On the most recent episode Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, our hero June finds herself alone in an abandoned car. She’s making one more attempt at escape for the dystopian Gilead when she tunes the radio to a broadcast from “somewhere in the Great White North” and hears a familiar and deeply comforting voice come through the ether.
“And now, this news. The American Government in Anchorage today received promises of economic aid from India and China,” the voice reports. “In the United Kingdom, additional sanctions on Gilead were announced, as well as plans to raise the cap on American refugees relocating from Canada.”
As Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” starts playing, Oprah Winfrey says, “Now, a tune to remind everyone who’s listening, American patriot or Gilead traitor: we are still here. Stars and stripes forever, baby.”
The cameo has led to rampant speculation that in the near future of the series — based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name — Winfrey is president of what’s left of the United States of America after religious fundamentalists have overthrown the existing government in a violent coup. It seems Americans are desperate to have the media mogul as our leader even in fiction.
Ever since Winfrey delivered her galvanizing speech at this year’s Golden Globe Awards in January—“A new day is on the horizon!”—pundits have been debating the merits of her potential 2020 run against Donald Trump. But now, in her latest definitive statement on the matter, Winfrey seems to have fully shut that door.
“In that political structure—all the non-truths, the bullshit, the crap, the nastiness, the backhanded backroom stuff that goes on—I feel like I could not exist,” Winfrey told British Vogue as part of a new cover story. “I would not be able to do it. It's not a clean business. It would kill me.”
And as much as some of her fans might want to see her in the White House, why would Winfrey want to put up with what would be a brutal and bruising campaign against Trump?
A couple of days after that Golden Globes speech, Trump declared, “I’ll beat Oprah,” adding that she “would be a lot of fun” to run against even though he didn’t think she would go through with it. That genial response immediately turned nasty after Winfrey ran of a focus group with voters on 60 Minutes the following month.
This time, Trump dared Winfrey to run against him, calling the most famous broadcaster of all time “very insecure.” That critique sounded almost as absurd as the time he called Meryl Streep “overrated.”
Instead of firing back on Twitter, Winfrey took the high road and ignored the president. “I don’t like giving negativity power,” she told Ellen DeGeneres in an interview a few days later. The next day, she added to Jimmy Kimmel, “You don’t win by meeting any kind of negativity head-on.”
Unfortunately, running against Trump in 2020 will probably require of a lot meeting negativity “head-on.” And Winfrey just doesn’t have it in her.