In a political development that could bring African-Americans and women off the sidelines in the 2016 presidential election, television megastar Oprah Winfrey has voiced her strong support for Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of States Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Winfrey was the most prominent early backer of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, appearing at rallies with Obama and his wife Michelle well before more conventional figures like Senator Edward M. Kennedy had thrown their weight behind the then-Illinois senator. Her supporter was frequently credited with motivating women and minorities to swing their votes from Clinton to Obama.
This year, however, Winfrey is making sure there is no doubt about who she supports. In June, she told reporters that she supported Clinton and echoed the Democrat’s slogan: “I’m with her.”
“Regardless of your politics, it’s a seminal moment for women,” Winfrey said in June. “What this says is, there is no ceiling, that ceiling just went boom! It says anything is possible when you can be leader of the free world.”
However, Winfrey has not been a presence on the campaign trail like she was for Obama. She did not, for example, attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
With just weeks left until Election Day, however, Winfrey made her voice heard in an interview for Bishop T.D. Jakes’ television show.
Jakes’ program is popular among African-Americans, especially African-American women.
African-Americans were broadly supportive of Clinton in the Democratic primary against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, but political strategists have expressed concerns that they may not turn out for Clinton in the same numbers they did for President Obama.
Before weighing in to answer Jakes’ question about the presidential race, Winfrey first explained her silence to date.
“I didn’t know what to say that could actually pierce through all the noise, the chaos, the disgusting vitriol that is going on, and be heard,” Winfrey said. “There really is no choice, people.”
She quickly wound up, however, and addressed Clinton’s “likability” problem head on – drawing a particularly potent contrast between Clinton and Republican presidential nominee and New York businessman Donald J. Trump.
“She’s not coming over to your house! You don’t have to like her. You don’t have to like her. Do you like this country? Do you like this country? You better get out there and vote. Do you like the country? Do you like freedom and liberty? Do you like this country? OK. Do you like democracy or do you want a demagogue?”