I saw Marianne Williamson speak on Independence Day. In Washington, D.C., crowds gathered in a rainstorm to see tanks roll and to cheer on Donald Trump. In Concord, New Hampshire, a group of about seventy people convened at a performing-arts space called Phenix Hall to consider the politics of love. The Phenix is a majestic nineteenth-century theatre awaiting renovation and, perhaps, air-conditioning. It was a hot day for Concord, sunny and ninety degrees on Main Street, with its stolid Yankee Doodle Dandy red-brick buildings. The sidewalks were mostly deserted. The people of New Hampshire were out barbecuing, or setting up for fireworks, or up at a lake house listening to the call of the loons.
Inside the Phenix, the wooden floors were scratched and worn. The afternoon sun poured through the arched windows and the round portals above the wraparound balconies. In the absence of an HVAC system, the rush of fans filled the air. The hall was decorated as if for a wedding rehearsal: rental chairs, fairy lights, cocktail tables draped in white tablecloths and scattered with Marianne Williamson donation envelopes. Women in flowing batik dresses and thin men in shorts and sandals snacked from a platter of fruit and a platter of brownies; volunteers dispensed ice water from the bar. Pretty campaign volunteers handed out buttons that depicted Williamson’s face in wispy watercolor. Williamson’s portraitist, the British fashion illustrator David Downton, had emphasized the shadow of her cheekbones, the soft sweep of her bangs to one side, and the intensity of her smoky-eyed gaze. The look is reminiscent of the album cover of David Bowie’s “Scary Monsters.” The Marianne 2020 logo is as pink as a glass of Zinfandel.
Williamson, a nondenominational psycho-spiritual leader, who mixes references to Christianity with quotes from philosophers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Deepak Chopra, has based her Presidential candidacy on an unspoken premise: that the country might be experiencing an epidemic of mental illness. Actually, it’s not that unspoken: “We have a problem with the psychological fabric of our country,” a section on her campaign Web site, titled “The Issues Aren’t Always the Issue,” says. “A low level emotional civil war has begun in too many ways to rip us apart.” […]