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Marianne Williamson is an odd duck, but a compelling one. In CNN’s interminably long opening night of Democratic debates, the spiritual author didn’t get nearly as much time as the other candidates yet still made a large impact. How large?
While the other candidates played conventional politics, Williamson levitated above their policy details with a broad message of empathy, inclusion, and … well … love. In a room seemingly stacked with Warren and Sanders supporters, the former New Age guru earned the loudest applause of the night.
A few quotes, the first responding to Democratic bashing of corporations:
[F]or politicians, including my fellow candidates, who themselves have taken tens of thousands — and in some cases, hundreds of thousands — of dollars from these same corporate donors to think that they now have the moral authority to say we’re going to take them on, I don’t think the Democratic Party should be surprised that so many Americans believe “yada, yada, yada.”
It is time for us to start over with people who have not taken donations from any of those corporations and can say with real moral authority: That is over. We are going to establish public funding for federal campaigns. That’s what we need to stand up to.
And until we do it, it’s just the same old, same old.
On the Flint water crisis:
I assure you, I lived Grosse Pointe — what happened in Flint would not have happened in Grosse Pointe. This is part of the dark underbelly of American society. The racism, the bigotry, and the entire conversation that we’re having here tonight — if you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.
Well, first of all, it’s not $500 billion in financial assistance. It’s $500 billion, $200 billion to $500 billion payment of a debt that is owed. That is what reparations is…
What makes me qualified to say $200 billion to $500 billion? I’ll tell you what makes me qualified. If you did the math of the 40 acres and a mule, given that there was 4 million to 5 million slaves at the end of the Civil War, four to five — and they were all promised 40 acres and a mule for every family of four, if you did the math today, it would be trillions of dollars. And I believe that anything less than $100 billion is an insult.
And I believe that $200 billion to $500 billion is politically feasible today, because so many Americans realize there is an injustice that continues to form a toxicity underneath the surface, an emotional turbulence that only reparations will heal.
On moderate candidates:
I’ve heard some people here tonight, I almost wonder why you’re Democrats. You seem to think there’s something wrong with using the instruments of government to help people. That is what government should do. It should — all policies should help people thrive. That is how we will have peace.
Political journalists and policy wonks — not to mention conservatives — know that Williamson’s ideas are nonsense, and mocked her on Twitter throughout the night. But the party loyalists in Detroit loved it, not to mention all those viewers who spent the debate trying to learn more about her.
While the other candidates discussed numbers and which congressional committee they chaired, Williamson hewed to a deeper cultural message, much as Trump did three years ago.
How did the moderates do? They defended their positions quite well, but the crowd wasn’t buying. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock had a strong showing, as did former Rep. Tim Delaney, but both were repeatedly shut down by competitors as not visionary enough. After Delaney criticized Medicare For All’s “fairy-tale economics,” Warren shut him down hard.
“You know, I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for,” she said. I don’t think the Marylander is long for this campaign.
Rep. Tim Ryan and Gov. John Hickenlooper also pushed moderation but made little impact. I’ll be surprised if they last much longer than Delaney.
Bernie Sanders seemed desperate, answering every question with a shouted monologue about evil corporations. Warren was more poised and fought to be given more time. She had a better outing this time than last.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg was polished as always, stressing his Midwestern and military bona fides with the ever-present scolding of Christians who don’t live up to his self-styled version. Sen. Amy Klobuchar offered another dull performance, hitting several of the same notes as the mayor sans panache.
Beto O’Rourke needed a knockout to keep his donations flowing. But, just as in the first round of debates, he was sweaty and unsteady, making little impact. His tedious soundbites are fine when running against media bête noire Ted Cruz but it’s time Beto spent more time with his family.
Speaking of sweaty, CNN needs to crank the AC and hire a makeup artist. All the males on stage were clammy and damp, growing worse the longer it went on. The moderators strongly favored Warren and Sanders, especially in the first hour, and Don Lemon was abysmal as usual.
And two hours, forty minutes of ten candidates hollering at each other? That’s far too long, especially with the constant ad breaks. Good thing there’s another round Wednesday night…