2020 presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson is an easy target to poke fun at. Her hippie-like spiritual preaching on the campaign trail have put on a spectacle that have caused few political observers to take the self-help author’s candidacy seriously, but her participation in the race could mean cultivating a new core of Democratic voters on the left.
While Williamson has developed a large national following over the years through the publication of multiple best-selling books and endorsements of her work by Oprah Winfrey, the Democratic Party’s new spiritual guru made her first appearance to many Americans who had never heard of her at last month’s debates in Miami.
Her landmark moment of the night came when the world-renowned lecturer delivered her closing statement where she painted a dark and dystopian picture of President Donald Trump’s time in office, arguing that the current commander-in-chief has “reached into the psyche of the American people” and “harnessed fear for political purposes.”
On stage, Williamson promised she that she too, would reach into the psyche of the American people, except that she would “harness love for political purposes.”
“I will meet you on the field,” Williamson challenged the president. “And sir, love will win.”
Her candidacy is remarkably unique. Her policy details are lacking in complexity and her preaching of the issues in a spiritual manner have made her a rarity in American politics. Williamson is not campaigning on a heavy set of policy proposals that she would work to pass through Congress if elected. Instead she is running on a message of peace, love and unity in a heavily polarized political environment.
What would a Williamson presidency look like? No one really knows. The candidate’s campaign website lays out stances on several hot-button issues but unlike other candidates in the race, Williamson’s platform is light on the details, which should hardly be surprising for someone with zero political experience in her past other than a failed congressional race.
In Miami, Williamson actually denounced the idea of campaigning on complex plans, making the case to the prime-time national audience that putting out a bunch of detailed proposals will not steer the party to victory in 2020.
“I’ll tell you one thing, it’s really nice if we’ve got all these plans, but if you think we’re going to beat Donald Trump by just having all these plans, you got another thing coming,” Williamson declared. “Because he didn’t win by saying he had a plan. He won by simply saying, ‘Make America Great Again.’”
Williamson’s message is simple: fix America through love.
Her platform is profoundly leftist and includes creating several new government agencies to further redistribute wealth on a massive scale, in the name of love of course. She endorses a universal basic income, higher taxes on the wealthy, reparations for slavery, a Green New Deal, and Medicare for All.
Williamson wants to create a new “Department of Children” and a “Department of Peace,” despite agencies within the State Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development already providing the same services Williamson wants her new departments to administer.
Policy aside, her rhetoric reaches an audience of millions of voters hungry for a new kind of “religious left” to act as a counterweight to the conservative “religious right” that has dominated the discussion of religion in politics, where Republicans have branded themselves as the party of moral Christian values.
Williamson’s teachings in fact, are far different from those concentrated on Christianity, and even attract criticism from Christian organizations. Williamson, who describes herself as Jewish and attends synagogue on Jewish holidays, preaches the “New Age” ideology, a set of spiritual beliefs developed in the 1970s that draws parallels to paganism. It is these voters that Williamson’s campaign attracts.
This group of voters, as Katya Sedwick described in The Federalist, are mostly young, urban, typically female, not religious and are “spiritually hungry.” They may identify as Christian but are captivated by pseudoscience guided by spiritual mythology.
With this, Williamson may run the risk of alienating moderate voters, as her spiritually centered campaign could be too radical for many to consider. For example, she struggled to get her story straight on vaccinations, calling government mandates on vaccines “Orwellian” and “draconian” in June. She immediately began to backpedal from her comments and tried to clear up her stance on the issue during an appearance on ABC’s “The View” when challenged on the subject by Meghan McCain.
“I am not anti-vaccine,” Williamson responded. “I think I misspoke in that one sentence, but I’d like to express myself… The fact that you have a problem with the revolving door policy by which Big Pharma and the CDC and the FDA are so cozy, so that millions of Americans who are not anti-science and are not anti-vaccine have some deep concerns. The days of blind faith in Big Pharma are over.”
Still, Williamson’s candidacy, if she begins to gain serious traction following her performance in Tuesday’s debate in Detroit, Michigan could help re-define the Democratic Party.