Editor’s Note: This post is the first part in a series examining failed 2020 candidacies. See our other campaign postmortem posts: Julián Castro, Michael Bennet, Jay Inslee, Deval Patrick, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand
by Nick Desautels and Kylie Gilbride
Recently, Marianne Williamson was in the news for her endorsement of her former opponent, Bernie Sanders. To many, this means absolutely nothing. Some may even have forgotten that Williamson existed, after her failed presidential campaign, which ended back in January. To a small group, however, this is an important endorsement, and shows that Marianne’s message of love is still very much alive, to some extent.
From the start, Marianne Williamson was a character who stood out amongst the group of career politicians, businessmen, and other opponents who were running against her for president. While others were focused on policy aspects, such as environmental action, healthcare reform, and gun control, Williamson stood for a different kind of message: Love. This was dramatically different than her opponents, and set the stage for an incredibly unique campaign.
From the start, Marianne Williamson made it clear that she was not an individual who would win crowds of support based on dramatic policy changes, or even on the concept of standing against President Trump, who said that the current president was subject to her love, just as anyone else would be. Instead, she was focused on a very broad message, which was actually somewhat refreshing when compared with the very serious group of individuals who shared the debate stage with her last summer. Her message was simply that the power of love would be strong enough to take back the country, and as ridiculous as it sounded in a political discussion, it gained her a lot of attention, though most of it was not serious.
Despite all of this, her website does prove that she did have some serious thoughts about her plans for her presidency, which included banning assault rifles, a $500 billion reparations plan, and instituting a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. All of this is very attractive to the average Democrat, however Williamson barely spoke about these issues. Instead, she spoke about healing crystals, and overly-spiritual concepts. This was likely her downfall, and the reason why nobody took her as seriously as they did most of the other candidates.
Keeping all of this in mind, and also realizing that, to most people, Marianne Williamson represented a parody of the ridiculousness of presidential campaigns, it is difficult to picture why someone would put so much time and money into campaigning. However, we must consider that she truly did believe that the power of love was strong enough to turn the odds in her favor. Because of this, the question strangely remains: did Marianne Williamson ever truly have a path to the Democratic nomination?
Williamson was convinced she had a real shot at securing the Democratic nomination, and even winning the presidency, simply because of her efforts to combine the unconventional concept of love directly with her political campaign. A couple of months before she announced her run for The White House in January 2019, Williamson’s staff was in search of a social media director that could carry out a project that was, “part campaign, part startup, part spiritual movement” and which, of course, would represent her, a “woman, non-politician, high-profile writer and spiritual personality.”
Based on the list of ingredients included in that job description, Williamson clearly viewed a task as large as running for president as a need-based collaborative effort, realizing that she could not possibly focus or rely on just one element. Williamson certainly saw her campaign as one that needed to be a blend of politics and business because she knew it could not solely depend on her most popular concept: spirituality. In fact, Williamson was very much aware that she was different from her former competitors for this reason; she even shared that, “I [Williamson] don’t need to distinguish myself when what I’m talking is simply different from what other people are talking about.”
No distinction between Williamson or any other candidate was ever necessary, thanks to many of her outlandish statements and claims. One example of a bizarre response from Williamson is when she suggested that if the “power of the mind” was practiced, then Hurricane Dorian and its destruction can be guided away from Florida and the Bahamas and would then change its course. This assertion is unorthodox in a variety of clear ways, especially because it does not involve any physical actions or policies to help the situation. Williamson also publicly denounced President Trump after she falsely claimed that he pardoned Charles Manson, a murderer and cult leader that died in 2017. Of course, this peculiar, untrue claim warranted many critical responses from internet users.
Although Williamson’s critics majorly outweigh her supporters, there are still some Americans that seem to be drawn to her. Many of these supporters did not learn about Williamson for the first time in 2019, but instead have been following her work for decades. According to one supporter, A Return to Love, Williamson’s New York Times Best Seller, became her “own kind of Bible.” Many of Williamson’s supporters appear to be individuals that identify as spiritual, not religious, as well as people that are in touch with their feelings, body, mind, and soul. This approach may be appealing to some in a personal way and can definitely be incorporated into creating a self-care routine, but certainly proved that it was not a viable platform for a successful presidential campaign. Even Williamson, herself, was well-aware that she could no longer keep her spectacle of a campaign alive. Williamson suspended her campaign on January 10, 2020, just about a month before the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. In her announcement, Williamson acknowledged that she and her campaign would not be able to acquire an amount of votes that was significant enough, which led her to decide that it was best to remove herself from the race before caucuses and primaries began. Although her uncommon beliefs will always be a foundational part of her personal brand and work, Williamson recognized that by admitting that she did not “…want to get in the way of a progressive candidate winning any of them [caucuses and primaries].” The irregularity, inconsistency, and even joviality of this campaign, at times, are just some of the reasons that led to the downfall of #Marianne2020. As she said at an event in Manchester, NH days after suspending her campaign, “We planted the seed, but we didn’t have the vase to let the flowers grow.”