Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Oprah Effect

I have been keeping up with American politics, at least until it gets boring. I've even watched parts of a couple of debates. It's the democratic ones I've watched just because they are the only ones where things still seem up in the air. I watch CNN sometimes and listen to the pundits. They give lots of reasons for Obama's recent winning streak in the primaries and caucuses but I have yet to hear anyone, at least on the tube, talk about the one that I think is one of the biggest reasons: the Oprah Factor.

Surely, other people must think this. Others must have thought, when they first heard that Oprah Winfrey was endorsing Obama, that it could mean he would win. Oprah is the person who was sued by the beef industry because she had aired a show about mad cow diseases which she said "just stopped me cold from eating another burger." The industry thought that Oprah's opinions would be so detrimental that they sued her. This is the woman who, with one utterance can send a book to the top of the bestsellers' list. Everything, from books to jeans to bras to pizza to robes to apple pies can go from obscurity to super stardom in a day, based on an Oprah endorsement. Yet, whenever I hear the commentators on TV trying to assess why Obama is doing so well, I never hear Oprah's name.

Oprah said it herself, in her usually modest way, when she told Larry King that "My support of him is probably worth more than any check that I could write.". And people know it. Rachel Ray, Dr. Phil, interior designer Nate Berkus, James Frey, and, most recently Eckhart Tolle, can attest to the influence of Oprah. Tolle's book A New Earth was anointed by Oprah last month for her book club. Originally published in 2005, 3.5 million copies of the book have been shipped in the last four weeks since Oprah announced her new book club selection. That's people who are willing to fork out money to follow her lead and to read a book on spirituality. Then there are the estimated 46 million viewers a week of her television show, the more than 16 million who read her O Magazine every month. Read about the Oprah Effect on businesses here, here, and here, and you'll see people are willing to part with their money and even have cosmetic treatments based on what Oprah says. Surely in something free like casting a vote, her influence can be even more profound.

Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Obama enjoying Oprah's influence. Sad, yes, if people can decide on who should run the country based on one person's opinions, but it's certainly her right to say who she supports and he'd be crazy not to suck it up with a straw. I just wonder why there's not more talk about it on TV when the only person to ever get on Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World " list five times, picks a president.

1 Comments:

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Charles Cheeseman said...

She certainly has a large following which has sustained her for many years now, so plenty of voters sure could be leaning the way she does. I think there are a variety of factors in his success so far, the excitement of a bright, well-spoken politician, messages that appeal to voters at this point in time, and a young candidate who is also black. All endorsements like Oprah's, several Kennedy members, and dozens of others, help him. Winfrey like anyone is free to publicly or privately support him.

However, in the last couple of days, there is a shadow of doubt over his head on whether he has been totally honest in one of his campaign messages, regarding changing NAFTA. Hillary has been driving the doubts home. So tonights vote should be interesting to watch.

 

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