What do you do when Oprah shows up at your door? You gasp, you jump back, you shriek, “Oh my God!,” and then you reach out your hand and say, “Hi, Oprah!” At least, that’s how a Georgia woman named Denise handled it when Oprah came knocking Thursday.
The entertainer and mogul went down South to campaign for Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who, if elected to Georgia’s highest office on Tuesday, would become the first black woman ever to serve as governor in American history. Polls suggest Abrams and her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp, are in a close race. Oprah also spoke memorably with Abrams at a town hall event on Thursday.
Oprah’s public-speaking skills are legendary, but videos of her talking to voters one on one, at their homes, are surreal testaments to both her star power and the weight of this midterm election year. In addition to the above video Oprah posted on her Instagram account, Abrams posted two more videos and pictures on her Instagram story. They’ve been captured below:
Oprah, in a green velvet blazer befitting the fairy godmother of getting out the vote, knows what kind of effect she has on people, and she does not hold back. She jumps up and down; she clasps a woman’s hand in her own; she cups another’s face in her hand: She is willing to perform her Oprah-ness in exchange for these people’s word that they will vote. All three of the people Oprah surprises on camera are women who would’ve grown up with her show, which seems like a wise strategy, since Oprah’s particular sway over baby boomer and Gen X women is hard to overstate. As chronicled in the podcast Making Oprah, The Oprah Winfrey Show’s rise to powerhouse status coincided with these women’s coming of age, a period that saw her ascent from host to something more like deity.
The videos recall the footage of the Publishers Clearing House prize patrol greeting sweepstakes winners with giant checks: Even if there’s no money involved, meeting Oprah is not unlike winning a grand prize. Oprah herself famously gave away loads of prizes on her show—remember “You get a car, and you get a car!”?—but bestows a kind of moral reward that confers status beyond the monetary. A chance to confirm to Oprah that you are not only doing the thing she is asking—voting for Abrams—but what’s more, have already done it, is sort of the ultimate liberal fantasy for this moment. See the way Denise answers Oprah’s question of whether she is voting for Abrams: Her eyes glisten with excitement as she nods vigorously and says, “I absolutely am voting for her,” clearly thinking the thing any of us in her position would be thinking, that finally this is her chance to become best friends with Oprah.
After two years of the Trump presidency, it would be déclassé for any right-thinking person to wish for a new car or any of the material comforts Oprah used to represent. Now, all that matters is restoring democracy—and getting Oprah’s approval in the process. She leverages her celebrity not toward selling a fantasy but by making voting and elections seem more like a story that (still!) has the potential for an Oprah-style inspirational ending.
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