At least one conservative think tank is taking the possibility of an Oprah Winfrey presidency seriously. Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James just invited Oprah to join her for “substantive policy discussions and debates.”
Before the presidency of Donald Trump, that would probably seem more like a public relations gimmick than a legitimate offer. But in the era of celebrity politics, Oprah isn’t just an option — if she runs in 2020, she'd make a big splash, and even if she doesn't run, she has tremendous influence.
And while Oprah is clearly a liberal—she helped catapult Barack Obama to the White House in 2008—some conservatives see a real opportunity for bipartisan compromise. Asked to rate how excited he would be to sit down with the broadcast legend, Paul Winfree told me, “10 out of 10.”
“I would love to brief Oprah Winfrey on policy,” said Winfree, who served as President Trump’s Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and Director of Budget Policy until returning to Heritage in December to head up the foundation’s economics department.
Winfree wasn’t alone. Conservatives see the potential for a pragmatic dealmaker unencumbered by partisan baggage. “Oprah’s not going to share my politics,” one political operative explained, “but we saw last year that these celebrity candidates create huge opportunities to disrupt flawed parties’ orthodoxies.”
Considering the crowd Oprah fundraises for, it’s probably more than likely that she would have a heart to heart with the analysts over at the Brookings Institution or ThinkProgress. Still, it’s hard to blame Heritage for trying.