If Hillary Clinton could deliver a political speech half as effectively as Oprah Winfrey, she might be president today.
The actress, media mogul and erstwhile queen of daytime TV gave what, if she ever becomes president, will be known to history as the Golden Globes Address. The first de facto convention speech ever delivered at an awards show, it brought down the house and predictably stoked talk of Oprah 2020, with people close to her fueling the speculation.
In the era Before Trump, this would have been risible. Once upon a time, military service, political experience, a policy portfolio and national-security chops were mandatory to plausibly run for president. That time feels like a long time ago. Now, when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who has mused about running himself, stood and applauded Oprah’s speech, you could see the early pecking order of a potential Democratic nomination battle establishing itself (“The Rock” would be a second-tier candidate).
What Donald Trump proved is that a celebrity with charisma, performative ability and gobs of free media can, in the right circumstances, stomp conventional politicians who lack all three. People who were merely governors and senators, who had never really performed on a big stage or truly mastered the media (they were just politicians, after all), stood at a distinct disadvantage.
It’s very easy to see Oprah Winfrey doing to the likes of New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand what Donald Trump did to the likes of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
A common cold-water argument against Oprah running is that Democrats will want the opposite of Trump in 2020, an experienced, boring politico who’s well-versed in the issues and a reliably competent executive. This line works on paper. Republicans said the same thing about Barack Obama, who prior to 2008 had come as close to genuine celebrityhood as a working politician can get. Yet Donald Trump succeeded where the worthy, earnest, managerial Mitt Romney failed.
On the current trajectory, what Democrats will most need in 2020 is someone with a big enough personality that Trump can’t diminish and negatively brand him or her. This is what he did with the rest of the Republican field and Hillary Clinton in 2016, and he easily could do the same against “Pocahontas,” aka Elizabeth Warren, and “Crazy Bernie” Sanders.
Oprah, used to commanding a massive microphone and managing a matchless brand, might be relatively immune to this treatment. She could try Obama’s tack of running to the left substantively and to the center stylistically. She’d be the empathetic healer, the advocate of abused women, running to make history in the shadow of the civil-rights movement.
If, that is, she’s truly interested. Even the best campaigns have down cycles and bring humiliations of the sort celebrities usually avoid. Why would Oprah, who at the moment never has to encounter anyone who isn’t in awe of her, want to sign up for that?
Half the country would, by definition, begin to dislike her. She would have to fight with that part of the Democratic base committed to Bernie Sanders and suspicious of her as a Hollywood billionaire. She’d experience something that she’s never truly had to encounter: negative press.
For the first time, she wouldn’t be completely in control of her own image. She’d have to answer for her promotion of kooky products and theories over the years, and open up more about a private life that has been almost entirely shielded from public view.
If you believe Michael Wolff, Trump conceived of a presidential run as a way, if all else failed, to enhance his brand. Oprah’s brand needs no such enhancing. If she ran and lost, she’d become a failed presidential candidate and could presumably never quite return to being Oprah Winfrey again.
In short, there are compelling reasons for her not to make the plunge. The inherent absurdity of the idea is not one of them.
Photos: Oprah Winfrey through the years
This image released by OWN shows Oprah Winfrey as Mavis McCready in a scene from the original series "Greenleaf." The show, which premieres Tuesday, explores the flawed nature of the first family of a sprawling Memphis, Tennessee, megachurch. Winfrey, who is the executive producer, plays an outspoken bar owner she calls the "high priestess" of the neighborhood. (OWN via AP)
June 12, 2016
Oprah Winfrey introduces a performance by the cast of “The Color Purple” at the Tony Awards at the Beacon Theatre on Sunday, June 12, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Oprah Winfrey, right, guest stars as herself on "Bette," a comedy series starring Bette Midler, left, in this 2000 file photo.
Discovery Communications President and CEO David Zaslav and Oprah Winfrey announce the launch of "OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network" in Chicago in this January 2008 file photo.
After a 25-year run, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" aired its final broadcast In 2011.
Oprah Winfrey appears in a publicity photo circa 1985.
Madeleine Albright tells Oprah Winfrey about her agenda on women's issues and reveals her plans for the future as she leaves her post of secretary of state in an "Oprah Winfrey Show" episode from January 2001.
Oprah Winfrey talks with Diane Sawyer while walking two dogs in this March 1998 file photo.
