WASHINGTON — When self-help author Marianne Williamson made her last run for president, she found herself on the edge of a field of more than two dozen candidates.
Now she tries to take people seriously.
Wrapping up her 2020 campaign just weeks before the first votes were cast, Ms. Williamson, once a spiritual guru to Oprah Winfrey and others, moved to Washington and tried without much success to insinuate herself into the capital’s political consciousness. On Saturday he announced himself as the first Democratic challenger to President Biden — not saying he was running again.
In her campaign opening speech, Ms. Williamson, 70, did not talk about banishing the “dark psychic force of collective hatred” in American politics. Calling New Zealand As his first act in office. Instead, he sounded like a Bernie Sanders-style liberal, calling out economic justice, corporate power and the willful blindness of powerful federal government officials to America’s poverty.
“Some people in this town don’t have the backbone or the moral courage to fix it,” Ms Williamson said, her voice dropping two notches. “Ladies and gentlemen, let me in.”
Much has changed since 2019, when his Democratic primary debate performances galvanized Republicans. Encourage conservatives to donate to her And to help maintain his debate credentials in an effort to deflect from established Democratic candidates.
Other Oprah-world celebrities with no political experience ran for office last year and were taken seriously. Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz lost the Pennsylvania Senate race, while Democrat Wes Moore became governor of Maryland. Ms. Winfrey spoke at her inauguration In January.
Ms. Williamson, who had traveled to Des Moines to ingratiate herself with Iowans before the state’s first-ever caucuses (which the Democratic National Committee had abandoned), moved to the nation’s capital shortly after wrapping up her presidential campaign — given the unusual. How many modern presidential campaigns emphasize one’s independence from Washington? Now he lives in a rented apartment in Foggy Bottom, where he envisions running salons, debating big ideas, and influencing policy debates.
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“I wanted to experience living here, how much I talk about it and think about it,” he said in an interview.
In 2020, President Donald J. While it’s one thing to join a crowded field to run against Trump, Ms. Williamson finds it’s quite another to challenge an incumbent Democratic president.
Few in Democratic politics are taking his entry into the race seriously. The White House did not comment on his entry or Mr. declined to respond to his criticisms of Biden. Jaime Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, had no comment when asked about his announcement. Even some of his top staffers from the 2020 campaign described themselves as staunch Biden supporters, preferring not to run again.
“She has good ideas and she can add to the debate,” said Patricia Ewing, Ms Williamson’s 2020 campaign manager. “But this is not really the time to run for office.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Her status as a challenger to Biden — indeed, the only Democrat ever to run — may now give Ms. Williamson the last platform she has been denied. He will appear on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, and his kickoff speech drew more than 800 people to a ballroom at Washington’s Union Station train station.
On Saturday, Ms. Williamson delivered a 21-minute speech without notes or a teleprompter, announcing the start of a movement against established corporate power and economic inequality.
“Our job is to create a vision of justice and love powerful enough to overcome the forces of hate and injustice and fear,” he said.
Ms Williamson did not mention Mr Biden in her public comments. But she didn’t hold back in an interview days before kickoff.
He accused Trump of not passing a minimum wage increase when Democrats held a majority in Congress — “he hid behind the skirt of a congressman,” he said — and said he didn’t push for “real reform” in a political system. She said more benefits for the rich and powerful.
At the White House Mr. When asked to rate Biden’s first two years, Ms. Williamson initially gave him a B. Later in the interview, he asked her to revise her grade to “between a B and a C.”
“I believe he is an unwise offer and a weak choice for 2024,” said Mr. Williamson said.
“No one should run against Biden because that will hurt the Democrats in 2024,” he added. “I don’t see why we should be so afraid of the messiness of democracy.”
White House spokesman Andrew Bates declined to comment.
The crowd at Ms. Williamson’s campaign event on Saturday was made up of longtime superfans who traveled from across the country, social media influencers and podcasters, local college students and political tourists passing through Washington.
“Sixty percent of Democrats really don’t want Biden to run,” said Bill Falkus, an architect in Newburyport, Mass., who campaigned for Ms. Williamson’s last campaign in New Hampshire. “If Biden ever debates her, the world will see how bright she is.”
The Democratic National Committee does not currently plan to hold debates.
Jen Shazerre, a graduate student from Portland, Ore., visited Ms. Williamson before catching a flight home. He called himself Mr. Described as a fan of Sanders and Mr. He said Biden’s time in the White House was “not terrible.”
“I wish we had more options in the party,” Ms. Shazerre said. “I appreciate that she’s going to bring to the forefront some issues that I care deeply about.”
Whether Ms Williamson can do that depends on how much money she raises.
In her last campaign, Ms. Williamson raised $8.4 million. It was not enough to compete for the party’s nomination, but was raised by one senator (Michael Bennett), three governors (John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, and Steve Bullock) and three House members (Tim Ryan, Eric Swalwell, and Seth). Moulton) who were racing. He said he’s already raised $250,000 and has a dozen people on his staff.
How much he can command remains to be determined in a campaign cycle in which many Democrats seem reluctant to hold major policy debates. Mr. The party may be confused about Biden’s age, but given the number of Biden allies who have won key midterm elections in battleground states, it is far less concerned about his politics.
But that, for Ms Williamson, could be the crux of her campaign.
“I don’t feel like I’m running against Joe Biden,” he said. “I feel like I’m running to challenge the system.”