jesushead.

dguzman said...

You and me both, Monkey.

Wow, Fillip--totally true, everything you say. I started reading "Audacity of Hope" and got bored, actually. It just seemed very manufactured. And you're right--he's about as black as Condi, which is NOT MUCH. They're just working to get more power, and race is not an issue unless it stands in their way--and even then, it's just a disadvantage to hide to them. Great comment. God, Barkley--remember when he was threatening to get into politics!?

Randal--yes, I agree--I'll vote for the Dem nominee, even if I have to hold my nose. It's better than any of those freaks on the repub side.

Randal Graves said...

Which is a pretty sad state, no?

And I'd like to further Splotchy's comment at his site:
More pictures of Hermione, please! ;-)

dguzman said...

You're damned right, Randal--we need more Hermione pics!

Christopher said...

What do you think? Will Oprah make a difference?

Oprah is a genuine force of nature: she's not a singer, or an actress, or a model, or a star in the traditional sense. Oprah has a unique power to touch people at a visceral level and she appeals to women and men alike.

She's......., Oprah. Nuff said.

I think Barack is very fortunate to have her as a friend and have her endorsement.

The MSM and ROM, always full of themselves and convinced they're smarter than you and me, smarter than people in the midwest, and south, smarter than people outside the media centers of Los Angeles and New York, were quick to discount Oprah. Just as they were quick to discount Obama. The media elites had all but scheduled Hillary's coronation and guess what?

They were wrong. Bigtime.

The American people, I think, are weary to the bone of the Clintons and the Bushes treating the presidency as if it's their family business. These two familes have controlled the White House since 1988. Enough already of the Clintons and the Bushes.

Obama represents change. He's the face of America. He's a self-made man, a man of color, he's smart and he's genuine and he cares.

Oprah filled a football stadium with 70,000 people in tiny South Carolina. I ask you? How many stadiums has Hillary filled?

phil_in_ny said...

I hope not. What a joke. I can't stand when celebrities tout political candidates. The two should never mix, and frankly I find it insulting that we need celebrities telling us who to vote for. Come on.

Secondly, Obama is no different then Hillary. His environmental policy is bare bones, if you consider coal burning environmental action. His health care policy is even worse, opting to "make it more affordable", as opposed to a universal system. He also has many corporate friends he doesn't discuss of course.

This crap about not taking lobbyist money, check his records before he started running for president.

The whole thing is really sickening.I think people are showing up to see Oprah, and then going home, not even giving it a second thought. Stats show this sort of grandstanding never works.

dguzman said...

Christopher--thanks for coming by! I just don't want to think of the election as a popularity contest--like having Oprah (or Streisand, or Michael Moore, or whoever) will actually get votes. I mean, how pathetic would that be? I suppose that in an American-Idol-society like we have, though, it shouldn't come as a surprise.

PINY--I too wonder about Obama's record; he was right there with Biden (D-MBNA/Citicorp) and the other corporate shills, voting against regulations to curb predatory lending practices. They're all basically creeps. We're in a heap of trouble, with no end in sight.

FranIAm said...

FranIam has been besieged with actual work and is late to the party. She however will weigh in...

I am not at all convinced that Obama is the man for president.

And I am convinced Hillary is not the woman for president!

If either of them is nominated- they get my vote. During primary season, I am not ready to commit to them.

I find the Oprah endorsement troubling at best. It is very upsetting to me.

In many ways, I am far less concerned about how much influence she has in the African-American community... She just has huge branding power period.

In a way this is beyond a force of nature. And she knows that. And that is one reason I don't like this situation.

My worry is this- is her ego attached to having so much freaking influence that she can affect the election of the first African-American president?

When Oprah says buy this book, buy this brand of wall paint, buy this scent, buy this candle, whatever - people, well Oprah people (ie not me) tend to go out and buy it.

This won't be any different and that is no reason to be voting for someone.

By the way there is a Hispanic candidate... He is neither young or energetic. He does have some street cred and I predict he has a good shot at VP if Hillary wins the nomination. Not saying that is good or bad, just saying.

Hahaha. Delia I often say things in Spanish to you when I email. Forgive me my ignorance. For some reason I thought I had read in your blog or in a note that you do speak Spanish. Of course, knowing this is helpful as my Spanish basically sucks. But you might not have noticed that.

Anyway, never meant to be patronizing or whatever, I just thought... Well let me STFU now.

Christopher said...


Now comes word that Hillary's supplicants are emailing journalists with smears about Obama's cocaine use.

The suggestion is, Obama's:

1. a drug user
2. all black men are drug users
3. we don't want a black, drug user in the Oval Office

Her racism is stunning and troubling.

Obama, with amazing candor, told an audience that yes, he tried drugs -- pot and coke, in college and decided it wasn't for him.

Unlike Billy Clinton, who lied and said "I didn't inhale."

What does Queen Hillary have in her closet that she keeps quiet about and therefor, uses to stand above you and me, in her typical, superior manner?

Most of us know about the LA Times article they're sitting on, based on information obtained by Larry Flynt. I couldn't care less if Hillary found comfort in the arms of another woman, but how dare she keep secrets and then try to smear Obama?

Back to Obama, who among us under 40 years of age haven't tried pot? Or Cocaine? Or worse? I tried pot and coke in college, hated it and didn't use it again. So what?

Hillary Clinton is a calculating, vicious witch and her hunger for power is insatiable.

phil_in_ny said...

No argument there Christopher. I'm just not convinced Obama is any better.