By Jessica Semler
Pittsburgh Current Columnist
The second round of Democratic Party debates happened last week and I was overwhelmed with joy. I enjoy debates and politics like some folks enjoy sports. I couldn’t tell you how the Pirates are doing, but I can tell you that Joe Biden fumbled the ball multiple times while my queen, Elizabeth Warren, slayed and handled attacks against her healthcare plan like a fucking gazelle in the forest.
That is as close as I could get to a sports analogy.
While I’m talking about the 2020 presidential debates, let’s be clear, we DO have an election coming up on November 5th, 2019. In Allegheny County, we have a chance to unseat 20-year incumbent District Attorney Stephen Zappala, who has a positively abysmal record. Care about social justice and equity? Vote for Lisa Middleman!
Back to the debates. Don’t feel bad if after 4 debates and 20+ candidates you don’t feel like you have a horse in the race (sports, again! I did it!) The field is crowded and this is the time for candidates who will never get within spitting distance of the Oval Office to talk about policy positions we might not hear about otherwise. People might scoff at Andrew Yang and his $1,000/month stipend for everyone, but conversations about what economics look like in the age of automation and artificial intelligence are happening. That’s good!
All that said, I need to talk about America’s New Age Aunt: self-help guru and author Marianne Williamson. She used to be Oprah’s spiritual advisor! This woman referenced psychic dark forces when she discussed the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. She has some kooky ideas on how to heal AIDS and other diseases (hint, one tip imagining Darth Vader). She has a history of being anti-vaccinations, and very dangerous views on mental health. The first I heard of Orb Mother was in an article detailing the Democratic candidate’s favorite comfort foods. Marianne’s response was that she didn’t have any, and honestly, who can trust that! It gets worse when you find out this wacky non-comfort-food-having person wrote a book about weight loss that reads like a manual on anorexia.
During her first performance, Williamson looked directly at the camera and challenged President Trump to an epic smackdown on the spiritual plane: “This man has reached into the psyche of the American people and he has harnessed fear for political purposes. So, Mr. President — if you’re listening — I want you to hear me, please: 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’m seeing more progressive folks than I’d like giving her support and, perhaps due to her unique views, mainstream media outlets have been eating it up too. After the debate, in 49 states she was the most Googled candidate. The New York Times published an op-ed titled “Marianne Williamson Knows How to Beat Trump.” The Washington Post wrote about her having a big night.
For an example of her approach to issues, here’s what she said about the catastrophic BP oil spill in 2010: “Visualize the oil spill plugged. Close your eyes for 5 seconds and see angels coming over it, filling it with sane and sacred thoughts.”
In another world I wouldn’t be concerned that a woman encouraging us to employ psychic angels to fight an environmental disaster was on the debate stage. But four years ago, a lot of us watched the crowded 2016 field of Republican presidential candidates and thought Donald Trump was a joke.
Now, Here we are in 2019; we have actual concentration camps at our border. Union rights, LGBT rights, and reproductive rights continue to be stripped away by Trump-appointed judges at every level. This is in large part because this feckless, terribly tanned oaf ran for president, and no one took him seriously. Novel and entertaining are great personality traits for a tv star, not a world leader. Let’s not to confuse the two.
To be clear, it isn’t like I have a fear of the unconventional. I light sage in my house. I do monthly sabbath rituals with my girlfriends. I read tarot cards, have a wide array of candles and stones, and I regularly practice loving-kindness meditation. This practicing witch rejects what girlfriend Marianne is selling.
We need someone formidable to take on Donald Trump in 2020; a fighter armed with progressive policies who can address the larger context of why Trump rose to power to begin with and can connect with voters on a gut-level. A charlatan like Williamson ain’t it.