Thursday, September 19, 2019


Marianne Williamson gets a lot of media attention every time she debates or makes a controversial statement, but it's not helping her -- according to Real Clear Politics, she's at 0.4% in the Democratic primary polls. Over at FiveThirtyEight, Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux tries to understand why Williamson's campaign is tanking, but she doesn't quite get it:
Something about Williamson’s unconventional candidacy ... has certainly sparked voters’ curiosity....

But the more voters learned more about her, the less they seemed to like her. According to an analysis by my colleague Nathaniel Rakich, Williamson’s name recognition is up, but her net favorability ratings are down. She now actually has negative net favorability, a dubious honor she shares only with mayor of New York Bill de Blasio and former Rep. Joe Sestak. And her failure to resonate with an audience that might have been receptive to her message — “spiritual but not religious” Americans — also reflects the difficulty of reaching a group that’s defined largely by what it’s not.

According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of Democrats identify as “spiritual but not religious” — an amorphous identity that has a lot in common with Williamson’s nondenominational spiritual practice....

But perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority are not churchgoers, nor do they necessarily have a strong sense of communal identity or group cohesion. And here we run into the hurdle that makes outreach to the less-religious and the non-religious perennially tricky for Democrats: It’s hard to marshal a group that doesn’t think of itself as a group....
Thomson-DeVeaux is looking for Williamson's problem in the wrong place. It's not that she shares a spiritual identity with people who aren't used to thinking of themselves as a group. Her problem is that she talks about government like a Republican.

Williamson claims to have left-wing positions, but her best-known statement as a presidential candidate is this:
... 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.
Democratic voters have a range of belief (and non-belief) systems, but we share one conviction: Government has to do stuff. When Williamson warns that we must combat "dark psychic forces," what she's saying is the New Age equivalent of the right-wing notion that "thoughts and prayers" will stop gun massacres. The same is true when she says that "the power of the mind" can change the course of a hurricane.

Democrats don't think societal problems can simply be prayed or meditated away. When Williamson invoked "dark psychic forces," she was talking about water contamination in Flint, Michigan. Democrats don't believe positive energy is the solution to that problem -- we think the solution is to fix the damn infrastructure and punish the people responsible for poisoning Flint's citizens. When there's a hurricane, we think the solution is to improve our disaster response, while doing something serious about the climate change that's making hurricanes worse.

It's no wonder that Republicans such as Ross Douthat are fascinated by Williamson -- her message is highly compatible with that notion that limited government and prayer will make America better, and than government programs won't. Democrats don't think that way. Even the ones who are religious want laws to make life better for ordinary citizens. Williamson may claim that she's a progressive, but whether or not she realizes it, she talks like a Republican. That's why she's losing.

No comments: