What I Saw In The CNN Democratic Debate, Night One

I was late in getting to the debate last night. My housemate Don and I watched the latest episode of Last Week Tonight to warm up for it, and we were about halfway through when I realized that although our cable package includes HBO On Demand, it doesn’t include CNN. So we eventually watched the majority of it on Don’s laptop.

Overall, it seemed that the big question CNN wanted to answer was, “Which sounds better…. President Warren or President Sanders?” Many of the questions were based upon their policies and previous statements, and the two front runners were largely given free rein to entertain the reparte of the other supporting candidates in the Elizabeth and Bernie Show. According to a Washington Post tracker, each got over seventeen and a half minutes of speaking time, giving Warren, who commanded center stage, more than twice the speaking time (17.9 minutes) Marianne Williamson got (8.9 minutes) to shout from the fringes.

Still, with the few words she chose, Williamson seemed to have much more to say than most of the other candidates.

Granted, I’ve loved Marianne Williamson since I read A Return to Love when I started traveling to write my second book, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of hearing her speak in Los Angeles a couple years later. I admired her even more when I read The Healing of America, and I remember wishing that it were possible for someone like her to be president. I’m glad to live in a world where even things that I thought were far-fetched now seem like a fairly likely possibility.

Opposite from Williamson on stage was Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who Don suspected of being a straw man sent in by the Republicans to make the debates more inane (as if that were possible). He seems like an affable chucklehead to me, and I mean that in a good way. He’s charming without being necessarily attractive, and as a politician with the power to reach people, I’m sure he’s a dandy. I just didn’t really get any glimpse of actual vision from him.

Next was former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, who got just over ten minutes to set up Warren and Sanders with more opportunities for sharing their vision, by showing his lack of one. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper got even less time than Williamson, but used it to bring some comic relief to the Elizabeth and Bernie Show.

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who got the fourth most time with almost eleven minutes, seems like the skinny kid waiting to get picked for kickball. I’ve heard him say some truly inspiring things in the past, but I think he operates better when he has the stage to himself. In this debate, I was glad he was able to weave “environmental services, planting cover crops and keeping more land in conservation easements” into the conversation, but he didn’t add much else.

On the other side of the dynamic duo was Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana who filled his 14.4 minutes with his usual articulate consideration. Mayor Pete will make a great president… someday. But it’s unlikely he’ll start the job in 2021. He’s a brilliant man and has the capacity to be an incredible leader. However, as much as I would love to believe that America would jump at the chance to elect a fresh, young veteran over a doddering old draft dodger, considering that the candidate’s most intimate relationship was illegal in most states less than a decade ago, I’m not sure that America has the emotional maturity to elect a devoted gay man over a straight fornicator and adulterer.

Next to Mayor Pete was Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. I don’t remember much of what she had to say last night, and I’m sure I’ll remember less this time next year. After Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan woke up from his nap, he introduced the idea of a Chief Manufacturing Officer to help create jobs in America and did get in a good plug for “regenerative agriculture”. Then, he set Bernie up as the authority on Medicare-For-All and did his best to smile a sleepy smile for the camera.

And then we come back to Marianne Williamson. As I’ve shared her candidacy on social media and in discussions with friends, I’ve been met with many people who say the best-selling author doesn’t have a shot. Of course, as she’s pointed out, at this stage of the 2016 election, no one thought a game show host stood a chance either. Nevertheless, she continues to get more soundbites in the media and is again the candidate whose name was most typed into search engines during and after the debate.

Although Warren and Sanders are indeed the favorites of the Democratic Party (at least those featured in this round), as they have been very vocal during their times in office, they didn’t say much during their combined 35.5 minutes of eloqution that they haven’t said before. They are indeed both polished in their ability to address their talking points, but the 2020 election is not politics as usual.

It might be said that never have things been more unusual.

For those who elected Trump, the majority didn’t do it merely because they were racist white supremacists. They did it because they wanted something different. They knew that the American political system was corrupted then, and they know that it’s corrupted now. And many of them still want something different.

If Americans are really looking for change, and realize that beyond all of his own bolstering Donald J. Trump may not be the person to pull it off, Marianne Williamson may just have the best shot at winning them over. While many may joke about her “New Age” ways, as her voice gains prominence, there will be few to say she isn’t articulate, clever, insightful, and passionate. Although the Elizabeth and Bernie Show will certainly play on, it has the potential to become shrill in the ears of Americans who are listening for more than the obtuse cacophony of Democratic talking points.

For the America I want to live in, one that has spent the last few years being tormented by ignorance, bigotry, and aggression, I would love to see the antithesis of our current Oval Office resident. Although many may still be shaking their heads, Marianne Williamson remains my first choice.

Whether or not you think she could win the Democratic Primary, do you think she would make a good president?

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