Currently, the three strongest Democratic challengers to President Trump's reelection are all black women: talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, former first lady Michelle Obama, and Senator Kamala Harris of California.
- Juan Williams
Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon has said Oprah and the #MeToo movement pose an "existential threat" to the Trump presidency. Michelle Obama left the White House with a 68 percent approval rating, and got a new wave of positive attention this month when record crowds showed up to see her newly unveiled official portrait at the National Gallery of Art. As for Harris, conservative columnist and Trump booster Ann Coulter confidently predicted last fall that if she ran, she would be the Democratic nominee.
A black female candidate would attract a lot of attention with a challenge to Trump. Ninety-four percent of black women voted against Trump in 2016, as did 69 percent of Latina women and 43 percent of white women. Women of all races have led the biggest anti-Trump marches.
April Reign, an activist who founded the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, worried during a recent NBC interview that the clamor for a black female presidential candidate could be a trap. "Stop begging strong black women to be president: Michelle, Oprah, whatever," Reign said. "It's weird. And Lord knows when black women try to lead, y'all attempt to silence and erase us. So how would that work, exactly?"
Well, black women are already thriving at the top of the political ladder in lots of places. For example, black women are in charge as mayor of at least seven big cities: Atlanta; Baltimore; Charlotte, N.C.; Flint, Michigan; New Orleans; Toledo, Ohio; and Washington, D.C. In addition, a record 21 black women are serving in Congress, including Harris. All but one — Representative Mia Love of Utah — are Democrats.
Winfrey and Obama stand out among these black women because their political strength is only a subset of their power as cultural icons. They have fans among Republicans and Democrats. They attract people of all races. Their broad appeal, including among suburban white women, crosses the nation's deep political divide.
Trump is already attuned to a potential challenge from Winfrey. After Winfrey conducted a focus group on Trump for CBS's 60 Minutes, the president quickly lashed out at her via Twitter.
"Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes," he tweeted. "The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!"
Oprah responded last week by telling Ellen DeGeneres: "I woke up, and I just thought — I don't like giving negativity power. I just thought, 'What?'"
Oprah said that she asked CBS to add a response from a pro-Trump member of the focus group to give the piece more balance. "So I was working very hard to do the opposite of what I was hate-tweeted about," she told DeGeneres.
Longtime Trump political adviser Roger Stone recently told the Oxford Union that Michelle Obama would be the strongest Democratic candidate. The then-first lady's "When they go low, we go high" speech was one of the most memorable of the 2016 Democratic National Convention. The big question with Obama is whether she is willing to go low and put her family through another brutal presidential campaign.
Harris lacks the name identification of Winfrey or Obama, but California's junior senator comes from the most influential state in Democratic politics. Harris would have a strong claim to the deep-pocketed donors in Hollywood and Silicon Valley who helped fund her Senate election in 2016. The former state attorney general's unflinching television interviews and TV grilling of Trump administration witnesses at congressional hearings have given her national visibility.
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in an interview last August, "She's going to be knocking on doors in Iowa."
In 1968, New York's Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to Congress. Four years later, she became the first black candidate to run for a major party's presidential nomination. "I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud," Chisholm told supporters at her announcement.
It's looking more and more likely that 2020 might be the year that a woman finishes the journey — and shatters not one but two glass ceilings.
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.