On June 27, 2019, viewers of the second night of the first round of the Democratic presidential debates enjoyed what appeared to be a light diversion. There were 10 candidates crowded onstage, including the future presidential and vice presidential nominees, and they tended to get in one another’s way. Amid the confusion and early campaign fumbling, the most entertaining figure was the long-shot candidate and bestselling author Marianne Williamson, who combined a startling boldness—”The Democratic Party should be on the side of reparations for slavery”—with some fuzzy-seeming spiritual poetic rhetoric, in a way that sounded wholly out of place.
Her closing remarks, in particular, were nothing like what anybody else was saying:
I’m sorry we haven’t talked more tonight about how we’re going to beat Donald Trump. I have an idea about Donald Trump. Donald Trump is not going to be beaten just by insider politics talk. He’s not going to be beaten just by somebody who has plans. He’s going to be beaten by somebody who has an idea of what this man has done. This man has reached into the psyche of the American people and he’s harnessed fear for political purposes. 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. 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.
It was oddly stirring, but self-evidently kooky. Not something you’d hear from a real, professional politician. The campaign season carried on, and Williamson, as expected, got bumped off the stage when the debate qualifying rules tightened up. The more normal candidates, with their more normal messages about legislative records and policy proposals, took over. It was time to be serious about the election.
Thirteen months after that debate, Joe Biden gave his speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president, as the overwhelming choice of the voters and the party establishment. He opened by warning the viewers that the president “has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division.” Twenty-some minutes later, he circled back to that image for his grand conclusion:
With passion and purpose, let us begin—you and I together, one nation, under God—united in our love for America and united in our love for each other.
For love is more powerful than hate.
Hope is more powerful than fear.
Light is more powerful than dark.
This is our moment.
This is our mission.
May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight as love and hope and light joined in the battle for the soul of the nation.
And this is a battle that we, together, will win.
I promise you.
Marianne Williamson’s message is what the Democrats are carrying into November.
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