Marianne Williamson: A Battle for the Soul of the Democratic Party | Opinion

A TV commercial frequently on the air now shows a couple backing their car out of a driveway, their children in the backseat. As they approach the end of the driveway, we see a large truck driving past; a signal in the car causes the driver to apply his brakes in time to avoid it. The man and wife then look at each other with shock and profound relief that they were saved from crashing into the truck and possibly killing their kids.

That's pretty much what just happened in America.

But that's also where the analogy ends. For in the case of American politics, the truck didn't just happen to be there like some random fluke. Rather it—or he, however we wish to describe the threat—was a manifestation of societal dysfunction that's almost inevitable when so many people are left in chronically desperate economic and social situations. Donald Trump did not create those situations; those situations created Donald Trump. And if the Biden administration reflexively falls back into the institutionalized patterns of soft injustice that produced the dysfunction to begin with, rather than springing forward into fundamental disruptions of those patterns, then the next truck could be even bigger. There's also a distinct possibility that, next time, no signal could save the car from crashing into that truck.

Joe Biden's win is not a healing; it's a reprieve. Now, not later, is the time to make that very clear both to ourselves and to him. The Democratic Party has no basis for self-congratulations at this point. When your opponent is a neo-fascist who has more in common with Mussolini than with Lincoln and has supervised the death of almost a quarter-million Americans, yet all you can do is beat him by a razor-thin margin, that is not a sign that things are going well. It's a sign that some merciful force to be greatly praised came through at the last minute and saved you.

Biden will be surrounded now by a same old same old crowd of Clinton and Obama operatives gleefully dancing in the hallways at being back in the building. They'll also be joined by a new gang of establishment Democrats chomping at the bit as they await their day in the neo-liberal sun.

But Joe, this is a time to be very, very careful. I know they'll tell you to toe the corporatist line and make John Kasich happy. I know they'll tell you not to worry, that we can blame Mitch McConnell for the fact that it's simply not possible to bring Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren into the administration. I know you'll be tempted to sideline progressives going forward in the same way you sidelined us during the campaign. Some of the people surrounding you will even argue you won without the help of progressives anyway. But please hear me, Joe. No, you did not.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
Joe Biden speaks while flanked by Kamala Harris on November 5 in Wilmington, Delaware. Drew Angerer/Getty

If you simply ignore all calls for immediate direct cash relief and universal basic income going forward, as well as universal health care, serious reduction of corporate subsidies, readjustment of the tax code to demand that corporations and the very rich pay their fair share, a wealth tax, serious and immediate efforts to transition off fossil fuels, a ban on dangerous pesticides and chemical additives, real systemic change to address racial disparity in criminal sentencing, changes in police training and practices, cancellation of college loan debts, reparations for slavery and a foreign policy more in line with the moral responsibilities of a great nation—if you simply ignore those issues like they're so far out there that the only way to deal with them is to pretend they don't exist, thus enabling right-wing forces who would describe any policy that actually helps people like it's a road to a hammer and sickle—then the left will not be silent this time. Times have changed, and the progressive movement has proved itself. It has proved itself key, in fact, to your winning the White House. The neo-liberal establishment has proved itself key to getting Democrats thrown out of it to begin with.

There needs to be a strong opposition to corporatist moderates within the Democratic party, smug blowhards which they too often are, who'd now brush over the fact that in the final analysis the party has failed miserably. The election of 2020 has been a repudiation of both parties. The election of Biden has been more than anything else the rejection of a madman, and the abysmal showing of Democrats in the House and Senate races should bring with it the sober sounding of an alarm, not the self-satisfied clinking of champagne flutes.

Yes, we dodged a disaster. But more potential disasters are coming around the corner. Many mini-Trumps are lining up even now for 2022 and 2024. This is not a time to relax or go back to the conditions that paved the way for them to begin with. We need to give people more than a reality devoid of Trump. We need to give them a genuine alternative not only to his mendacity, but to the chronic despair that, under Democrats, as well as Republicans, became a feature of their daily lives.

Thankfully, we won a battle for the soul of our nation. But there are more ahead. Now a battle will rage for the soul of the Democratic Party. And well it should. It's been needing to happen for a very long time.

Marianne Williamson is a Newsweek columnist, best-selling author, political activist and spiritual thought leader. She is founder of Project Angel Food and co-founder of the Peace Alliance, and was the first candidate in the 2020 presidential primary to make reparations a pillar of her campaign. She is the author of 13 books, among them Healing the Soul of America and A Politics of Love.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.