The aging guru is worried about the future. No one is tending to the world’s most pressing issues: climate change and the imminent possibility of human extinction, weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation, and the ongoing scourge of economic inequality. Chopra’s got a long list of gripes, and he warns the crowd that something must be done soon.
“If you think this is normal, you’re declaring your own insanity,” he says.
And that’s why — he adds through a sniffly cold — he’s throwing his support behind fellow spiritualist Marianne Williamson and her long-shot campaign for the presidency.
“We need to be independent of the critics and cynics of the world,” he says, adding some words of inspiration. “When you get together, something magical happens. It’s called emergence. And this is the time of emergence. Right now.”
If, as a nation, we don’t “emerge,” Chopra fears our humanity will be “incomplete.”
“You wanna be human?,” he asks the crowd. “Embrace your humanity.”
With that, he welcomes Williamson to the stage.
This is a strange time for Williamson. She hasn’t been a debate-tier candidate since the summer. She hasn’t been a beloved meme since the fall. And yet somehow she’s still on the trail, still running the college circuit, and still selling her stump speech to a loyal base of supporters.
Even with no victory in sight, Williamson is still plugging away at her mission.
“It’s time for us to wake up out of our magical thinking and out of our ‘la la’ distractedness and get this: the success and survival of your democracy cannot be guaranteed,” she tells her audience.
Her message is the same as it was when she declared her candidacy. American society has “moved from dysfunction to malfunction” because of an overreliance on technocrats in Washington, D.C. At the same time, a “corporate aristocracy” bullies the government into doing its will — nearly always to the detriment of common people.
In generations past, Williamson says, none of this would have happened. Problems such as slavery, women’s rights, and civil rights were solved because people stood up and demanded change, she claims. Williamson exhorts her audience to do the same today.
“Let’s not be the first generation to wimp out on doing what it takes to put this country back on track,” she says.
Unlike many of her fellow 2020 candidates, Williamson doesn’t blame all of America’s problems on President Donald Trump. Societal rot is a bipartisan issue.
“Let’s be very clear: Donald Trump did not create the biggest problems in our midst,” she says. “The biggest problems in our midst created Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a symptom. Donald Trump is not a cause. He is simply the climactic event of a process that has been accumulating in its horror and corruption for 40 years.”
Because of that, it’s not enough for Williamson just to defeat Trump. She wants to completely reorient the country around a politics of “morality.” When I spoke to her in October, she explained this concept as enacting “transformative changes in public policy that represent a higher moral vision.” Williamson essentially sees herself as a nationwide faith healer.
“If all we do is defeat Donald Trump next year, but don’t get down into the root cause of what’s really going on in this country, then the same forces that put him there — they have a lot of names on their list — they will be back for the midterms in ’22 and back big-time for the White House in 2024,” she says tonight. “We have to do a lot more than change one presidency. We have to transform this country.”
Somehow, improbably, Williamson believes she is the right person for the job.
“I want to be president because I want to help the United States look in the mirror,” she says. “I want to help it look at some things and see some things with love — and some that might not be easy to look at — so we can change.”
Restoring morality to the public square is a noble goal — and one that rocketed Williamson to political fame at the August primary debates — but she’s has always been fuzzy on its details. Sure, she speaks out against white nationalism, segregation, mass incarceration, poverty, homelessness, and economic inequality. Most people agree those are bad things. But when it comes to thornier issues such as abortion and transgender rights, she’s essentially agnostic.
But her lack of clarity doesn’t really matter at this point: Williamson is not likely to climb out from the bottom. And it’s not just because she’s not registering in the polls and hasn’t for months. As she explains tonight, without significant cash flow, she cannot afford to boost her campaign. Even her own supporters doubt her candidacy’s viability.
Once Williamson sits down for an audience Q&A alongside Chopra, most of the questions focus on whether or not she’s going to drop out. Her fans may love her to death, but without a broader support, this campaign isn’t going anywhere.
Yet Williamson maintains her position: she’s not dropping.
“I just don’t feel as if I’ve said everything yet,” she says, and smiles — and Chopra smiles with her.
Once Williamson is gone, the Democratic will be bereft of “moral” vision. It will be hard to say goodbye. But lucky for us, somebody already did.