Kamala Harris was undoubtedly the star of the show at Thursday night’s second round of 2020 Democratic debates in Miami, Florida.
However, as Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon later said, a lesser-known candidate also proved to be a “shining comet” on the debate stage: Marianne Williamson.
The spiritual author, who has based her campaign on a message of universal love, drew instant online reactions for her seemingly eccentric debate performance: audiences joked on social media about her apparent disdain for plans, for example, when Ms Williamson lambasted her opponents for laying out specific policy proposals to combat Donald Trump.
“It's really nice that we got all these plans, but if you think we're going to beat Donald Trump just by having all these plans, you got another thing coming,” she quipped, describing proposals to fix the US health care system as “superficial fixes”.
Her rare opportunities to speak on the crowded stage, which featured most of the leading 2020 candidates, were met with surprise, humour and even praise among viewers who mostly were unaware of Ms Williamson’s candidacy prior to Thursday night.
Ms McKinnon, who joined late-night host Seth Meyers on live TV just after the debates, gave her best immediate impression of the author while mocking her platform.
“I heard a lot of plans here tonight and if we think plans are going to defeat Trump we’ve got another thing coming,” the actress began, mirroring Ms Williamson’s facial and tonal expressions. “My plan is to gather all the sage in America, and burn it.”
“My plan is to harness the energy of babies to finally put a man on the moon,” she added, “and I said to the president of New Zealand, I said, ‘girlfriend, you’re so on,’ and I will say to Donald Trump, ‘boyfriend, you chill,’ thank you.”
Audiences quickly created viral memes and clips of Ms Williamson speaking at the debates; one user posted her closing message with the Twin Peaks soundtrack softly playing underneath; another said her strategy may be “to create a vision board and speak it into existence”; many expressed confusion about her plan to call the prime minister of New Zealand during her first day in office to seemingly challenge her about which nation is better for children to grow up in.
“The more we joke about Marianne Williamson the more certain I am that she is going to be the next President of the United States,” wrote Quinta Jurecic, managing editor of the Lawfare Blog.
Still, not everyone was laughing about Ms Williamson’s performance.
Some audiences noted she appeared to be the only candidate on stage whose campaign has directly addressed the need for reparations — an issue Ms Williamson has expressed support for over the years.
“Marianne Williamson has already reached legendary also-ran status," The New Yorker’s Osita Nwanevu tweeted.
“Reparations. Spiritual Energy. Inexplicable 1940s Mid-Atlantic Accent,” he said, adding, “An icon.”
And, of course, there were the inevitable comparisons to Mr Trump — which may have actually helped Ms Williamson in the end.
As Robert Maguire, research director at the left-leaning non-profit group CREW, later wrote on Twitter: “If you think Marianne Williamson's ideas are kooky, wait til you hear about the guy who says windmills cause cancer, thinks you need to show ID to buy cereal, and doesn't exercise because he thinks the human body is like a battery with a finite amount of energy.”
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