The bestselling self-help author and Democratic nominee generates much hilarity. But if 2016 taught us anything, it’s a joke can win an election
by Arwa Mahdawi edited by O Society July 3, 2019
Marianne Williamson is a household name – if you live in the sort of household that collects healing crystals. The bestselling self-help author has been described as a “spiritual legend” by Gwyneth Paltrow and is adored by Oprah Winfrey and Kim Kardashian West. Having become a superstar in the world of woo, Williamson recently decided to take the next logical career step and run for president of the United States. Her January announcement generated a number of bemused headlines; however, Williamson’s candidacy only really became a mainstream talking point after last Thursday’s Democratic debates, when the 66-year-old announced she would “harness love” to defeat Donald Trump.
How exactly does one “harness love”? Williamson, who speaks in a beguiling mid-Atlantic accent that makes her sound as if she has walked straight off the set of a Cary Grant movie, was sort of fuzzy on the details. She was rather more clear, however, on the first thing she would do as president: Williamson said that she would call Jacinda Ardern and tell the New Zealand prime minister: “Girlfriend, you’re so on.” (This was in relation to Ardern saying her goal is to make New Zealand the best place in the world for a kid to grow up.)
Williamson’s idiosyncratic style captured many Americans’ curiosity: she was the most Googled candidate on the second night of the 2020 Democratic debates. Williamson also inspired a great deal of mirth; the candidate was turned into a meme and became the butt of late-night TV jokes. Stephen Colbert, for example, jested that she wanted to fix America “with crystals and bee pollen”. People also had a good chuckle over some of Williamson’s old tweets in which she says questionable things such as: “God is BIG, swine flu SMALL. See every cell of your body filled with divine light. Pour God’s love on our immune systems. Truth protects.” Meanwhile, many Republicans found her so entertaining, they are donating to the Democratic candidate so she can stay in the race.
Williamson is a good sport about all the hilarity she generated. “America could use a good laugh,” she said on Monday. “[However] I also understand I said some very substantive things.” And you know what? She’s right. All the jokes about Williamson’s spirituality ignore the fact she has some very progressive ideas. She supports reparations for African Americans, for example, and is a proponent of the Green New Deal. During the Democratic debates, Williamson also was the only candidate who mentioned American’s foreign policy in Latin America over the past few decades has contributes to the horrific situation at the border – a fact a lot more politicians and pundits would do well to address.
So could Williamson beat Trump and become the US’s first female president? While it may seem unlikely, I think we ought to open our chakras to the possibility. We certainly shouldn’t treat Williamson as a joke; after all, if 2016 taught us anything, it’s that a joke can very quickly win an election. I also think Williamson made an important a point when, in the debate’s closing remarks, she noted: “Donald Trump is not going to be beaten just by insider politics talk. He’s not going to be beaten just by somebody who has plans.” According to Williamson, Trump is going to be beaten by someone who is able to reach into the psyche of America and tell them to choose to love instead of fear.
I don’t know if America will choose love instead of fear, but I’d keep an eye on Williamson if I were you. 2020 may well be the year the US swaps a reality TV star president for a self-help guru.