Friday, August 02, 2019


Marianne Williamson is still at 0.4% in Democratic presidential polls, but in the mainstream punditocracy she's a phenomenon. The most recent words of praise come from David Brooks, who tells us that
the Democratic candidate with the best grasp of this election is the one running a spiritual crusade, not an economic redistribution effort.

Many of her ideas are wackadoodle, but Marianne Williamson is right about this: “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.”

And she is right about this: “We’ve never dealt with a figure like this in American history before. This man, our president, is not just a politician; he’s a phenomenon. And an insider political game will not be able to defeat it. … The only thing that will defeat him is if we have a phenomenon of equal force, and that phenomenon is a moral uprising of the American people.”
Brooks contrasts Williamson with "the two leading Democratic idea generators," Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who, he says, "are both materialistic wonks." Democrats can't help themselves, the poor dears.
The modern version of the party emerged during the Great Depression to solve one problem: material want. It is a secular party, trapped in a Lockean prison: Politics should be separate from faith. Politics should be separate from soulcraft.
This is Brooks being Brooks -- he's an adult pushing 60, but in his heart he's still an undergrad reading sociology texts and learning to put things in airtight categories (the spiritual here, the material there).

But in some ways he's not very different from other pundits. The mainstream punditocracy is contemptuous of Trump and tends to prefer politicians who are culturally liberal -- pro-LGBT, concerned about climate change, and so on. But most mainstream pundits recoil when a politician starts talking about concrete solutions to serious problems, because those solutions tend to focus on reducing the wealth and power of the rich and large corporations. So, yes, the punditocracy is liberal, but only until liberal politicians start talking about governing in a liberal way. Thus, it's no wonder that the pundits are obsessed with Williamson, who has a liberal's analysis of our problems, but doesn't want to throw anything more substantive than psychic energy at those problems in order to solve them. (Don't worry, mid-six-figure pundits -- Williamson won't renew America by taxing you.)

What's infuriating about this is that the most "spiritual" American political leader of the past 75 years, Dr. Martin Luther King, was a materialist as well as a preacher. He fought for economic justice, fair housing, and decent working conditions. He didn't die in a church -- he died supporting a garbage workers' strike.

I don't know if Elizabeth Warren really knows how to beat Trump, but what she does know is that the material and the spiritual aren't mutually exclusive. She has a visceral sense of what ordinary Americans have lost in this new Gilded Age. Maybe she needs to throw more patriotic and sentimental abstractions into her stump speech if she wants to win, the way Barack Obama did, but she's not a bloodless technocrat. (Brooks compares Warren and Sanders to Mike Dukakis, whose idea of hot rhetoric stopped about 30 degrees short of where Warren and Sanders are in a resting state.) Warren knows what the "dark psychic forces" are: unchecked contempt and greed.

Preach, Lix, preach.

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