President Biden's Lone 2024 Challenger
Marianne Williamson's 2024 presidential campaign is a bid to upend the Democratic Party's establishment.
Republicans, Democrats, and independents appear broadly united in one major belief about the 2024 election: they do not want President Joe Biden to run for a second term.
A survey conducted in January 2023 found that just 22 percent of Americans want the 80-year-old president to seek re-election. An astounding 62 percent of Democrats hope that their party’s standard-bearer will step aside.
During his 2020 campaign, Biden left voters with the strong impression that he always viewed himself as a one-term president:
“Look, I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else. There’s an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.” — Joe Biden
Biden’s view as president now appears to diverge from the view he held as a candidate. He is widely expected to announce a bid for re-election in the spring, and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) recently awarded South Carolina—a state that is politically friendly to the president—an earlier position in their presidential primary calendar.
Americans are deeply alarmed by the president’s age and even less enthusiastic about his vice president than they are about him. On paper, there are reasons to expect a competitive Democratic primary in 2024. But challenging an incumbent president is no small feat. Biden is widely perceived by traditional media to be on a glide path towards winning his party’s nomination for a second term.
Few expect a contested primary, and few expect that the party’s establishment will allow a free and open contest if a challenger does gain traction. Democratic Party leaders left a significant number of their supporters disillusioned after Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign was widely perceived to have been wrongfully undermined by party leaders.
On March 4, Biden’s first—and, so far, only—challenger will launch her campaign. Author, spiritual teacher, and activist Marianne Williamson is hoping to push Americans’ attention beyond Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and onto challenging a political system that has lost touch with the American people:
“Apparently, Biden’s going to run on a message that the economy is getting stronger. I think that speaks to the disconnect between the analysis of party elites versus the struggle of everyday Americans.
We're being asked to limit our political imaginations — to just accept the low unemployment and low inflation rate, that that is sort of the best that we can get. But that is a hollow victory. The majority of Americans are still struggling to survive.” — Marianne Williamson
The 2024 Democratic primary is shaping up to be unprecedented for precisely the opposite reason as the 2020 primary. Instead of having so many candidates that the early debates had to be split into two groups, there is now doubt that any other notable candidates will join Biden and Williamson.
Public opinion surveys show that there is a strong appetite for an alternative Democratic nominee, but a competitive democratic process is not playing out in accordance with public opinion.
Williamson does not believe that this apparent failure of the democratic process is an accident. Her campaign is grounded in a belief that the two-party system has corrupted our institutions, eroded our democracy, and degraded our way of life:
“You have locked in as a feature—not as a bug—to this neoliberal establishment an income disparity the likes of which we have not seen in a hundred years.
That’s what needs to be challenged. It’s not whether we challenge Biden or whether we challenge Kamala Harris. We must challenge the entire system. We must challenge the entire system that makes a free market more important than free people.” — Marianne Williamson
As the number of Americans who identify with either the Democratic or Republican parties dwindled to record lows in recent decades, representation in government has not adapted accordingly. Independent voters have outnumbered Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. for more than a decade, yet the political system continues to be dominated by just two parties.
In the context of the 2024 election, this means that leaders of the Democratic Party—a party that fewer than 30 percent of Americans are affiliated with—hold tremendous influence which they could exercise to suppress a challenge to President Biden. A number of Republican Party leaders cancelled state primaries in 2020, advancing President Donald Trump to re-nomination while his challengers went largely unnoticed.
The incumbent president’s party choosing to cancel primaries is not unprecedented or necessarily unpopular. When Trump cruised through his party’s primary in 2020, he did so with the backing of more than 8 in 10 Republicans. 2024 is remarkable because the lack of significant competition comes at a time when 6 in 10 Democrats want a different nominee.
Marianne Williamson’s vision for the Union is a definitive break from Biden’s. She has never held public office, and her campaign messages set lofty goals for a future Williamson administration. Her platform appears to be built upon a reverence for old-school progressive values of peace and compassion.
Whether or not Americans find her to be the right champion of these values, the Union is in sore need of them.
Born in 1952, Williamson discovered her passion for political and spiritual activism as a protestor against the Vietnam War. From her perspective, the pursuit of freedom has always been intertwined with a pursuit of peace.
In the early 1970s, she attended Pomona College in Claremont, California for two years before dropping out and embarking on what she refers to as her “wasted decade.” Williamson moved at least five times from 1973 to 1983, living in New Mexico, Texas, New York, and California.
