I watched the Democratic candidate debates this week. I also read much of the post-debate commentary in various newspapers. In many cases, I agree with the media assessment. There seems to be universal agreement that Kamala Harris was off her game this week. She was, and it was disappointing. I’m hoping it was a glitch and not the new normal. Also, lots of news analysts wondered why former Rep. John Delaney got so much airtime during the first night. I thought Delaney was obnoxious and I have no interest in seeing him on any ballot. Ditto Bill DeBlasio, who also received lukewarm-to-scathing reviews.
But I was surprised by the generous assessment of certain candidates. Let’s look at Marianne Williamson, for example. She got good reviews from a number of credible sources. And then there’s this column from New York Times columnist David Brooks, who seems to be suffering an existential crisis in the age of Trump. And, yeah, Marianne Williamson strung some sentences together and didn’t stumble over her words, but some of her words were “yada, yada, yada” and “dark psychic force.” She has some ideas that sound sensible, but mostly she deals in the realm of the spiritual guru. It’s not so much about what we do, it’s more about how we feel.
Williamson believes that you can pray and meditate your way to a better life and also, apparently, to a slimmer figure. She has spoken out against the use of modern medicine, decrying everything from vaccinations to antidepressants. She’s walking back some of her more radical positions under the scrutiny of a presidential campaign, but she’s published too many books and been in front of too many cameras to escape her own words. And, look, it’s worth having a discussion about the overprescription of certain drugs in America. The pharmaceutical industry has proved itself to be a greedy behemoth that doesn’t give a damn about patients and that props itself up on a business model built on lies and bribes. But Williamson is wildly unqualified to lead that discussion. Her suggestion for anything that ails you? Pray it away. America is in desperate need of a better and more affordable health care system, but I don’t believe we’re ready to replace doctor’s visits with prayer circles. Mindfulness won’t stop the spread of disease. Only science can do that. And Williamson’s belief in science seems shaky.
Our leaders should not trust feelings over facts. We should not elect anyone whose greatest strength is an ability to spout convincing nonsense. And being an outsider is not, in and of itself, a virtue. In fact, we know this. We know it because we’ve already elevated a cocksure, lying, anti-science buffoon to the White House. Let’s not make the same mistake twice.
We need to stop pretending that every candidate who can raise enough money and rank in a few polls is worthy of our attention. Some of them aren’t. Marianne Williamson isn’t the only candidate who should not have been on the debate stage this week. But I think she might have been the most dangerous.
Look, I will vote for the eventual Democratic nominee, no matter which of these candidates wins the nomination. Every person in the Democratic field is a much, much better choice than Trump. Except, perhaps, Marianne Williamson. I’m fine with woo-woo new age philosophizing on daytime talk shows and prime time reality series. Bring on the occult task force and all hail the orb queen, but keep that mess away from White House. If we need someone conversant in spiritual matters, let’s look at Pete Buttigieg. Mayor Pete is a man of faith who quotes the Bible with confidence and authority. Frankly, I’d love to see him go head-to-head with Mike Pence, who uses his Bible mostly as a justification for hate and subjugation. But let’s not elevate spiritual babble to political prominence.
I’m rooting for one of the female candidates to clinch the nomination. I don’t think anyone is smarter than Elizabeth Warren. I think Kamala Harris could eviscerate Trump in a debate, or I did until this week. And I could support others. I believe there are a handful of qualified men to choose from for the vice presidency (hello, Mayor Pete). But, please, let’s winnow this field of candidates down to a manageable number and let’s stop wasting valuable time discussing the virtues of unqualified candidates like Marianne Williamson. The media made this mistake in the last election. They pointed their cameras at the least-qualified man because he made good TV. And now we have a president who eschews science, who ignores facts in favor of feelings, who speaks without thinking, who spews divisive rhetoric, and who seems to believe his own lies. We don’t need more of the same.