Marianne Williamson, a spiritual guru, activist and author who studied theater and philosophy at Pomona College from 1970 to 1972, announced Monday that she’s running for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president.
Williamson began her bid with a call to action, telling a doting audience at the Saban Theatre in Los Angeles that instead of their applause, she needs donations.
“It is time for us to rise up, the way other generations have risen up,” Williamson said. “People are so cynical these days, as though other generations owed us something. Cynicism is just an excuse for not helping. And whining is not an option.”
Williamson’s announcement was long in the making; she had been considering running since August 2018, according to The Guardian.
A close friend of Oprah Winfrey, Williamson has never held public office, but has run once before — for the U.S. House of Representatives’ 33rd Congressional District in western Los Angeles, represented by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance). Running as an independent in 2014, she finished fourth out of 16 candidates with 13 percent of the vote in the primary election.
When asked by CBSN in November 2018 why she was considering running for president, Williamson said, “I, like millions and millions of Americans, feel that our country is in crisis, and I think our president should be someone who has had a career working with crisis and systems of crisis.”
After dropping out of Pomona, the young Williamson pursued a career as a cabaret singer in New York City. In 1979, she returned to her hometown of Houston to run a metaphysical bookstore focusing on New Age philosophy, according to People Magazine. She’s since published 12 books, four of which were New York Times No. 1 bestsellers, according to her website.
The 66-year-old could quickly be overshadowed by more well-known candidates who have already announced their candidacies for the Democratic nomination, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg. Other household names, like Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, could also join the race.
At least of one of Williamson’s policies will likely distinguish her from the rest of the Democratic pack. In a post on her website titled “Race and Repentance in America,” Williamson argues that the U.S. should put $200 billion toward a Reparations Plan for African Americans, “an educational, economic and cultural fund to be disbursed over a ten-year period by a council of esteemed African American leaders.”
“Why should America not pay reparations to the descendants of slaves who were brought to America against their will, used as slaves to build the southern economy into a huge economic force, and then freed into a culture of further violence perpetrated against them?” the post states.
Williamson’s background also includes alternative medical beliefs, particularly related to depression.
A 2016 post on Williamson’s Facebook page advocated for meditation, prayer, nutritional support and love in lieu of antidepressant medication for mothers suffering postpartum depression, and dismissed its seriousness as a mental illness, according to Buzzfeed. The post was widely condemned by experts, activists and postpartum depression survivors.
According to the Huffington Post, Williamson later said, “Postpartum depression, example, is often a result of a woman’s heartbreak over having to go back to work sooner than her body, mind and heart are ready to.” This evaluation is not supported by the medical community.
In the wake of the suicide of actor Robin Williams, who attended Claremont McKenna College for the 1969-70 academic year, Williamson’s Facebook page shared an article implying that antidepressants were responsible for his suicide, an opinion not shared by medical examiners who performed his autopsy.
In addition to her extensive background authoring books on topics ranging from spirituality and finance to the application of love and inner peace, Williamson founded Project Angel Food, a “meals-on-wheels program that serves homebound people with AIDS in the Los Angeles area,” according to her website.
She also co-founded Peace Alliance, a non-profit with an emphasis on “taking the work of peacebuilding from the margins of society into the center of national discourse and policy priorities,” according to its website. The organization supports founding a “United States Department of Peace,” according to NBC Los Angeles.