How Oprah’s sob stories became America’s politics.
This week, Oprah Winfrey became just the latest celeb to grab an honorary degree from a prestigious university. Speaking at Harvard, Oprah lectured the graduates about immigration and gun control. She stated, “In our political system and the media, we often see the reflection of a country that is polarized, that is paralyzed, that is self-interested. And yet I know you know the truth. We all know that we are better than the cynicism and the pessimism that is regurgitating throughout Washington and the 24 hour cable news cycle.”
There’s a reason this rhetoric sounds familiar. It’s straight from Barack Obama’s playbook. But that’s what’s so astonishing about today’s politics: if you took the quote out of context, you wouldn’t know whether it came from the Queen of Daytime Television or the President of the United States.
And Oprah’s politics are the same as Obama’s, too. “The vast majority of people in this country believe in stronger background checks,” she said, “because they realize that we can uphold the Second Amendment and also reduce that violence that is robbing us of our children.” She then went on to immigration, where again President Obama’s teleprompter clearly spoke through her: “it’s possible to both enforce our laws and, at the same time, embrace the words on the Statue of Liberty that have welcomed generations of huddled masses to our shores.”
Finally, she ended with welfare. “People from both parties and no party,” she said, “believe that indigent mothers and families should have access to healthy food and a roof over the heads and a strong public education. Because here in the richest nation on earth, we can afford a basic level of security and opportunity.”
Why does Oprah sound so similar to President Obama? And is she cribbing from him, or vice versa?
In all likelihood, Obama’s America got its start in Oprah’s audience. Oprah described her mission on television this way to the Harvard audience: to show Americans “that what unites us is ultimately far more redeeming and compelling than anything that separates [us].” That’s just the sort of bromidic nonsense that President Obama speaks, before pretending that a false consensus for liberalism exists. This phraseology means nothing. What unites Americans and al-Qaeda terrorists -- our biology as homo sapiens -- is larger than what divides us. But that doesn’t mean that there are philosophical battles worth fighting and values worth defending.
But Oprah’s entire mission in life is to enfeeble those values. Her entire show was geared for years toward driving sympathy for poor decision making. Emotion was the name of the game. A typical hour of Oprah often included a weepy sob story from someone – either deserving or undeserving – followed by a giveaway to her audience.
Oprah Winfrey, for all her charitable work, has pushed the feelings-first America that drives us to immediate band-aids for long-term problems. While American values bleed out, both Oprah and Obama tell us to take a nice, comfortable anesthetic without correcting the underlying problem.
She deserves her Harvard degree just as much as Barack Obama deserves his Harvard Law degree. After all, her master class in feelings has helped bring us the Harvard value system that now dominates the White House.
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