Who the hell is Marianne Williamson?
That was the question millions of Americans were asking after she stole the show at last night’s Democratic presidential debate.
We know this because in a staggering statistic, Google revealed Williamson was the most-searched candidate in 49 of the 50 states. (Gov. Steve Bullock was top in his home state, Montana. Don’t they know who he is there?)
To put this into perspective, before the debate started, she was most-searched in only two states.
Marianne Williamson electrified the CNN theater audience, and got viewers at home racing to find out more about her
Is is Marianne Williamson the liberal Trump? She too has had virtually no political experience before running for President, is a very successful entrepreneur, supremely comfortable in her own skin, and nkows how to get crowds going
Momentum is a massive, game-changing thing in politics, and by the time the debate finished it was all with mad-eyed Marianne.
From her high-pitched yodelling-style of talking to her dismissive ‘yada yada yada’ attack on Democrats who take corporate cash and her warning of President Trump’s ‘dark psychic force’ of collective hatred, she electrified the CNN theater audience, and got viewers at home racing to find out more about her.
What’s so weird about her break-out moment is that she’s… so weird.
As Rolling Stone put it, she’s ‘like a cross between Stevie Nicks, a Tennessee Williams character, and your mom after she took too much Xanax on the plane.’
Those who did Google her last night will have discovered Ms Williamson, who calls herself a ‘b*tch for God’, is a long time new-age spiritual guru with a very colorful background.
She admitted to spending her 20s in a haze of ‘bad boys and dope’, once lived in a commune in a geodesic dome in New Mexico, helped Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler get off drugs, officiated at Elizabeth Taylor’s wedding to construction worker Larry Fortensky, and has been Oprah’s spiritual adviser.
So far, so very different to Donald Trump.
Yet in many ways, Williamson IS the female Trump.
She too has had virtually no political experience before running for President.
She too is a very successful entrepreneur who has written numerous best-selling books telling Americans how to make a success of their lives.
She too is supremely comfortable in her own skin, oozes self-confidence, and cuts through the normal political speak bullsh*t.
Williamson, too, knows how to get crowds going, and is a skilled television performer in an age when television is the world’s most powerful political marketing tool.
And she’s also an adept and aggressive user of social media, with millions of followers on Twitter and Facebook.
As with Trump, there are plenty of negatives to counter the positives.
She too has a fiery temper, likes to be the boss and doesn’t like being challenged. Former employees branded her ‘despotic’, saying she had a ‘tyrannical streak and inability even to hear dissent.’ When asked for a response, Williamson said: ‘I have a dramatic personality. If I do things right, it’s a big right; if it’s wrong, it’s a big wrong.’
Before the debate started, most states were searching Bernie Sanders on Google, with some searching Elizabeth Warren and Marianne Williamson
During the debate, however, 49 states were searching for Williamson the most. The only deviation was Montana, the third least populated U.S. state, which was still searching for Bullock
(Trump’s also a dramatic personality who does big things right and wrong, he just doesn’t admit when he’s wrong.)
And she too has some views that are frankly dangerous.
For example, Williamson’s attacked mandatory vaccines as ‘Orwellian’ and ‘draconian’. Coming at a time when measles is spiking again, this is a particularly worrying attitude in someone who wants to be President.
But she has a very similar empowering message to Trump’s in 2016: vote for me and I will heal broken, suffering America.
It worked for him, so why couldn’t it work for her?
I may personally find a lot of Williamson’s self-help guff absurd, but then I find most self-help guff absurd.
However, many Americans do not, which is why they spend billions of dollars every year on self-help books by everyone from Oprah to Gwyneth and her Goop.
When Williamson says, ‘The power of your mind is greater than the power of nuclear radiation’, my toes curl. Yet I can imagine a lot of Americans punching the air and feeling they are suddenly more powerful than an atomic bomb.
Nor is some of her supposedly outlandish opinion that outlandish.
She’s been attacked for dismissing depression as a tool for big pharmaceutical companies to exploit. But actually what she said was this: ‘Over the past few years, the pharmaceutical companies have medicalised depression. I’m not saying there is no such thing as mental illness, but I am saying there’s a spectrum of normal human despair that is not mental illness. When someone you love dies, when you go bankrupt, lose something professionally, go through a divorce…that’s very painful but it’s not a mental illness, and can be better addressed through spiritual rather than pharmaceutical means.’
I agree with her.
Americans consume 80% of the world’s painkillers, suggesting – as with the ridiculous NRA argument that more guns means less crime – that more painkillers equals less pain, when clearly it doesn’t.
Getting America off its rampant self-medication and victimhood obsessions would hugely benefit society.
Williamson also has a degree of self-awareness and ability to laugh at herself that eludes Trump.
‘I can’t really complain about some of the mockery,’ she said after her performance in the first debate was widely ridiculed. ‘I mean, some of it has been hilarious. Some people think I’m absolutely bonkers!’
Yes they do, but acknowledging that fact in a jocular self-deprecating manner is an appealing trait.
As things stand, I don’t think Marianne Williamson will win the Democrat nomination.
And even if she did, I believe Trump would probably flat-line her in the 2020 election.
But what she did last night was put a much-needed rocket up the complacent collective backside of the Democratic presidential candidate field.
She’s rightly identified the cold, hard reality that no strident lefty socialist can beat someone like Trump, especially when the economy is going well.
She knows that wonky policy stuff alone can’t beat him either and that whoever the nominee ends up being has to take the rhetorical fight to Trump, and have a simple positive message for America that resonates as hard with voters as his ‘Make America Great Again’ mantra did in 2016, and as Obama’s ‘Yes we can!’ theme did in 2008.
Williamson knows how to get crowds going, and is a skilled television performer in an age when television is the world’s most powerful political marketing tool
Williamson has urged Democrats not to opt for the ‘safe’ choice: ‘I believe this is a moment and situation where what some might consider a safe choice is the most dangerous choice we can make. Donald Trump is not a politician. Donald Trump is a phenomenon. And it will take a phenomenon to beat him.’
I think she’s right.
I interviewed Williamson, with her friend Sharon Stone, for CNN in 2013.
She struck me then as tough, no-nonsense, intense and on a mission.
‘The real story is not how do I get my power,’ she said, ‘but how do I use that power to change the world for the better?’
Perhaps we’re about to find out.
I’ve thought for a while that only a rock star out-of-the-box candidate like Michelle Obama or Oprah could beat Trump in 2020, yet both women insist they won’t run.
Marianne Williamson last night showed she is the nearest thing to either of them in this field.
She may not be everyone’s cup of ginseng tea, but she has passion, confidence, verve and star power.
These are four qualities sorely lacking in the rest of the Democrat candidates.
Everyone can laugh at her all they like, but then everyone was laughing at Donald Trump, right up until the night he won.