Oct. 14, 2015
Oprah Winfrey attends the premiere of the Oprah Winfrey Network's (OWN) documentary series "Belief", on Oct. 14, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
July 24, 1985
Oprah Winfrey joins Roger King, left, chairman of the board of King World, and Joseph Ahern, right, former general manager of WLS-TV, at a news conference in Chicago in July 24, 1985 where it was announced that "The Oprah Winfrey Show" will be syndicated nation-wide beginning Sept. of 1986. (AP Photo/Charlie Bennet)
Dec. 18, 1985
FILE - In this Dec. 18, 1985 file photo, television talk show host Oprah Winfrey puts her feet up as she relaxes in her studio office following a morning broadcast in Chicago, Ill. Winfrey was set to announce Friday, Nov. 20, 2009 that her powerhouse daytime television show, will end its run in 2011 after 25 seasons on the air. (AP Photo/Charlie Knoblock, File)
April 26, 1986
Oprah Winfrey appears at the wedding of Maria Shriver and Armold Schwarzenegger, at Hyannis, Mass., on April 26, 1986. (AP Photo)
Aug. 19, 1986
Talk show personality Oprah Winfrey poses in Los Angeles, Calif., on Aug. 19, 1986. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
DOUGLAS C. PIZAC
Feb. 9, 1987
Television performer Oprah Winfrey during the broadcast from Cumming, Georgia on Feb. 9, 1987. Program officials said “we want them to explore for themselves” whether or not they are responsible for the negative image drawn to their community, what they hope to do about their public image and if they truly support segregation in this day and age. (AP Photo/Linda Schaefer)
March 15, 1987
American actress Cybill Shepherd and talk show host Oprah Winfrey pose with their respective awards at the 20th Century Fox Studios during the People's Choice Awards in Los Angeles, Calif., March 15, 1987. (AP Photo/Bob Galbraith)
Television talk show host Oprah Winfrey shows off her Daytime Emmy award, 1987. (AP Photo)
Nov. 8, 1987
Comedian Robin Williams, left, reaches out as if to touch talk show host Oprah Winfrey, right, after taping of her show, "The Oprah Winfrey Show," at the Improvisation in Los Angeles, Calif., Nov. 8, 1987. Looking on are comedians Billy Crystal, second from left, and Dudley Moore. The show which will air, Nov. 12 examines the upcoming "Comic Relief '87" benefit comedy show which will air November 14 on HBO. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
March 13, 1988
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey at People’s Choice Awards in Los Angeles, California on March 13, 1988. (AP Photo)
Nov. 16, 1988
In this Tuesday, Nov. 16, 1988 file photo, television talk show host Oprah Winfrey shows off her new figure as she stands in front of 68 pounds of fat inside a toy wagon, in Chicago, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Bennet, file)
Nov. 29, 1988
Daytime talk show hostess Oprah Winfrey gestures to the crowd at the Southwestern High School in Baltimore on Nov. 29, 1988, for quiet during the taping of her show on school violence. (AP Photo/Jason Lee)
Feb. 21, 1989
Oprah Winfrey and employees celebrate the opening of her new restaurant "the Eccentric" on Tuesday Feb. 21, 1989 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jonathan Kirn)
Nov. 15, 1989
Television personality Oprah Winfrey stands next to a Stairmaster exercise machine during her talk show in Chicago on Nov. 15, 1989. (AP Photo/Mark Elias)
May 22, 1990
FILE - In this May 22, 1990 file photo, Comedian Bob Hope laughs with television talk show host Oprah Winfrey during the taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Bennett, File)
Nov. 8, 1987
Comedian Robin Williams, left, reaches out as if to touch talk show host Oprah Winfrey, right, after taping of her show, "The Oprah Winfrey Show," at the Improvisation in Los Angeles, Calif., Nov. 8, 1987. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
May 25, 1994
Oprah Winfrey clutches her Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding talk show host at the 21st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards gala, Wednesday, May 25, 1994, New York. Winfrey, winner of the last three Daytime Emmys for outstanding talk show host, also picked up a daytime Emmy for The Oprah Winfrey show. This is getting to be nice, Winfrey said as she accepted her award. (AP Photo/Luc Novovitch)
May 25, 1994
This May 25, 1994 file photo shows Oprah Winfrey clutching her Emmy for outstanding talk show host at the 21st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards gala in New York. (AP Photo/Luc Novovitch, File)
Sept. 11, 2000
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey touches Democratic presidential candidate Vice President Al Gore on the foot at the conclusion of her show Monday morning Sept. 11, 2000 in Chicago. In the 15 years Oprah had been on the air, it was the first time Oprah had interviewed a presidential candidate. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Sept. 19, 2000
Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush kisses talk show host Oprah Winfrey Tuesday Sept. 19, 2000, after appearing on her program in Chicago. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
March 24, 2002
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, Sunday, March 24, 2002, in West Hollywood, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Weeks)
Dec. 6, 2002
In this Dec. 6, 2002 file photo, former South African President Nelson Mandela, right, and American talk show host Oprah Winfrey embrace during a ground breaking ceremony for the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Meyerton, South Africa. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)
Dec. 8, 2002
American talk show host Oprah Winfrey stands in front of hundreds of children in Durban, South Africa, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2002. The children are some of the tens of thousands who will recieve gifts of food , clothing, athletic shoes, school supplies, books and toys as part of Winfrey's philanthropic trip for her charity, the Oprah qwinfrey Foundation. (AP Photo/Benny Gool)
Dec. 18, 2002
American talk-show host, Oprah Winfrey, right, hands a Christmas gift to a boy, known only as Diong, while on a visit to an orphanage in Umtata , South Africa, in the Eastern Cape province, Wednesday Dec. 18, 2002. Winfrey is in the country to support various charities to which she has donated millions of dollars. (AP Photo/Benny Gool)
