If you haven’t stopped thinking about Marianne Williamson’s debate promise to harness love to cast out Donald Trump, just know this: that moment was 100% pure, unadulterated Marianne, and yes, she is always in that mode.
Iowans have gotten the full Marianne Williamson experience up close for almost a year. She started with early, testing-the-waters visits last fall, and has been sharing her unique, spiritual and anti-establishment message in living rooms, alternative book stores and Yoga studios ever since. Many of those events have started off with a poetry reading and sometimes local musical performances.
She’s been a frequent visitor to the lead-off caucus state, which makes sense since she is, after all, kind of an Iowan now. Williamson actually moved here earlier this year, getting an apartment on Des Moines’ South Side. And she’s been saying a lot of the same things she shared on stage last night for some time here.
Starting Line first reported on her idea in Iowa to “harness love” for a political revolution back in October 2018.
“Fear, bigotry and racism have been harnessed for political purposes,” Williamson said at an October 2018 event in Polk City. “It’s time to harness dignity, decency and love for political purposes.”
Many national viewers heard a version of that message for the first time last night.
“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,” Williamson said during the second night of the Democratic presidential debate. “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.”
Reading that quote, we promise, does not do it justice — so watch the video.
In response to her performance last night, the Twitterverse did an obligatory deep dive to see how on-brand her debate messaging was. Spoiler alert: it was incredibly on brand – find the full thread here.
Any time any of us move from fear to love, we participate in the morphic field out of which will emerge new possibilities for life on earth.
— Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) July 25, 2012
There's a key in your pocket that you brought with you to earth. It's inscribed with the words "Unconditional Love" and will unlock any door
— Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) September 15, 2011
But Iowans already knew about Williamson’s unique behavior. And she’s developed an incredibly loyal, if still small, following here. She has a solid base of support in Fairfield, Iowa, a small town that’s home to a large transcendental meditation community.
Williamson turned some heads at the big, multi-candidate Democratic gathering in Cedar Rapids earlier this month. There she used her well-honed skills as a writer to craft some memorable lines.
“Last time, we won with hope,” Williamson said. “This time, we will win with love.”
“Many people think we just need someone tough enough to defeat Donald Trump,” Williamson added at the Hall of Fame event. “But anyone who thinks we just need someone tough enough to take him on is naïve about the nature of the opponent. Something deeper, and more dangerous, is going on here than traditional political toughness knows how to handle.”
The best-selling author also spoke to a large crowd at the Capital City Pride Fest in early June.
“The whole point of America is you can be whoever you want to be,” Williamson told that crowd. “You can do whatever you want to do. Spread your wings and soar no matter who you are.”
Individual campaign events of Williamson’s are also an experience themselves. They typically last for well over an hour and a half, with the candidate rolling through a stump speech that runs nearly 45 minutes long. Very rarely does anyone leave early, even late into lengthy Q&A sessions.
“There has to be a radical disruption. Love is radical. Democracy is radical,” Williamson said at an Iowa City bookstore this February.
She often casts her speeches in historical and political analytical terms before leading into her own solution for the country.
“The fact that both political establishments on the left and the right were gobsmacked by [Trump’s] election proves my point,” she said in February. “They were not seeing anything beneath the waterline … The chronic economic despair of millions of Americans was going to make itself heard. It was going to make itself heard either in a populism that was progressive or a populism that was authoritarianism.”
And long before the rest of the field was talking about reparations, Williamson was discussing it with largely-white audiences all across Iowa. In fact, it was her advocacy of it earlier this year that helped kick off that national discussion.
“People tell me you can’t talk about reparations for slavery in Iowa,” Williamson said in Iowa City. “Well, watch me, and, by the way, you applauded.”
She also realized early on the unique challenge that a candidate like herself faces in a Democratic primary like this one. She mused on that during her Iowa event last October before she jumped into the race.
“I’m not looking to humiliate myself,” she explained to two dozen Iowans at a Polk City house party. “I’m not looking at this point in my life to — well, I’m not worried about making a fool of myself because I believe in the things I talk about. But I don’t want to humiliate — there’s a difference between making a fool of yourself and just being humiliated. So, you’re in Iowa. And you can tell me honestly. Do you know what I’m saying? I know what I’m talking about has a listening in this country. But you’re in Iowa, which is a different subject in terms of listening within the political space that could be a gift and could be a contribution. Does that make sense?”
The country certainly listened last night. And while some of the reactions to her performance at the debate were not exactly positive, she stood out and got people talking. Just like she has in Iowa for many, many months now.
by Josh Cook, Paige Godden and Pat Rynard
Photo by Julie Fleming