Marianne Williamson Doesn't Want to be the Crystal Ball Lady
Williamson in Iowa, Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr, August 18th, 2019
You may have heard the common saying that “all press is good press”, and that may be true for the reality TV hopefuls among us, but for a presidential candidate, the same hardly applies. Press is power. The voter is busy, with work, college, their fourth rerun of Downton Abbey (Just me then?) Their exposure to political candidates, unless they are heavily vested in the process, is confined to forty five second Tik-Tok videos or viral CNN/Fox news clips. Case in point: more people recall candidate Vivek Ramaswamy copying an Obama quote than any of his actual policy stances. Successful campaigns hinge on the ability of a candidate to define themselves before media narratives do.
Enter Marianne Williamson, popularly known as Oprah’s spiritual advisor, but also a 2024 Democratic candidate for President of the United States. She was the first Democrat to announce a bid, beating even Joe Biden to the punch. But with an incumbent campaign coming from Joe Biden, the odds are slim for Williamson, especially given that only one sitting president (Franklin Pierce) has ever been denied a party nomination. But this is not the only problem Williamson faces. Other than perhaps the far right, Williamson’s greatest foe is American media, who have labeled her a self-righteous contrarian trap, crystal lady shrew, and a quirky, kooky joke. Take your pick which you think is the worst. Though, many political analysts voice that Democrats should look into Williamson’s appeal to younger voters, and try and replicate that with someone a bit more orthodox.
On the note of orthodoxy, Marianne Williamson is among the most unorthodox political candidates this election cycle. She is the author of fifteen books since 1992, most of which discuss themes of spirituality and wellness, and she got her career started as a spiritual advisor and leader of the Church of Today. She says our economic systems have lost their soul, and that a moral alignment is imperative for moving forward. This language is very different from what most voters and the media are used to. So given this background and its lack of political experience, she is hit with constant claims of being too out there and totally unqualified to run for public office. This is not the first time she has tried to run, however, in 2014 she ran as an independent to represent California’s 33rd congressional district, and in 2020 she ran for president for the first time, and as a Democrat. In 2020, Williamson faced much of the same backlash and “crystal lady” depictions from the media she is facing now, only then she was dismissed too quickly to be critiqued as concretely as she is now.
The main point of disdain among Williamson and her supporters this time around is the DNC’s refusal to hold a primary debate. She voiced this in a televised interview with Sean Hannity where after discussing her stance on an array of policies, he quotes a series of tweets she posted in 2011 and 2012, and then he asks her very bluntly “what the hell does that mean?” to thunderous laughter from the audience. She explains she is surprised to hear him say that, considering that she views them as very traditional religious values, but with quotes like “Your body is merely your space station from whence you beam your love to the universe. Don't just relate to the station; relate to the beams” it is no wonder that they are being characterized as something crazy and unbecoming of a presidential candidate.
The lack of credibility has reached even the White House which has fed into the characterizations of Williamson as a spiritual guru, or a hippie. When White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked on her opinions regarding the then announced Williamson challenge to the Biden campaign, she responded saying she was not tracking the Williamson campaign, and went on to say perhaps she might be doing so, if only she had a crystal ball, or could “feel her aura”.
Most recently, on September 13th, Marianne Williamson posted directly to her Instagram page a recently published poll from FiveThirtyEight that highlighted the national polling data of “major candidates”. A poll that Williamson was not featured on. She voices great anger of this, stating that she deserves to be mentioned considering her monthly average of 6.3% in relation to major Republican candidates like Vivek Ramaswamy (7%), Mike Pence (5.1%), and Nikki Haley (5.9%).
An article from 2019 featured in The Student Life discusses Williamson’s (a former Sagehen herself) visit to the Pomona campus, and demonstrates how even in 2019 she was fighting off claims of being a “wacko crystal lady”.
The odds for a victory against Biden, an incumbent president, within his own party are astronomically low. But Williamson's journey sheds light on the selective credibility American media affords. I am reminded of the treatment of Bernie Sanders in 2016 and again in 2020. Sanders, a radical leftist by American standards, was consistently left out of media coverage in favor of the more moderate Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. In January of 2020, Sanders was even the highest polling Democratic candidate, yet the media portrayed a Sanders victory as impossible, and asserted he was underperforming. For Republican outsiders however, Fox News is ready to welcome them with open arms. But Neither CNN or MSNBC have had the same attitude towards Democratic outsiders. It poses many questions that are uncomfortable to confront. What are the necessary ideological conditions to be seen as a part of the establishment or taken seriously by our media?
With regards to Williamson, someone evidently outside of that establishment, the conclusion is clear. She won’t be placing her right hand on the Bible and faithfully swearing to execute anything come 2024, but her message seems to resonate with younger generations, and so it is plausible that future Democratic contenders may embrace her ethos, albeit in a more conventional package.