In search for Democratic nomination, Williamson takes aim at corporate greed
|Published: 10-05-2023 5:51 AM
HANOVER — Presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson, speaking at Dartmouth’s Rockefeller Center for Public Policy earlier this week, defended her decision to challenge President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination for the 2024 election at a precarious moment in American politics.
In a Tuesday evening talk that drew about 70 people and lasted just over an hour, the bestselling author, spiritual advisor and activist delivered a stump speech that focused heavily on economic injustice and took her fellow Democrats to task for their unwillingness to challenge the “matrix of corporate power and institutionalized corporate greed” that she sees as an existential threat to American democracy.
“We’re six inches from the cliff,” she said.
Williamson, 71, first entered the political arena in 2019 when she ran for president on a progressive political platform. After campaigning for the better part of a year, she ended that effort in January 2020, endorsing first Bernie Sanders and then Joe Biden.
She announced her 2024 run in March of this year and was in New Hampshire early this week for a series of campaign events.
In addition to tackling economic injustice, much of her talk focused on the shrinking of the American middle class. Citing statistics about Americans’ economic anxiety, medical debt, homelessness rates and student loan debt, she condemned the “soulless economic forces” that have undermined democracy.
“I’m not anti-capitalist,” she said. “Making money is a good thing. It’s just that not enough people get a chance at it.”
Though she spoke with a soft voice, Williamson didn’t seem to pull punches when asked about her fellow Democrats’ unwillingness to challenge Biden. “I grew up at a time when the left had a spine,” she said.
She urged listeners, whatever their party affiliation, to get involved at the primary level to exert more influence over which candidates become party nominees, with an eye toward supporting candidates that espouse a commitment to combating unhealthy corporate influences.
Asked by an audience member about the efficacy of challenging Biden at a time when anti-democratic political movements are serious threats at the ballot box, Williamson acknowledged that “fascists are at the door.” But “that’s why I’m doing this,” she said. Because “they should never have gotten this close.”
She downplayed the idea that incumbents should be immune to challenge from within their own parties. “He’s a nice man,” she said of Biden. “This is not personal.”
Williamson’s platform includes universal health care, tuition-free university education, climate justice, environmental reform, paid family leave and a “21st century bill of economic rights.” She favors gun control legislation and military support for Ukraine. It is “absurdly naive,” she said, to think that Vladimir Putin would simply stop at the conquest of Ukraine. She said that she supports a negotiated peace “while there is still a Ukraine to negotiate.”
Running against an incumbent president who is a member of her own party makes Williamson’s campaign a long shot to say the least. Williamson is polling at 6% among likely Democratic voters, below Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at 9% and Biden at 78%, according to a recent University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll.
Supporter Bill Balkus, of Newburyport, Mass., acknowledged that she needs a miracle. “But miracles do happen,” he said. “It’s in the stars she’s going to be our next president.”
Balkus had arrived on campus early to put up campaign signs, only to find out that they weren’t allowed. So he improvised, accessorizing his small, white terrier named “R2” with a custom-made sandwich board supporting Williamson.
He first saw Williamson debate in 2019 and was impressed enough to return for another campaign event. “The third time I saw her, I volunteered,” he said. Explaining his enthusiastic support for her campaign, he said that “the biggest problem in our country is money in politics,” and that “Joe Biden is a corporate Democrat.” He likes Williamson’s commitment to economic justice and campaign reform.
“I’m a fan,” said Mary Ellen Collier, of Franklin, N.Y., who was visiting the Upper Valley to spend time with her daughter in Wilder. “I respect Marianne a lot. I think she’s very compassionate and very honest.”
The talk was co-sponsored by the Dartmouth Political Union and the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and is part of the union’s “Path to the Presidency” series.
Christina Dolan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.