She followed a non-traditional career path, primarily as a spiritual lecturer and an author. In the 1980s, Williamson dedicated a signficant part of her life towards combating the AIDS crisis. She spent her time raising awareness, organizing community fundraisers, caring for those who contracted the disease, and founding Project Angel Food, a nonprofit which has provided more than 15 millions meals for those in the Los Angeles area who are too sick to go to a grocery store or cook for themselves.
Her career as a spiritual lecturer began in the 1980s in cities across the U.S. and Europe. In 1992, Williamson published her first book, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, launching a successful career as an author from which she became a popular guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She has gained a noteworthy following by now, particularly from her previous presidential campaign.
Williamson has spent her life exploring spirituality in writing, lecturing, and even serving as a pastor in Warren, Michigan from 1998 to 2003. Now, she has decided that her time and energy is best spent attempting to merge that spiritual view with a political movement.
She champions universal healthcare, hoping to keep Sanders’ flagship proposal at the forefront of Democratic Party politics. In 2020, her staunchly progressive platform called for UBI, universal healthcare, and a $15 minimum wage in the name of combating runaway wealth inequality.
A broader set of imaginative policy positions earned her recognition amid a crowded field of candidates, from establishing a U.S. Department of Peace to implementing a universal basic income (UBI) of $1,000 a month.
The creation of a Department of Peace is not an idea she conjured up for her campaign, but a goal that she has worked towards for decades. In 2004, Williamson co-founded The Peace Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to domestic and international peace building. Its work has included efforts to build legislative support for a Department of Peace in addition to promoting rehabilitation in the justice system over punishment.
In 2020, she was joined in her support for UBI by entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, both of whom have since departed from the Democratic Party. Yang launched the Forward Party in July 2022 to pass electoral reforms and build an alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties, while Gabbard left Congress in 2021 and signed a deal to become a regular Fox News contributor in November 2022.
Williamson is sharp in her criticism of what she perceives to be a failure of the Biden administration to reverse years of growing poverty, corporate corruption, and democratic erosion. She points to ever-expanding wealth inequality as evidence of a thoroughly spoiled system that is being manipulated for profit rather than harnessed for productive governance.
Her 2024 campaign is based in a fundamental rejection of the conventional political and economic wisdom which has guided America for decades:
“We don’t need any more evidence that the system has become deeply, intrinsically corrupt. We can see it in the broken windows, shuttered factories and violent crime in our once thriving communities. We can see it in the hollowed eyes and addiction rattled brokenness of our fellow citizens.
We can see it in the mass despair of millions of Americans who work hard all day yet cannot afford a one bedroom apartment, who were holding on but now find themselves homeless, who are struggling with anxiety born of constant economic uncertainty, who tried their best to get into the game but have found the game so rigged against them.” — Marianne Williamson
Williamson pays little attention to the comments of Democratic Party leaders or cable news pundits. She believes that the country’s leadership class has become thoroughly elitist and lost touch with the American people.
In early 2022, she lamented that Bernie Sanders deferred too often to the Democratic Party establishment during his campaigns for president. From her perspective, he was too focused on remaining in the good graces of a party that did not have the interests of the American people at heart. She contrasted this approach with Trump’s strategic insistence that his support for the eventual Republican nominee depended on whether or not he perceived his treatment to have been fair.
Taking this lesson to heart, Williamson appears intent on challenging her own party as much as she would challenge a Republican opponent. She characterizes the two-party system as a collection of special interests who see their preferred policies enacted whether there is a Republican or a Democrat in the White House:
“The duopoly is actually a monopoly. We talk about how divided we are, they are not all that divided.
Because the bottom line is the military-industrial complex will get what they want. On that, we are not divided. Oil companies, more than not, will continue to do what they want to do. On that, we are not divided. Big pharmaceutical companies will continue to obstruct any chance of universal healthcare. On that, we are not divided.
They divide us so that we don’t recognize how undivided they are in some very essential ways.” — Marianne Williamson
When asked recently what single policy she would change if she had a magic wand, universal healthcare was her answer. She points to the lack of affordable care or adequate coverage as a leading cause of the record-high number of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, and she bemoans the fact that U.S. health spending per person is considerably higher than other countries while our actual health outcomes are considerably worse.
For decades, pharmaceutical companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars each year on television advertisements. At the same time, recent decades have seen a broad shift within cable news outlets away from legitimate journalism and towards entertainment news. Sensationalized reporting draws more viewers which in turn makes the platform more appealing to advertisers.
