Longtime activist opines on menagerie of issues spanning from reparations to U.S. Department of Peace, as CNN debate inches closer.
She is perhaps the most improbable and unconventional presidential candidate the Democratic party has seen in recent memory. Dubbed as Oprah’s spiritual side-kick by some and known as best-selling self-help author by many, Marianne Williamson has always found herself at the intersection of spirituality and politics. It’s fair to say that she’s made a name for herself by utilizing the rallying cry of righteousness as a vessel for the kind of change she believes would remedy the pressing issues paralyzing the nation.
But, before she wielded her megaphone to lecture victims of AIDs in 1980’s Los Angeles, Williamson says her parents inculcated the pillars of social justice into her, shortly after she was born in Houston in 1952. “My parents taught me that…people who are less fortunate matter, that people who are the victims of societal injustice matter…they taught us that America was important because of the hope that it provides to so many people.” she divulges to ForthWrite Magazine in an exclusive one-to-one.
Although her parents underscored the values of citizenship to Williamson and her siblings, the presidential hopeful maintained an especially precious relationship with her late father, from whom she craved acknowledgement and approval. Charming and vocal about his perspectives, she reminisces about the reception that would often welcome her “magical” father and explains the conscious roads she takes in living up to the principles with which he raised her.
Equipped with a service-oriented worldview, Williamson sculpted her teenage years and 20’s with a slew of ventures geared towards walking in lockstep with the spiritual mindfulness she preached. Enlisting the perusal of A Course in Miracles, “a self-study program based on universal spiritual themes,” into her daily routine, Williamson spearheaded various speaking engagements in Los Angeles, where she helped assuage listeners’ day-to-day travails, including and during the proliferation of AIDS that devastated the livelihoods of thousands in the city. It is these desperate times that kindled a fire in her belly – one that mobilized her into running for California’s 33rd Congressional seat in 2014, and recently, the presidency of the United States.
Fresh off her loss to now-Congressman Ted Lieu, Williamson witnessed the emergence of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the coming months and felt “horrified” by the unraveling of a political movement that, in her perspective, appeared to be antithetical to the underlying ideals of America.
“I’ve been horrified when he has shown such contempt for Democracy,” she sharply says.
But, unlike Trump’s numerous enemies, she’s decided to inscribe her name into the 2020 ballot, but not without some ambivalence to compliment her choice.
“All of us are horrified, but not all of us have decided to run for president,” she chuckles as she rationalizes the roadmap to her candidacy.
“Before Donald Trump became president, this was absolutely not on my radar. I had thought after I lost my congressional seat that when it came to politics, I had scratched whatever itch I had needed to scratch; that was that and life moves on. I absolutely did not expect to be doing this,” Williamson explains. For her, a Trump administration was the straw that broke the camel’s back. A year-and-a-half of mulling this over was all it took. In January Williamson burst onto the 2020 presidential stage with this fundamental message: Love conquers all and infusing such a force into the tapestry of our government can rectify a myriad of ‘wrongs’ imposed by an overtly rational, methodical approach to policy-making.
The first to introduce reparations into the conversation, Williamson envisages a program that will disburse somewhere from $200-500 billion in 20 years’ time to descendants of African-American slaves as a means to compensate the plight of their ancestors, even as critics impugn the logistics of this operation and bill it a “handout.” Upon hearing the critique, Williamson quickly retorts: “Calling it a handout – there’s racism inherent in even saying that. Germany has given 89 billion dollars to Jewish organizations since World War II. I don’t think anyone thinks of that as a handout.” She likens her proposal to President Reagan’s Civil Liberties Act, where those who battled the scourge of Japanese Internment were compensated north of twenty-thousand dollars and given a formal apology starting in 1990.
She continues by panning into the overarching phenomenon of race in America: “The average American is woefully undereducated about the history of race in the United States…In addition to 250 years of slavery, there was another 100 years of institutionalized violence against black people…there were lynching, Ku Klux Klan, and segregationists.”
Capping off her argument, she asserts, “At the end of the civil war, the obvious economic gap between whites and black needed to be closed, and it simply has never been closed.”
Under her leadership, Williamson envisions a blue-ribbon panel of black trailblazers who will deliberate the logistics of her ambition and see it through to fruition. With the exception of former H.U.D. Secretary Julián Castro, the majority of the 2020 crop have balked in pledging reparations to the electorate, many, instead, promising to continue the dialogue to address the country’s “original sin.”
