Jewish World Review Sept. 26, 2000/ 25 Elul, 5760
Oprahfication of presidential
political: It's all about feelings
IT HAS BEEN SAID that the Democratic Party is the
feminine party and the Republican Party, the masculine.
In other words, Dems are more attuned to feelings, and
Reps more to the mind, if not precisely the intellect.
In such light, women apparently are deemed to respond
to their feelings more than their minds -- an insult we'll
parse another day -- and men more to their implicitly
Extending the implication, it is further understood that if
candidates want the women's vote, they had better
temper those tricky issues with some genuine feelings.
And what better venue to display one's emotional
content than before the nation's premier Mother
Confessor, the Queen of Feelings -- Oprah!
Both George W. Bush and Al Gore appeared on Oprah
Winfrey's daytime televised talk show in the past few
days, completing the foretold Oprahfication of America.
Already the goddess of the couchless confession had
segued into seer of American letters. Her "Oprah Book
Club Selection" imprimatur, splashed across a book
cover, nearly ensures a bestseller, such that wannabe
authors now report genuflecting before homemade
Oprah shrines erected next to home computers.
Branching out the past couple of weeks, Oprah is now
political mentor to the millions of mostly female viewers
who want to know whom to trust for president. It's not
about issues, all that crazy head stuff. It's about feelings.
Oprah says so on her Web site:
"To me there's this wall that exists between the people
and the authentic part of the candidate . . . My goal is to
try to get to know the men behind the wall."
Oprah said she hoped her shows would help viewers
answer some of the bigger questions: "Whom do you
trust? Who feels right to you? Whom do you like?"
In order to get to the bottom of these issues, Oprah
posed questions, the dominant effect of which was to
make one nostalgic for Walter Cronkite. Even Barbara
Walters' famous line of questioning -- "If you were a
tree, what kind of tree would you be?" -- is intellectually
riveting compared with Oprah's "What's your favorite
That question went to Gore (Wheaties), while Bush's
boots were held to the fire over his favorite sandwich --
peanut butter and jelly. On white bread. Both men love
their wives and God. Bush loves tacos, while Gore
loves Chinese food. Gore loves the Beatles, and Bush
loves the song, "Wake Up Little Susie."
I hate both of these guys. Would it be too much to ask
for a little Chopin and Pumpernickel?
At least we can assume that they're both honest. Surely
political posturing would produce more creative
Oprah, too, might have been more creative -- or at least
discreet -- with her own physical posturing, which left
little to guesswork. If body language were translated
into words, Oprah's would look something like this:
"Al, you da' man! (Actually, I think she did say that).
And, "Dubya, you are so full of Texas wafers, it'll be
another presidential election before I can erase this
pucker of disbelief off my face."
Which was, of course, the point. Not to remove "the
wall between people and authenticity" but to endorse
Gore before the audience that seems to count most in
this horse race -- women in the middle who trust their
feelings and, of course, Oprah.
When the outcome of a presidential contest boils down
to the feelings of daytime television viewers, we might all
begin to feel a little worried and wistful of
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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