It was a crowded stage at Thursday night’s Democratic debate, and the 10 candidates did what they could to stand out. Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) electrified the night by going after former Vice President Joe Biden’s record on busing and working with segregationists. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg carefully fielded questions about police accountability and racism in his hometown.
And then there was Marianne Williamson.
Stationed at the far end of the stage, Williamson, an author and activist, didn’t make a peep for the first 15 minutes as everyone else climbed over each other to get on camera. When she was finally asked about her plan for lowering the cost of prescription drugs, her answer was... unexpected.
“I’ll tell you one thing, it’s really nice if we’ve got all these plans,” Williamson began, speaking in her unusual Mid-Atlantic accent. “But if you think we’re going to beat Donald Trump by just having all these plans, you’ve got another thing coming. Because he didn’t win by saying he had a plan. He won by simply saying, ‘Make America great again.’”
What? Having actual policy ideas matters less than #MAGA?
“We’ve got to get deeper than just these superficial fixes,” she continued, referring to Democrats’ fleshed-out policies on immigration, health care, education, student loans and whatever else you can think of.
The moderators moved on. They asked the panel what would be your priority issue as president? Gun violence, said Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.). Climate change, said Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.). A family bill of rights, said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.).
“My first call is to the prime minister of New Zealand, who said that her goal is to make New Zealand the place where it’s the best place in the world for a child to grow up,” said Williamson. “I would tell her, ‘Girlfriend, you are so on!’”
Uh. What about the first international relationship you’d like to reset as president?
“One of my first phone calls would be to call the European leaders and say, ‘We’re baaaack!’” said Williamson.
It’s not that Williamson didn’t make any substantive points as the two hours rolled on. She accused the Trump administration of child abuse for ripping migrant kids from their parents at the border and loading them into unsanitary detention facilities. Trump is attacking “America’s moral core” with his immigration policies, she said. “We open our hearts to the stranger.”
And it’s not that emailing reporters a video of yourself dancing to “Runaround Sue” with a guy in a cowboy hat and urging them to “JUST DANCE,” hours before going on national television as a presidential candidate, is completely off the wall. Neither is emailing reporters to recommend that they de-stress from the debates not by drinking vodka but by doing yoga poses.
The question, though, is what the hell is Williamson on? She is living her best life in front of all of us on a national stage, and since her moment may not last much longer, whatever she’s got, we’d like some of it.
“Mr. President, if you’re listening, I want you to hear me, please,” Williamson said in her closing remarks in the debate. “You have harnessed fear for political purposes, and only love can cast that out. So I, sir, I have a feeling you know what you’re doing. I’m going to harness love for political purposes. I will meet you on that field. And, sir, love will win.”
I’ll meet you on that field, Marianne. We can share the goods there.