On the subject-matter of money, the New York Times best-selling author has pitched a middle-class tax cut, free collegiate and technical training, as well as implementing a paid family and medical leave policy to correct what she calls the “amoral” and “sociopathic” mixed-market economic system in America, closely mirroring the proposals of some of her rivals, including Senators Sanders (D-Vt) and Warren (D-Ma).
Additionally, Williamson has suggested a Universal Basic Income to serve as a social safety net for people aged 18-65, but the amount she believes would attenuate the monetary ‘burden’ some endure isn’t set in stone. Her campaign website states that “the federal government will pay $1,000/month Universal Basic Income” to the above subset of the populace. During our interview, however, Williamson insisted the dollar amount is to be determined.
“No, I didn’t say it was a thousand. Andrew Yang has said it was a thousand,” she adjusts me as I lead into my question. “I’m not sure what the number should be because I think if we had a federal jobs guarantee with something like the Green New Deal – I left it open whether it should be a thousand dollars.”
Responding to the discrepancy, a campaign spokesperson released a statement reading, in part, “$1000 is a baseline that would be acceptable to a Williamson administration,” and that sinking any lower would be unacceptable to her White House.
By effectuating the above policy, Williamson also hopes to alleviate the onerous challenges confronting our educational system.
According to the CA Department of Education, a mere 13.20% of high-school seniors studying in LAUSD, America’s 2nd largest school district, possessed “well developed” writing abilities in the 17-18 academic year. Williamson accounts for success rates, like the one above, by laying blame on the status quo that has “normalized the despair” of children. Her solution? A US Department of Children & Youth, at least partially.
“I think we need to get rid of the high-stakes standardized testing,” she touts, before she explains how she’ll “unleash the spirit” of children and teachers. To crystallize a robust educational system in America means building institutions that are “palaces of arts and culture” by paying teachers “well” and honoring them, she explains. Further, a Williamson west wing would aim at nixing programs that funnel parcel-tax revenue into schools because of the disadvantages it imposes on those residing in poor communities.
Despite the economic shortcomings she lambastes, I ask if the current set of curricula is devoid of the essentials one needs to thrive in a break-neck 21st century professional climate. Contrary to what some may think, she’s not seeking to work with states in re-shaping what’s actually telegraphed in schools, with one special dispensation.
“I think it is very detrimental to our society that so many American children don’t learn American history. We have eleven states that don’t even require half a year of American history and civics. I would like to see that change,” she asserts with a gusto similar to that of campaign promo videos.
Before she hops on a plane, we discuss the details of what her approach to American foreign policy would be; as you can imagine, peace-building constitutes the vast majority of it.
Targeting the Pentagon’s 718 billion-dollar budget, Williamson vows to appropriate money towards peace-creating agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Peace she’s planning to erect. According to her, manifesting a ‘spiritual awakening’ in the country translates into an inhibition of the presence of armed conflict around the world.
International crises, like the one brewing in the corruption-ridden country of Venezuela, are “national security risks” because the desperate people caught in the middle are subject to “ideological capture by genuinely psychotic forces.” The wrinkle here often materializes when these “psychotic forces” are organizations – or even states — leveling egregious abuses on their citizens, while simultaneously harnessing a tremendous amount of economic leverage. Take China, for instance. How does an administration effectively conduct business with Beijing, while ethnic minorities are surveilled and tortured in Chinese concentration camps masquerading as ‘training centers?’ The equilibrium changes for Williamson, but the theme of love remains a constant.
“Fear and hatred and racism and bigotry lead to behaviors. And, love leads to behaviors, as well. Obviously, there’s a limit to what the United States can do about the specific issues you mentioned,” but she wrapped by contending “love means you seek to wage peace.”
As her passion loomed over our conversation, I moved to conclude it by broaching the topic that once took Twitter by storm. The controversy in question involves a debate moment during which Williamson sparked a competition with New Zealand’s prime minister over which country will be the best place to raise children in 2020. While she made her case for America, the internet was set on fire with a topic minimally relevant to the stoic issues raised during said debate: her former living arrangements with award-winning actress Laura Dern. Naturally, my last question flowed with the intrigue.
Given Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s relationship with former roommate-turned-famed actress Connie Britton, I ask if “friendship with Hollywood types is a rite of passage in the 2020 race?” in a tongue-in-cheek, yet organically curious way.
“No, I do not,” she laughs. Laura Dern “was my roommate when she was 18-years old…She’s an old friend. Although, I have to talk to her about the fact that I keep seeing her likes on Kamala Harris’ Instagram page.”
Parting with humor, the seriousness of the road ahead wasn’t lost on her. Whether an uphill battle or a growing field of polished contenders, Williamson feels a “deep call” within herself to triumph unapologetically.