Williamson points to a specific example early in the 2016 campaign, a time when Bernie Sanders was drawing rally crowds comparable to the numbers showing up to Trump’s rallies. Sanders’ support in Democratic primary polls roughly equaled Trump’s support in Republican polls. Media coverage of his campaign, however, amounted to a fraction of the air time that Trump received.
At a CBS Corporation investors conference in December 2015, CEO Les Moonves expressed his delight in the public’s captivation with the Trump campaign:
“Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? This is pretty amazing … You know, it may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS, that’s all I got to say.
So what can I say? It’s—you know, the money’s rolling in, and this is fun.” — Les Moonves
Williamson does not expect to receive a fair shake from traditional media, but she is betting that her message will resonate more deeply with voters than the profit-driven messaging that comes from traditional media outlets.
The collapse of trust in these traditional outlets leaves the question of whether she could gain legitimate traction open for debate. Furthermore, the populists of the Democratic Party who felt that the party’s establishment callously undermined Bernie Sanders’ campaigns may feel emboldened by Williamson’s candidacy and work to elevate her.
There is also a chance that her entry into the race will convince others to jump in themselves. Publicly broadcasting the fact that a majority of Democratic voters want a different nominee is sure to plant some ideas in the minds of potential challengers who see evident weakness in the 80-year-old president.
Regardless of her electoral chances, she hopes that a steadfast emphasis on her peaceful and compassionate brand of politics will hearten millions of American families who know the despair of the opioid crisis, the weight of medical debt, and the bleakness which defines so many once-prosperous communities.
Williamson is aware that the odds are not in her favor. She is running as an outsider for the nomination of a party that has prevented a far more politically powerful challenger from winning. A fascinating element of unpredictability, however, is clearly present throughout her winding and sometimes chaotic career path.
[READ: America’s Forever Wars]
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A NEW AMERICA IS STRUGGLING TO BE BORN — TRANSFORM with Marianne Williamson
Dem CIVIL WAR: Marianne Williamson Plans 2024 Run — Breaking Points
Democrats Unveil Plan to Split First 2020 Presidential Debates Over 2 Nights — The New York Times
The Discourse Suffers When Trump Gets 23 Times As Much Coverage As Sanders — The Nation
DNC passes new primary calendar making South Carolina first and booting Iowa — CBS News
EXCLUSIVE: Marianne Williamson TEASES 2024 Presidential Bid, Biden Not Good Enough To Run — The Hill
Here’s How Much 2020 Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson Is Worth — Forbes
How does health spending in the U.S. compare to other countries? — Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker
How does the quality of the U.S. health system compare to other countries? — Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker
How Popular Is Joe Biden? — FiveThirtyEight
Joe Biden hints that launch of re-election bid is around the corner — The Independent
Joe Biden positions himself as ‘bridge’ to next generation at Michigan rally — The Guardian
Kamala Harris: Approval Polls — FiveThirtyEight
Marianne Williamson confirms 2024 presidential run in exclusive interview — Medill On The Hill
Marianne Williamson is entering the chat — POLITICO
Marianne Williamson on If She’ll Challenge Joe Biden In 2024 — The Young Turks
Marianne Williamson on the 2024 election, the DNC, and third parties — Forward with Andrew Yang
Most Democrats Don’t Want Biden In 2024, New Poll Shows — The New York Times
Most people think Biden should not run for reelection in 2024 — AP-NORC
Pharmaceuticals / Health Products — OpenSecrets
THE PROPHET, MARIANNE ‘HOLLYWOOD’S ANSWER TO GOD’ — Greensboro News & Record
Republicans to scrap primaries and caucuses as Trump challengers cry foul — POLITICO
Sanders Says 2016 Was Rigged, Won’t Pledge to Support Winner — New York Magazine
Spending on Consumer Drug Ads Skyrockets — Consumer Reports
Survey: Nearly two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck — The Hill
These pharmaceutical companies are the top five biggest spenders on TV advertisements — Fox Business
THE TRAGIC CONUNDRUM OF UKRAINE — TRANSFORM with Marianne Williamson
Trump: Bad for America, Good for CBS — FAIR
Trump campaign moves to stave off mayhem at 2020 convention — POLITICO
Tulsi Gabbard, a former Democrat, signs on as a contributor to Fox News — Los Angeles Times
When Everyone Else Stepped Back, Marianne Williamson Stepped Forward — Marianne 2020
Your use of a fringe candidate to portray the institution of the left and right does not service the effort to build a multi-party system — no candidate that abuses their staffers and speaks with no understanding of the issues affecting Americans in far off cities or farm fields should represent me or my compatriots. If you want to make a compelling case for a new foundation for America, don’t build it on shaky ground.