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Another woman has thrown her hat into the ring for the 2020 presidential race, and she’s a bit of a wildcard.
Previously a Kardashian Kongressional Kandidate, Marianne Williamson is a self-help guru, F.O.O. (friend of Oprah, duh), and activist with a pretty lengthy resume. She’s all about peace and love, but also manages to get sh*t done. In fact, Williamson’s announcement echoes the uplifting lingo she uses in books like A Return to Love.
“We have to fall in love again with what this country can mean,” she said in her campaign announcement video. “We need to embrace it, we need to devote ourselves to it, and then bequeath to our children as other generations have done to us.”
The author and activist joins Democratic candidates such as Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Here’s what you need to know about her.
She’s a prolific self-help author.
Williamson’s written 12 books, four of which have hit number-one on the New York Times best-seller list. 1992’s A Return to Love is likely her best-known book.
And she hopped on the self-help train pretty early on.
By now, we’ve all heard of things like mindfulness, support groups, and “the secret.” But when Williamson was publishing her first few books, these concepts were pretty new. She might have helped popularize many self-help tactics that we now take for granted.
“My own sister, when she was diagnosed with cancer in 1989, said to her doctor that I had suggested she attend a spiritual support group,” Williamson told LA Weekly. “And her doctor said, ‘Really, what medical school did your sister go to?’ No oncologist would say that today.”
She’s friends with Oprah.
Williamson and Oprah Winfrey go way back. The aspiring politician has appeared on Oprah’s shows, recently sitting for an interview on OWN. The media mogul calls her a “spiritual friend and counselor.”
Winfrey reportedly bought 1,000 copies of her first book, “A Return to Love,” and “experienced 157 individual miracles as a result of reading it,” according to LA Weekly. Ummm, talk about results!
But don’t call her “new age.”
Williamson might dabble in peace and love, but she eschews the labels that come along with those interests.
“I’ve never worn a velvet scarf in my life,” she told LA Weekly in 2014. “You label somebody ‘New Age,’ and that’s automatic mockery: ‘She cannot possibly be a serious thinker.’ ”
The moniker she prefers? Author, thank you very much.
She ran for office in 2014, but wasn’t expected to win.
Williamson challenged Rep. Henry Waxman for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in California’s 33rd congressional district in 2014. She was described as left of Waxman, and—despite that Kardashian endorsement—wasn’t expected to win.
In one quote that hasn’t aged well since a literal reality TV star became our president, LA County Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman doubted her credibility.
“She has some very unusual beliefs about the world, a cult following, but she’s not a credible candidate,” he told LA Weekly. “She’s done a lot of work helping people heal, but that’s not preparation to be in Congress.”
She was an AIDS activist long before most politicians dared to address the epidemic.
Perhaps because she was functioning as a spiritual leader at a time when HIV and AIDS patients felt ostracized by society and mainstream religion, Williamson accumulated a large gay following in the late 1980s, according to LA Weekly.
“Western medicine had nothing to offer,” she’s said of the time. “Organized religion was silent for quite a while. … And there was this young woman in Los Feliz talking about a God who loves you no matter what … Gay men in L.A. gave me my career.”
She soon founded the Center for Living, a place where people living with AIDS could stop by for massages, therapy, and other creature comforts, according to LA Weekly. She also started a charity, Project Angel Food, in 1989 to help people with HIV and AIDS. It’s since expanded to help people with all kinds of ailments, and has doled out more than 11 million meals, according to Los Angeles Blade.
She put on a string of conferences to encourage women to run for office.
Williamson wasn’t just ahead of the self-help trend. She was also an early cheerleader for women seeking office.
Her 2010 conference series, Sister Giant, was designed to encourage women to run.
“My hope and intention is that Sister Giant will be an incubator for the emergence of that new field of political possibility, entailing a new conversation about America and a serious sense of sisterhood,” she told HuffPost. “It will go over everything from psychological and emotional issues, to a spiritual perspective on politics, to actually training women how to run.”
She wants to spread compassion and understanding through her politics.
Williamson first gestured toward politics with her 1997 tome Healing the Soul of America, writing:
“It is a task of our generation to recreate the American politeia, to awaken from our culture of distraction and re-engage the process of democracy with soulfulness and hope. Yes, we see there are problems in the world. But we believe in a universal force that, when activated by the human heart, has the power to make all things right. Such is the divine authority of love: to renew the heart, renew the nations, and ultimately, renew the world.”
Her recent campaign announcement carried a similar tone. Margie Warrell of Forbes is asking of her campaign, “Can A Presidential Bid Fueled By Love Transcend the Politics of Fear?” Guess we’re about to find out.