You Scratch My Black, Iâ€™ll Scratch Yours
By: Erik Rush
This just might be an alliteration mavenâ€™s wildest dreamâ€¦
â€œOprah to Join Obama on Campaign Trail in Early Primary States,â€ was the title of the Associated Press article of November 26.
â€œDes Moines, Iowa â€“ Oprah Winfrey will join Democrat Barack Obama again on the campaign trail, this time visiting the early contest states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the candidate’s campaign said Monday.â€
My first impression was to consider: â€œIs this Obama wagging the celebrity or Winfrey wagging the candidate?â€ Although Oprah Winfreyâ€™s public relations schema allows for far more temporal latitude than someone running for President, and despite her already being able to retire hundreds of times over, her enterprises do live and die by public opinion. In the final analysis, if her life became uninteresting or sordid enough, her career would tumble groaning to the ground like a clay-footed bronze statue Ã la the one time sex kitten-turned psycho bovine, Britney Spears.
I could accuse the billionaire Winfrey, whom I believe has good intentions and has served to empower some people, of supporting Obama simply because heâ€™s black, but that wouldnâ€™t be fair. Were that true, she would have supported Alan Keyes in his presidential bids of 1996 and 2000, and would be supporting him now.
Oprah is supporting Obama because heâ€™s a lefty, and probably because heâ€™s charming and well-spoken. Brains have never been a prerequisite for the attaining of wealth, so I imagine sheâ€™s bought into the lies that many black Americans, successful and otherwise, have embraced. This includes supporting black leaders who are marginally ethical and borderline militants because whitey would have them back on the plantation in a New York minute if he thought he could get away with it.
Taking off on the campaign trail with Obama does seem like the perfect diversion and means by which Winfrey might defray the ongoing decidedly disadvantageous publicity thatâ€™s come her way of late due to the sexual abuse scandal at her $46 million Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Henley-on-Klip, South Africa (which she started with best friend and business partner Gayle King, editor-at-large for O, The Oprah Magazine). This truly repugnant mess involved a female matron at the school who allegedly abused seven school students, one as young as thirteen. So, having launched her investigation at the school and seeing that the appropriate charges were filed against the alleged perpetrator, sheâ€™s now refocused on getting Obama the nomination, which is far more sexy from a media standpoint than some dusty, nappy-headed Third-World schoolgirls getting groped.
Now, Iâ€™m not in any way attempting to minimize the suffering of Ms. Winfreyâ€™s early life (her admitted childhood sexual abuse); that would just be low. I also think itâ€™s unfortunate and perversely ironic that such a thing should occur at a school founded by a survivor of sexual abuse. However, Oprah is a powerful celebrity now, and her school debacle did make international headlines and did reflect on her, despite the fact that sexual abuse among black South Africans is as common as supper.
As Iâ€™ve mentioned before, Obama hardly needs to fear any (likely nonexistent) doctored photos of him with farm animals coming out of Hillary Clintonâ€™s camp. Obama has serious weak spots where mainstream voters are concerned, the smoke-and-mirrors media hype apropos how heâ€™s running away with Americaâ€™s heart notwithstanding.
So having someone as well-heeled, popular and powerful in the entertainment industry as well as influential amongst millions of American television viewers couldnâ€™t be better for Barack Obama. Heâ€™s smart enough to know that his recent bump in the polls was just that: A bump, and a small one to boot. His timing at bringing Oprah on board couldnâ€™t have been more perfect from a standpoint of keeping his momentum going. The stronger he can look by the primaries the better, especially if some of the unsavory aspects of the manâ€™s affiliations that are already known begin to come to the fore.
Smart move â€“ or was it..?
â€œAmerican voters are not looking for a celebrity or talk show sidekick to lead them. Obama is an intelligent and thoughtful potential President, but Winfrey’s imprimatur is unlikely to convey those traits to many undecided voters.
In that respect, Winfrey’s events might even be â€” dare it be said â€” counterproductive.â€
Why Oprah Won’t Help Obama, Mark Halperin, Time Magazine, November 26, 2007
Thatâ€™s the other side of the coin, of course. While Oprah is popular, admired and wealthy, sheâ€™s not â€œone of usâ€ vis-Ã -vis the perception of the American voter, regardless of party affiliation. Like many celebrities, sheâ€™s lived on a vastly different plane of existence since she was a relatively young woman. One cannot understate nor comprehend the difference between the world of the uber-celebrity and the average American unless one has either been there or been in close and regular proximity to it.
Not to boast, but I have â€“ and itâ€™s very freaky. For all the criticism directed at the inordinate political influence celebrities can wield, Timeâ€™s Halperin just may be right.
Erik Rush is a New York-born columnist and author who writes a weekly column of political fare. He is also Acting Associate Editor and Publisher for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. An archive containing links to his writing is at www.ErikRush.com. His book, â€œItâ€™s the Devil, Stupid!â€ is available through most major outlets. His new book, Annexing Mexico, has just been released.