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Presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson is something different. She’s either a truth-bomb dropping hippy with a message of love or a “left-wing Trump”. Maybe both.
The other day the reliably disgusting Samantha Bee tweeted an invitation to Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson to come “drop out” of the race on her show, which Williamson playfully declined from the green room of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Today, she took part in today’s democratic debate, provoking a similar response from Twitter:
I am a spiritual New Age weirdo who does Tarot and meditates. Marianne Williamson is full of shit. She is not a “love warrior” with a flat iron and an accent that doesn’t sound like any part of her native Texas. I’d prefer not to have another self-styled guru in the White House.
— Sara Benincasa (@SaraJBenincasa) July 31, 2019
I’m not seeing much written about Williamson besides snarky smear articles and “Hurr hurr I hyper-meta-ironically think the magic crystal lady is awesome” joke pieces, so with the next round of debates coming up soon I thought it might be fun to take a straightforward look at her, her platform, what she gets right, and what she gets wrong. There aren’t many candidates who I find interesting enough to do such a thing, but she’s one of them. Without further ado, here are eight thoughts on Marianne Williamson:
1. As mocked as she is, she’d still make a better president than almost any Democrat running.
Granted, given the platoon of plutocratic palace eunuchs that is the 2020 Democratic primary race, this isn’t much of a compliment. But it’s still worth noting that her overall platform is more progressive than most of her primary opponents and that she appears to be far less invested in coddling the oligarchs than Biden, Warren, Harris, O’Rourke, Buttigieg, Booker, or almost any of the other twenty-something candidates. Only Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard have more to offer in terms of challenging existing power structures, and of course, Mike Gravel (who Williamson helped fundraise for) if you feel like counting his interesting campaign.
I tend to ignore any self-proclaimed “progressive” if they don’t express a determination to overhaul the status quo of the US-centralized empire’s forever war, but Williamson has been promoting significant changes on that front, including the creation of a Department of Peace, an idea she just plugged on Colbert. In a debate that was remarkably scant on any foreign policy questions, Williamson was the only candidate to point out during the immigration section that many immigrants are fleeing their countries because of disastrous US foreign policy.
Williamson also has unusually awake views on things like race, slavery reparations, and putting children first in a real and tangible way which could do a lot to heal America’s deep psychological woundedness, something she seems to prioritize in all her political thinking. This isn’t a Marianne Williamson campaign ad so I’m not going to go over all her positions on all issues, but anyone who’s curious can check them out here.
She’s easy to make fun of, she misquotes Albert Einstein sometimes, and her positions are far from perfect, but she also seems to be operating in good faith from a compassionate perspective and pushing back on some tightly held orthodoxies, which is more than you can say for most of the other candidates.
2. She has the ability to capture America’s attention.
Because of her willingness to talk about love and say things you’re just not meant to say on a presidential debate stage, Williamson was the most-searched candidate on Google after the last Democratic debates, with interest surging nearly every time she opened her mouth. You can tell me that a lot of that was the undesirable kind of attention, but if Donald Trump’s election taught us anything it’s that undesirable attention isn’t necessarily a thing for presidential candidates.
Williamson’s challenge is using that attention in a way that wins people over and captures their imaginations. If she can find a way to put out concise, forceful, positive messages that really light people up while she has America’s attention, it’s technically possible for her to turn interest due to novelty into actual support, especially if she can get better at taking advantage of her massive social media following. Unlike Gravel, Williamson is actually sincerely in this race to win it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she picks up a few tricks to help push toward that goal.
Williamson has a unique knack for getting herself into the bloodstream of the zeitgeist. There’s a very famous quote almost everyone has heard at some point that goes, “Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
That quote appears everywhere from memes to inspirational posters to graduation speeches, and it’s often misattributed to Nelson Mandela. It’s actually Williamson, from a book she published in 1989.
3. Her underlying premise is absolutely correct.
One of the things that set Williamson apart from the other candidates is her insistence that the only thing which can really turn things around for America and for the world is a profound psychological change on a mass scale in the way human beings operate. Her stated goal is not just to change policies in a more progressive direction, but to help get people learning to relate to themselves in a more awake and truthful way.
Whether Williamson is the person to facilitate such a shift is another matter. Generally, if someone’s insights into the human condition have been sufficiently deep, they can talk about them like a normal human being without sounding all woo woo hippietastic. But maybe Williamson talks that way for her own reasons. In any case, it’s not like anyone else in US politics is speaking about inner work with any amount of profundity.
