Marianne Williamson: Statecraft as soulcraft (or maybe witchcraft)

If Bill de Blasio channeled Howard (“I’m as mad as hell. . .”) Beale during Wednesday’s Democratic debate, Marianne Williamson reminded me of another character from the movie “Network” — Sybil the Soothsayer. Okay, Williamson isn’t a fortune teller, she’s some sort of soul healer, I guess. However, according to the Washington Post, she’s the favorite of “tarot card ladies” and other “occultists,” including “chaos magicians, witches and energy workers.”

Williamson’s most memorable line from the debate was this:

If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.

Just how Williamson plans to deal with the “dark psychic force of collectivized hatred” in America is unclear. She favors reparations for blacks. But forcing whites with no connection to slavery (i.e., all contemporary American whites) to pay blacks won’t decrease hate. Whites will resent paying and blacks won’t be satisfied for long.

Even “wonkiness” is better for the soul than lucre, I would have thought.

Williamson also favors the release of prisoners en masse. The resulting crime wave won’t reduce “the dark psychic force of collectivized hatred.”

Decades ago, George Will wrote a book called “Statecraft as Soulcraft,” in which he criticized the reluctance of modern governments, whether liberal or conservative, to cultivate the moral character of its citizens. Will went so far as to attack America’s founding. The Founders did not pay enough attention to “the sociology of virtue,” he complained. Government needs to take a major role in shaping the moral character of its citizens.

Will has since changed his mind. He told Peter Wehner, that he now has a jaundiced view of government, and hence of assigning it the role of crafting souls. In addition, he now recognizes that the freedoms enshrined by the Founders are good for the soul. Our economic system, for example, doesn’t just make us better off. It makes us better by enforcing such virtues as thrift, industriousness, and the deferral of gratification.

The idea of statecraft as soulcraft never caught on with conservatives. It is fundamentally at odds with conservatism. It’s the modern left that wants the government to hector, or coerce, us into improving our souls. Indeed, the totalitarian left has long talked about creating a “new man”, more virtuous than actual men, and about overcoming “false consciousness.”

I imagine that Williamson would say she wants to guide, rather than hector or coerce, us to better psyches. What she would try to do to those who declined to follow her guidance isn’t clear. I don’t think it would be pretty.

Fortunately, we won’t find out. Williamson’s first debate performance, as entertaining as it was, failed to advance her from the far end of the stage. Her second performance is unlikely to keep her on the stage, no matter how many Google searches it generated.

Williamson is headed for cable news television, I think. She should be a hit. Sybil the Soothsayer was.