I HAD THE opportunity to meet two more presidential candidates recently: author and lecturer Marianne Williamson and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke. If you have the chance, I would recommend seeing each of them.
Williamson has not held political office before. Through her best selling books, lectures and appearances on shows such as Oprah Winfrey, however, she has developed a national following. She is very spiritual, and not afraid to talk about the role that spirituality and morality can — and should — play in our national politics. This approach is reflected in the title of her book, “Healing the Soul of America.”
At the same time, she also is not afraid to tell it as she sees it, recently stating that she believes that Donald Trump has fascist leanings. His character or lack thereof is reflected in his use of fear to divide the country.
She thinks that Trump won the presidency not due to any particular policy issue, but because he made a conscious choice to appeal to the emotions of his voters through fear. To combat that, the Democratic nominee needs to appeal to our Americanism, and to our better angels.
Williamson’s website has a detailed policy section. One of her proposals is to establish a Department of Children and Families. She asks what happens to species that do not care for their children, and answers, “They go extinct.”
Her proposals on gun safety, economic inequality, climate change and other issues would be supported by most Democrats — if they ever hear about Williamson. The national political media decided early on not to take her seriously, which is unfortunate. She is very thoughtful, has a lot to say and is worth listening to.
When it comes to media attention, Beto O’Rourke started his campaign at the other end of the spectrum than Williamson. Having raised tens of millions of dollars in the 2018 Texas senate race, he came close to defeating incumbent Ted Cruz in that deep red state. His success in garnering grass roots support across the country propelled him into the presidential race. He was able to raise more than $6 million in the first 24 hours of his presidential campaign, more than any other Democratic candidate, and all of it raised online.
At lunch with a small group in a Concord lunch spot, O’Rourke was serious and sincere. Like Kirsten Gillibrand, he carries a small notebook to take notes on what he is hearing. We were a bit of a tough audience, as our all-women group was somewhat frustrated with the media attention being given to male candidates and not to the female candidates.
He handled it, however. He listened carefully — a talent not all political figures share. When asked if he would commit to picking a female running mate if nominated, he would not, saying it would be disrespectful to make the assumption that a woman might not receive the nomination. When a couple of questions were tossed at him for which he did not have an answer, he straightforwardly said, “I need to learn more about that”, instead of giving a glib answer to make us happy. I liked that.
O’Rourke stands solidly on the Democratic side of the spectrum, with high rankings from organized labor and the League of Conservation Voters for his congressional voting record. He is known for working with Republicans on issues of common interest, such as veterans issues, and in 2018 received the Civility in Public Life Award from Allegheny College.
Again, I recommend that voters take the time to go out and see all the Democratic candidates. Each of the candidates I have met so far offer something to the discussion.
Kathy Sullivan is the former chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.