4. She’s crap on a number of issues.
Williamson has said “I see both sides” on the Trump administration’s completely unjustifiable prosecution of Julian Assange. She’s tweeted that she does not support BDS, as well as a few comments feeding into the discredited Russiagate conspiracy theory. Her “path” toward universal healthcare is the crappy “Obamacare plus a public option” approach, far less cost-effective and efficient system than the Medicare for All system being pushed by Sanders and more in line with what shitlibs like Beto O’Rourke are advocating.
5. The “anti-science” smear is bullshit.
Williamson has repeatedly denied that she is opposed to science, vaccinations and medical care, so the only way to continue to believe that she opposes those things is to decide that she’s a secret science-hater who is trying to get into the White House to wage a covert war on science. This would obviously be stupid. Williamson has said weird things in her weird guru-lady life to talk about the power of the mind, but if she’s saying in plain English that she supports modern medicine then there’s no reason to disbelieve her.
This is a common wedge issue against the political left in America that the establishment narrative managers are all too happy to use; they used it constantly on Jill Stein in the lead-up to the 2016 election, and she’s a bloody doctor. It works as a wedge issue because it turns the dreadlocks/patchouli lefties and the rationalism/atheism lefties against each other, thereby rendering them both impotent.
There’s no good reason to believe that Marianne Williamson is secretly plotting to become president so that she can steal your measles vaccines, though. Don’t be a doofy conspiracy theorist.
6. She is a collaborator first, competitor second.
When Williamson used her platform to send her supporters to help her opponent, the very naughty octogenarian Mike Gravel, get reach his target fundraising numbers, I was infuriated. Infuriated because I had cancelled her in my mind because of her position on Assange, and then she goes and does something awesome like that. In her policy reviews on her page she plugs another opponent Andrew Yang, even going so far to link to his on a Universal Basic Income. She also plugs two other books on economics for good measure. A strong feature of Williamson’s campaign is not just to take solid ideas and promise to implement them, but to bring the people who have been pushing those ideas along with her. She may have some blind spots when it comes to sovereignty and boundaries, but she sure knows how to collaborate in an effortlessly egoless way.
7. She has self-reflection.
She’s endlessly mockable, but Williamson knows how to laugh at herself, which is an astoundingly rare characteristic for someone with her reach, ambitions, and audience. Rather than react to the barbs with pursed-lips and aggression, she has a light way of dancing with the attention that ameliorates its effect. She is a deep thinker that is humble enough to change her mind when presented with evidence, but she doesn’t back down easily either. In politics, where nobody ever says sorry and changing stances is seen as a weakness, modelling her brand of agility and self-reflection is a blast of much needed fresh air. Of course, manipulators will use any apologies as a weapon against you, so you need to only apologise for things you have actually done and wish to change. Most of us use only defense or use only submission. She seems comfortable with both.
8. At least she’s interesting.
Is she perfect? No. Do I think she’s got a chance of being president?
Stranger things have happened. But I’m glad she’s up there, right up in the guts of the establishment politics making them all work a bit harder. I love that they feel like they need to attack her right now, but she could go further.
If I ever got her attention, there’s a bunch of tweaks I think Williamson could make. For example, her Twitter game is sub-optimal for what it could be with the follower size she has, because she doesn’t make the kind of large, bold statements that could blow out a giant hole in the Overton window. With the following, she has she could easily get people talking, but she has to give them something to talk about.
Going much harder on policy would get people talking, and there’s certainly plenty of room to stretch out on that front. She claims she wants to take America in a radically healthy new direction, so why not take a page from Gravel’s book and talk about halving the military budget and bringing home the troops? The Pentagon is the planet’s largest producer of carbon emissions, not to mention all the other poison they put in the air. She says she wants to “cut the waste in the military”, but why be a pussy about it? There are a bunch of issues like this where she walks this weird middle line that just gets lost in the boring beige sludge of the 2020 conversation. Just be a relentless advocate for health. No need to appease sickness in any way.
Williamson talks about “fear versus love” a lot, presumably a hangover from her A Course In Miracles days, when I think “life versus death” is a much more useful dichotomy for what we’re actually looking at today. When the status quo’s only solution to every problem is to apply the salve of death, in my view she wants to strongly put the case for applying to heal and applying life in terms that people can understand. Whether it be the homeless crisis, healthcare, foreign policy etc, the only solutions we are being offered right now are predicated on lots of people dying so they’re not a problem anymore. It’s okay to fear that, and love that isn’t going to fix it.
Put the case for life, Marianne. That’s what I’d say.
But whatever, in any case, I’m glad she’s a thing. The presidential race is much healthier because of her.