Sept. 22, 2002
A Sept. 22, 2002 file photo shows talk show host Oprah Winfrey reacting backstage after accepting the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 54th annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Jan. 11, 2004
Oprah Winfrey celebrates the award she won for favorite talk show host at the 30th Annual People's Choice Awards Sunday, Jan. 11, 2004, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Feb. 29, 2004
Nicole Kidman, left, and Oprah Winfrey laugh as they arrive at the Vanity Fair post-Oscar party, Sunday, Feb. 29, 2004, in the West Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Weeks)
Dec. 11, 2004
Oprah Winfrey listens to a question from the media during a press conference, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2004, in Oslo, Norway. Tom Cruise and Winfrey will be the hosts of the concert on Saturday for Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai. (AP Photo/John McConnico)
March 2, 2005
Oprah Winfrey, one of the executive producers of the ABC-TV film "Their Eyes Were Watching God," smiles at the premiere at the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles, Wednesday, March 2, 2005. The film is based on the novel by Zora Neale Hurston. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Nov. 21, 2005
Oprah Winfrey, left, recipient of the Founder's Award stands with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., at the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences 2005 International Emmy Awards, Monday, Nov. 21, 2005, in New York. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)
Feb. 27, 2005
Quincy Jones, center, Oprah Winfrey, right, and Kimberly Hefner arrive for the 77th annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2005. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
Dec. 1, 2005
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey arrives to the opening night of her new Broadway play "The Color Purple" on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005, in New York. (AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh)
Dec. 1, 2005
David Letterman walks hand-in-hand with Oprah Winfrey from the Ed Sullivan Theater to the premiere of Winfrey's new musical "The Color Purple" at the nearby Broadway Theater after Winfrey made her first ever appearance on "The Late Show" Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Feb. 6, 2006
Oprah Winfrey reacts during a musical tribute to Coretta Scott King at the new Ebenezer Church on Auburn Ave. in Atlanta Monday, Feb. 6, 2006. (AP Photo/POOL, John Bazemore, AP)
Feb. 6, 2006
Oprah Winfrey pays her respects in front of the casket of Coretta Scott King as she lies in honor in the historic Ebenezer Church on Auburn Ave. in Atlanta Monday, Feb. 6, 2006. (AP Photo/POOL, Jason Reed)
Oct. 12, 2006
Irish rocker Bono, frontman for U2, and talk show host Oprah Winfrey leave a Gap store on Chicago's "Magnificent Mile" after a shopping spree Thursday, Oct. 12, 2006. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
M. SPENCER GREEN
Dec. 9, 2008
Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama,D-Ill., with his wife Michelle, left, and talk-show diva Oprah Winfrey, right, take part in a campaign rally Sunday, Dec. 9, 2008, at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
Mary Ann Chastain
May 11, 2011
In one of his last acts before leaving office next week, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley presents TV talk-show host Oprah Winfrey with a sign after a street was named in her honor outside her Harpo Studios in Chicago, Wednesday, May 11, 2011. Winfrey will end her 25 year-run on daytime television in Chicago on May 25. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
M. Spencer Green
July 7, 2011
Oprah Winfrey stops to talk with members of the media after a session at the Sun Valley Inn for the 2011 Allen and Co. Sun Valley Conference, Thursday, July 7, 2011, in Sun Valley, Idaho. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Jan. 13, 2012
Oprah Winfrey talks to the Associated Press at her Leadership Academy for Girls at Henley-On-Klip. South Africa, Friday, Jan. 13, 2012 on the eve of the first graduation at her school. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)
March 9, 2012
Oprah Winfrey attends The Third Annual DVF Awards held at the United Nations in New York, Friday, March 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
May 30, 2013
Oprah Winfrey reacts after receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University during commencement ceremonies in Cambridge, Mass., Thursday, May 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Aug. 28, 2013
Oprah Winfrey speaks at the Let Freedom Ring ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, in Washington, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Nov. 20, 2013
Oprah Winfrey listens in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, during a ceremony where President Barack Obama awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom. Winfrey and others were recipients of the medals. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
May 30, 2013
In this May 30, 2013 file photo Oprah Winfrey reacts after delivering the commencement address at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
March 19, 2014
Howard Schultz, left, chairman and CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company, welcomes Oprah Winfrey, right, to announce their partnership to offer Teavana Oprah Chai tea, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at Starbucks' annual shareholders meeting in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ted S. Warren
Sept. 30, 2014
Actor, talk show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey addresses an audience after accepting the W.E.B. Du Bois medal during ceremonies, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass. The Du Bois Medal is Harvard's highest honor in the field of African and African American Studies. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Jan. 18, 2015
Oprah Winfrey smiles before she marches Edmund Pettus Bridge in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, in Selma, Ala. Winfrey joined some of the cast to promote the movie "Selma." (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Syndicated columnist Rich Lowry can be reached at