Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Talkin’ ’Bout An Evolution: Marianne Williamson’s Presidential Bid

On Monday night spiritual teacher, author, and activist Marianne Williamson announced her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination to a crowd of supporters gathered in the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California. Besides those in the 2,500 seat arena, roughly 3,300 viewers watched the speech via live streaming.

Standing in front of an enormous American flag, Williamson announced that she wanted to run for president as a way “to engage voters in a more meaningful conversation about America, about our history, about how each of us fit into it, and how to create a sustainable future.”

“Our national challenges are deep, but our political conversation is shallow,” Williamson said. “My campaign is for people who want to dig deeper into the questions we face as a nation and deeper into finding the answers. . . . It is time for us to rise up, the way other generations have risen up. . . . I’m asking you to join with me . . . to join the evolution.”

In commenting on Williamson's announcement, Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times writes:

The theater held hundreds of supporters and fans of her self-help ministry. Her 35 years of experience as a public speaker, teacher and pastor will serve her well if her candidacy goes anywhere. She is a charismatic orator, funny and erudite and passionate. She spoke for 40 minutes without notes or a teleprompter.

She spoke about her life – about her father, a successful immigration attorney, who taught her not just to look but to see – her anti-Vietnam War activism, her work as a “metaphysician,” someone who teaches spiritual lessons.

She quoted Louis Brandeis, Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. She spoke about the importance of investing in children, the scandal of child poverty in America. When she advocated reparations for slavery, her supporters, who were mostly white, erupted in applause. “There is a still a debt to be paid,” she said.

Her message seems perfectly in tune with the Democratic Party’s left wing. She is a progressive populist and does not object to being compared to Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

A new political possibility

Of her presidential bid, here's what Williamson herself says on her official campaign website.

There is an underground of people in America who are seeking higher wisdom. We are rich and poor, progressive and conservative, young and old. And what we share at this moment is deep concern – concern about the direction in which our country is headed, the assaults on our democratic foundations, and the erosion of our human values.

My campaign for the presidency is dedicated to this search for higher wisdom. Its purpose is to create a new political possibility in America – where citizens awaken, our hearts and minds are uplifted, and our democracy once more becomes a thing about which we can all feel proud.

It should be noted that Williamson and the spirituality she espouses are often dismissed as "New Age." Yet what I find interesting is that few people ever actually define "New Age spirituality" when talking about it. From my reading of folks like Marianne Williamson, what it is that they're saying (and what, in turn, is being disparaged by others as "New Age") is actually a reiteration of the age-old mystico/prophetic spiritual tradition that undergirds all the great religions, even if many of them now fail to recognize and embody it. So, yes, it's going to sound "new" to many, but it's actually not.

As to my thoughts on Marianne’s bid for the presidency of the United States, I support her run even as I very much doubt that she'll get the Democratic nomination. But what she will do is articulately and passionately raise the issues that desperately need to be raised, as she does in the following interview with TYT's Cenk Uygur. (NOTE: At the time of this interview (December 2018), Williamson was heading an exploratory committee on running for president.)

In conclusion, here's an excerpt from an informative (though at times cynical) Vox article by E.J. Dickson on William's presidential bid.

This is not Williamson’s first foray into politics. Throughout her career, she’s been vocal about her political views, from her stance in favor of offering reparations to black Americans (which she compares to the German government offering billions of dollars in compensation to Jewish victims of the Holocaust) to her proposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (“I don’t think the ultimate answer will be about settlements or checkpoints,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last fall, in what is perhaps the most Marianne Williamson response of all time. “The work of the genuine peace builders must be on the level of the heart.”)

In 2014, she ran for Congress as an independent in LA’s 34th Congressional District, against longstanding Democrat Henry Waxman. Despite raising $2 million for her campaign and garnering such high-profile supporters as Nicole Richie (who appeared in her campaign video), Katy Perry, and Alanis Morissette (who wrote her campaign theme song), Williamson only came in fourth, winning 13.2 percent of the vote; Ted Lieu ultimately won the seat.

But Williamson’s experience in a congressional election apparently didn’t slake her thirst for politics in general. Prior to announcing her bid for president (she is now running as a Democrat), she publicly endorsed Bernie Sanders and has spoken out at length against Donald Trump’s administration. In her announcement speech, she made it clear that her bid for the presidency was in direct response to what she saw as the “spiritual and moral rot” in Washington.

It’s also clear that she is positioning her bid for the presidency as a moral imperative, using the language of spirituality that is woven throughout her work. “It’s going to be a co-creative effort, an effort of love, a gift of love, to our country and hopefully to our world,” she said in the video for her exploratory committee.

Nonetheless, while Williamson’s congressional campaign was largely dismissed in 2014 – “she’s not a credible candidate,” Eric Bauman, the LA County Democratic Party chair, sniffed in [an] LA Weekly piece – the political landscape has irrevocably changed since, and it’s clear that she and her followers are taking her presidential run seriously, even if many other Democrats may not.

Related Off-site Links:
Marianne Williamson to Run for President of the United States – Associated Press via (January 29, 2019).
Marianne Williamson Announces Run for President – Karen Ocamb (Los Angeles Blade, January 30, 2019).
Marianne Williamson: Can A Presidential Bid Fueled by Love Transcend the Politics of Fear? – Margie Warrell (Forbes, January 29, 2019).
Marianne Williamson is Oprah’s Spiritual Adviser. She’s Also Running for President – E.J. Dickson (Vox, January 30, 2019).
The New Age of Marianne Williamson – Monica Corcoran Harel (Los Angeles Magazine (May 27, 2014).

UPDATES: Marianne Williamson Tells Iowa Crowd America Needs a “Moral and Spiritual Awakening” – Robin Opsahl (Des Moines Register, January 31, 2019).
Democratic Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson Calls for $100B in Slavery Reparations – Christina Santi (Ebony, February 1, 2019).
Love, Reparations, and Fighting Back: A Marianne Williamson Iowa TourIowa Starting Line (February 3, 2019).
How Marianne Williamson Could Win The 2020 Democratic Primary – Nathaniel Rakich (, May 1, 2019).
Marianne Williamson Wants to Be the People’s President – Karen Ocamb (Los Angeles Blade, May 3, 2019).
Don't Tell Marianne Williamson She Can't Win – Max Greenwood (The Hill, May 15, 2019).
Marianne Williamson Is a Lefty With Soul – Ed Kilgore (New York Magazine, May 16, 2019).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In the Garden of Spirituality – Marianne Williamson
Quote of the Day – August 29, 2017
Quote of the Day – June 28, 2017
Quote of the Day – May 4, 2017
Hope, History, and Bernie Sanders

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