Author and activist Marianne Williamson said she will campaign in South Carolina, New Hampshire and the site of the recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, after she formally declares herself the first Democratic presidential challenger to President Biden’s reelection next Saturday.
She announced her plans to run for president in a weekend Facebook post, challenging Biden, who is expected to announce his own campaign later this spring. Hours later, she laid out five economic proposals that will form the core of her campaign: universal health care, tuition-free higher education, paid family leave, free child care and a higher minimum wage.
Biden opposes universal health care at the federal level — also known as Medicare-for-all — but has advocated for versions of the other four policies during his first term, only to hit bipartisan resistance in the U.S. Senate.
Williamson argues that a more urgent approach is needed. She said the Senate should abolish the 60-vote threshold for most legislation and would unilaterally forgive all federal student debt, not just some of it as Biden has proposed. She criticized Biden for not imposing stricter restrictions on oil and gas drilling and for failing to use the bully pulpit more aggressively to call out corporate abuse of power.
“The American people have been trained to expect too little,” she said. “They’re told, ‘Oh, it’s complicated.’ No, it’s not complicated. It’s corrupt. The American people have been played and they’re waking up to that.”
Williamson, 70, ran for president as a Democrat in 2020, appearing in early party-sponsored debates, though her campaign failed to gain traction and she withdrew before the Iowa caucuses, a decision she says she now regrets. “I’ve learned so much,” she said.
A second candidacy puts her on a collision course with the Democratic National Committee, which has made clear that it will support Biden if he seeks reelection as he has indicated, with no plans to stage any intraparty debates. Biden’s other major 2020 rivals are expected to support his reelection, and no elected leaders in the party have yet indicated plans to challenge him for the nomination, despite public polls that indicate a majority of Democratic voters would like a different nominee.
Williamson declared on Friday that conditions in this country were so bad that “we are either going to have a peaceful revolution or a violent one.” Over a glass of iced tea in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, she suggested people revisit an illustrated 1950 parable of authoritarianism and social inequality by Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, to understand what happens next if nothing is done to alleviate the economic suffering of many Americans.
“If nothing else, read Yertle the Turtle. If you’re too intellectually lazy to read about the French Revolution, I’ll make it easy for you: Read Yertle the Turtle,” she said.
She is the author of 14 books, mostly focused on self-improvement and spirituality, and the founder of Project Angel Food, a nonprofit created in 1989 to bring meals to people suffering from HIV and AIDS. Before her campaign announcement Saturday in Washington, she will complete teaching a five-week online seminar this week called “The Miraculous Mind: Transform Your Thoughts, Transform the World.”
Williamson said she plans to appear on the ballot in New Hampshire, even if it holds its primary earlier than Democratic rules allow and Biden’s name does not appear on the ballot. Party leaders say that candidates who violate the calendar rules can be subjected to further party sanctions, including a possible denial of access to party voter databases.
“The fact that they are now overtly, unabashedly engineering the primary season to make sure that their guy wins is a throwback to 100 years ago when a bunch of men smoking cigars sat around the table and decided who they wanted the nominee to be,” she said. “How can you claim to be a champion of democracy if you yourself are so distrusting of the actual democratic process?”
A spokesperson for the Democratic Party declined to respond on Sunday.
Williamson supports a 30 percent cut to the Defense Department budget and has proposed a new “Department of Peace,” but she has also recently broken with some activists on the left by supporting Biden’s decision to send military aid to Ukraine after Russia’s 2022 invasion of the country. She said she also supported the initial U.S. attacks on al-Qaeda after Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“The world is a complicated place and there are lines which at times must be drawn,” she said. “You can also recognize mistakes, serious mistakes that the United States itself made regarding Russia and regarding Ukraine, and still not see any of that as justification for what [Russian president] Vladimir Putin is doing.”
She did not directly answer whether her response to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be similar to her response to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. “That one keeps any conscious American up at night,” she said.
She said she continues to support a reparations program for U.S. descendants of slavery, a defining plank of her 2020 campaign. She would appoint a council of Black leaders to study the issue, and has proposed a $1 trillion fund paid out over 20 years, though she said that budget could come down during legislative negotiations. She has not offered a specific plan to pay for the fund, though she supports undoing the marginal income tax reductions of the 2017 tax bill, imposing a new wealth tax on those worth more than $50 million and cutting corporate subsidies.
In the past, Williamson has been critical of vaccine mandates, but she said she is vaccinated for covid-19 and that she supported Biden’s previous policies to mandate government officials and employees of large businesses to either get the vaccine or subject themselves to regular testing requirements. She said state and local governments should have the power to mandate vaccines, as should private businesses.
“Every governor should do what he thinks is right for his state,” she said.
She rejected a proposal by former United Nation’s ambassador Nikki Haley to require cognitive tests of those over the age of 75 as a “frightening concept,” and declined to answer a question about whether Biden’s age should be a factor in the coming campaign.
“I have no interest in taking personal pot shots at the president,” she said.
She had no such qualms about taking shots at the political culture of Washington, where she moved after the previous presidential campaign.
“I had always heard that Washington, D.C., is a bubble, but it’s more than a bubble, it’s a walled city,” she said. “In some striking ways, the city feels very divorced from the experience of most Americans.”
Living in the seat of federal power, like her 2020 campaign for president, had been educational, she said. Asked what she learned from her last presidential bid, she paused to consider the answer.
“Don’t go into this unless you are ready to punch and counterpunch,” she said.
Presidential candidates for 2024
Three Republicans have officially declared they are running for their party’s 2024 presidential nomination, and plenty of others are making moves. We’re tracking 2024 presidential candidates here.
Republicans: Former president Donald Trump, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy have announced they are running for president in 2024. Here is The Post’s ranking of the top 10 Republican presidential candidates for 2024.
Democrats: President Biden has yet to officially announce he is running but has said he intends to stand for office again in 2024. Activist and author Marianne Williamson, a long-shot candidate, has said she will seek the Democratic nomination. Here is The Post’s ranking of the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates for 2024.