- Pamela Arjona
What to know about Williamson: A Profile of Biden’s First Democratic Challenger
Updated: May 15
Who is Marianne Williamson?
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Marianne Williamson has lived a life of adventure and ambition. In her 70 years, she has published 13 books — seven of which appeared on the New York Times Bestseller’s list — founded various nonprofits, and ran for elected office. After an unsuccessful run in 2020, Williamson is back again in the battle for the Oval Office. On February 23, 2023, she confirmed that she would be running against President Joe Biden, and her campaign launched officially on March 4. As she subtly gains ground in polls and social media influence, it is worth taking a dive into her background, policies, and image.
Religion and Spirituality
In 1979, Marianne Williamson moved back to Texas and began running a bookstore and coffee shop — during the same time, she also underwent a “spiritual surrender.” Following her newfound calling, she moved to Los Angeles and began hosting a prayer group in her apartment. Williamson hoped to inspire others, and taught that divine love is the core and essence of every human mind. While not everyone agreed with her approach, enough demand arose that Williamson began renting out a church space in New York. These services began her career as a pastor. Lectures were free with a “suggested donation” and Williamson hoped that she would “get dirt in her fingers again” and better understand the day-to-day lives of people. Unity Church in Warren, Michigan hired Williamson as their “spiritual leader,” where she tripled declining church membership as well as increased diversity and revenue, before resigning in 2003.
Marianne Williamson began her political career in 2014 by running for the US House of Representatives in California’s 33rd congressional district. Many previously elected and public officials endorsed her campaign, including two previous California governors: Jennifer Grandholm and Jesse Ventura. Williamson raised a total of $2.4 million, 25% of which she contributed herself. Out of 18 candidates, she finished fourth with 14,335 votes or 13.2%.
Six years later, Williamson returned to the political stage in the race for the 2020 Presidential election. On January 28, 2019, she officially launched her campaign in Los Angeles and, by May 1, had accumulated a staff of 20 people. With enough donors and polling criteria, Williamson qualified for the first Democratic primary debate. Voters were both “confused” and “transfixed” by Williamson, according to the Los Angeles Times. On July 30, 2019, Williamson partook in the second debate and found herself at the center of an internet storm. She finished the debate as the most Googled candidate in 49 of 50 states and received the fourth most attention on Twitter. However, that was the extent of her debate performances — in January 2020, Williamson ended her campaign.
Overall, Williamson presents herself as a progressive candidate. Based on her past platforms and interviews, there are clear agendas for almost every issue important to the American people.
Williamson supports free tuition at all public colleges, community colleges, and trade schools while supporting a “radical” reduction in college loan debt and even total forgiveness in some cases. This isn’t the only government service she hopes to expand. She has plans for portable retirement, initiatives to protect homeowners from an increase in home loan modifications, SNAP coverage for low-income families, and incentives to decrease homelessness. In another effort to aid working-class Americans, she supports a $15 minimum wage. Williamson also hopes to create a Department of Children and Youth within her cabinet to produce programs that will reduce infant mortality and illness, food insecurity, and poverty.
On the issue of healthcare, Williamson believes that the current U.S. system is designed as a “disease management” system, which she hopes to turn into true “healthcare” through support for reimbursement of medical professionals for preventative care, nutrition, and lifestyle education. She supports abortion access, services, and choice at safe medical facilities. Lastly, Williamson supports decriminalizing drugs and treating addiction as a mental health issue, not a criminal one.
Safety in America has also been a rising political concern. Accordingly, gun control is at the top of Williamson’s list — she believes that assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons should be eliminated, as well as bump stocks, high-capacity magazines, and current limits on the CDC’s ability to record gun ownership numbers. She also hopes to enact universal background checks, waiting periods, and child safety locks and reduce all gun show and sporting loopholes.
Williamson believes in securing borders while enacting a more humane approach to policy. There would be full paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants with no “serious” criminal background, limited costs of naturalization, and increased resources to navigate the legal system. Militarily, Williamson hopes to “redesign” the relationship between the Defense Department and the State Department to elevate the need for peace. She envisions the creation of a United States Department of Peace, including a Peace Academy resembling military academies. Lastly, she supports a new budget plan that would invest in the development of clean energy, green manufacturing, educating children, and empowering women, without decreasing military preparedness.
Accompanying these ambitions to reallocate military funds into infrastructure and more environmentally friendly processes, Williamson believes climate change is the “greatest moral challenge of our generation” and should be attacked through support for the Green New Deal. She advocates for the U.S. to direct subsidies from fossil fuels into developments of renewable energy, both domestically and abroad.
Lastly, the three marginalized groups mentioned in Williamson’s platform are the LGBTQ+ community, Native Americans and Black Americans. She has voiced support for the Equality Act as well as equality in healthcare, housing, employment, and services. She also believes that the U.S. should return control of the Black Hills to the Sioux Nation, halt construction of the Keystone Pipeline, recognize tribal sovereignty, and increase funding to the Native lands’ justice system. Williamson is the only candidate to submit a detailed plan for reparations for Black Americans. She has proposed the distribution of between $200-$500 billion in reparations, spread across 20 years for various economic and education projects. These reparations would be implemented and distributed at the recommendation of Black leaders.
Williamson has found herself described in the media under multiple personas. As a religious leader, she has been referred to as a “new age guru” and seen as a religious or spiritual guide. However, she personally dislikes being viewed in that way and prefers to be seen as an author. Some say she is a form of comedic relief for the Democratic Party, which reduces her credibility. The most common consensus is that her ideas are radical, dangerous, and a misrepresentation of the party.
Based on her past political endeavors, it seems that the most likely outcome of Williamson’s 2024 Presidential run will not be in her favor. One could describe her decision to run within the party of a current president eligible for a second term as brave. Others might describe it as hopeless. It’s hard to imagine that she will muster enough financial support to continue a campaign for very long, judging by her inability to qualify for the third debate in the race for the 2020 nomination. If Williamson couldn’t make it to the final five last time when there wasn’t a Democratic incumbent running for re-election, she is very unlikely to succeed this time around. But her ambition and vision are strong, and this is not the last we will see of Williamson — even if we are unlikely to see her in the Oval Office.