Oprah and Obama: The Ultimate Power Couple?

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Looks that way. From the New York Times:

BACK in 1992, the Bush White House deemed Oprah Winfrey’s daytime talk show insufficiently serious for the incumbent president to visit. But in the intervening years, Ms. Winfrey’s couch, along with the easy chairs on other chat shows, became so attractive to candidates that the political world is now wondering whether Ms. Winfrey might actually hold the Democratic nomination in her hands.

Judging from her fans’ response, she’ll pack much more of a punch than Donnie McClurkin’s homophobe-fest for Obama, with none of that annoying bigotry. CNN reports that:

The Obama campaign wants this to be a huge event: The rally will take place at the Colonial Center, an arena here that seats 18,000 people. Oprah and/or Obama fans were camping out in sleeping bags outside Obama headquarters in Columbia on Saturday morning, waiting for tickets.

Assuming every ticket-holder shows up, there will be more people at the arena for a political rally than for an average University of South Carolina basketball game, which aren’t usually sell-outs.

There’s little question that the sleeping-bag-and standing-room-only crowd will be there to see their goddess but is she using her powers for good this time? I’d have to say yes, even if her fans only show up, and only bother to vote, because of her. The more people vote, the more they vote. Even if you do so only because the most popular girl on campus told you to, hitting either the polls or a political rally (which ain’t for the faint of heart) once makes it so much more likely that you will again. Who knows how many women will come for the star power and come away politicized?

If the other candidates can’t convince someone with Oprah’s moral authority (and, yes, that’s what it is), that’s on them. Say what you will about Winfrey, she knows exactly how powerful she is and there’s just no reason to believe she doesn’t take that power seriously. Agree with her choice or not but be glad she cares enough to take a break from housewife makeovers to work for change in her country and in the world. It’s because, in fact, she first bothered with the housewives — a group who else bothered with? — that ordinary women listen to her now. Women trust her because she spent years proving that they matter to her. Why should they listen to their ministers, husbands or CNN any more seriously than the girlfriend who bothers to help them find exercise short cuts or pick out good books to read while they wait out another ballet class or pediatrician appointment?

So, bravo for Oprah. And here’s a warning for Obama: remember what she did when James Frey and someone at her leadership Academy disappointed her? She’ll do it to you too, so you better come, and stay, correct. Oprah knows the power of admitting to your mistakes and requiring those around you to do so as well.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

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