Is Marianne Williamson Being Subtly Discriminated Against? And Why It Matters
On November 15, 2018, 4-time #1 New York Times bestselling author Marianne Williamson declared that she was exploring the option of running for President of the United States in 2020.
On January 28, 2019, she gave a stirring, historically grounded, and quite brilliant speech before several thousand supporters live in Los Angeles (and many more thousands online) officially declaring her candidacy for President.
Marianne is a serious candidate with a strong, coherent policy platform outlined on her website. She has raised multiple millions for a previous Congressional campaign and has a national base that believes in her, with 2.6M Twitter fans and 770K on Facebook.
Those who follow the major media, however, are likely unaware that she’s even in the race. Marianne is far too often not listed in the rankings of major Democratic candidates, despite having a large national base and being a powerful cultural change agent who has started nationally influential nonprofits in addition to her written and speaking work.
Why the exclusion?
I believe the answer is simple: worldview.
Simply put, Marianne represents a set of values that sociologist Paul Ray calls Cultural Creative values, which are not taken seriously or respected by much of the modernist-leaning press. Proponents of these values are often subtly denigrated or marginalized, sometimes unconsciously, despite the size of the Cultural Creative population (estimated at more than 45 million people by Paul Ray... and growing).
Cultural Creatives are committed to healthy, holistic lifestyles, personal growth, spirituality, and global citizenship. They are often positive cultural change agents. As one benchmark of the size and economic influence of this group, yoga has passed 20 million practitioners, and as of 2016 represented over $16 billion in spending. More analysts are now talking about the “yoga vote” as a result.
For several decades, Marianne has been one of the preeminent speakers, thinkers, and writers in this growing constituency of Americans. That influence and background, more than any other factor, is why I believe she is being left off the media’s lists of serious contenders since they often look askance at this audience.
This is damaging for our democracy, and ultimately for the public’s trust in the press. The founders of this country never wanted us to only consider professional politicians for office. Indeed, that would have been a shock to them — there was simply no such thing at the time.
Political leadership needs to emerge from natural leadership of our people. Whose voice is resonating with others? Whose wisdom do we respect? Who is speaking to the conscience of America?
In a country of more than 325 million, it can be difficult to break through the noise, but I maintain that a 4-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, with 2.6M Twitter followers and a serious commitment to our political evolution, who has inspired at least hundreds of thousands to engage in service and civic responsibilities, has earned the title of a national leader.
Marianne’s book, Healing the Soul of America, is one of the most powerful, serious, and challenging political books ever written.
Simply put, Marianne checks all the following boxes of a successful civic leader:
Strong national fan base, larger than all but a few of the leading candidates
History of influential civic service, ranging from founding the Peace Alliance to launching Sister Giant, a women’s political empowerment initiative gathering proponents including Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich, Lisa Bloom, Thom Hartmann, and the Women’s Campaign School of Yale University
Demonstrated capacity for fundraising, including over $2 million for a Congressional race
Demonstrated ability to move people into action as a speaker including extensive major media experience (watch a CNN interview here)
Demonstrated service to underrepresented communities, including decades of boots-on-the-ground activism for the LGBTQ community as well as communities of color
Serious, nuanced understanding of our history and our institutions and how they need to be reformed and evolved, which she’s demonstrated in numerous articles, speeches, and books
Well-articulated, innovative, and timely policy ideas
The one box she doesn’t yet check is having held elected office herself. However, that lack of elected office experience didn’t prevent property-developer Donald Trump from getting wall-to-wall coverage of his early candidacy. And it’s not deterring coverage of Howard Schultz, another billionaire political neophyte. Indeed, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina proved to be major candidates in 2016 despite not having run for office before. Why should the Democratic primaries be different?
I think it’s instructive to look at the other candidates who are being touted by the media as “major” candidates while mainly excluding Marianne:
Pete Buttigieg, a 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, a city of 100,000 people
Julian Castro, 44-year old former mayor of San Antonio
Two people who have each served in the House of Representatives for six years: Tulsi Gabbard and John Delaney
I think all of these candidates have value. I’m happy to see them in the race and for us to take their positions and candidacy seriously. It’s great to see some breakthrough diversity, from the first openly gay candidate to someone of Indian descent.
But Pete Buttigieg has 115K Twitter followers and Julian Castro has 175K. Tulsi Gabbard has 264K and John Delaney only has 13K. The simple fact is that Marianne is already speaking to (and for) a much larger national base than all of them combined. None of those four could likely generate a #1 New York Times bestseller or command launch events the size of Marianne’s.
Diversity is not just about skin color or sexual orientation. It’s also about worldviews — and Marianne offers a credible, powerful voice for a worldview that is not normally represented in our civic process. In speaking for that “hiding in plain sight” group of Cultural Creatives, she helps an important part of the Democratic base become more engaged, because they feel seen, represented, and empowered to participate in our political process.
Whether she's likely to win the nomination or not isn't relevant here -- she has more than earned her place on the stage as a serious and credible candidate.
What she will definitely do as part of her candidacy is elevate the national conversation and raise important, out-of-the-box solutions. She’s already done so powerfully in her opening speech in discussing why reparations need to be part of our national dialogue about how we heal the legacy of slavery — and offering an innovative plan for doing so.
She can speak beyond the traditional political divides to the values and history that unite us. She can speak to people’s conscience in a way that motivates them to engage as citizens.
So, every time you see a media article that excludes Marianne from the list of major declared Democratic candidates, I encourage you to write them, to share your view, and to point them to this article if you wish — and ask the editors and writers to recognize that the act of excluding Marianne from the list of major candidates is not only a form of subtle discrimination but also a profound disservice to the diversity of Democratic worldviews that need to be honored and integrated for a successful next candidate to win the White House.
Even if Marianne’s supporters do not propel her into the role of final Democratic Party nominee, her run will elevate our national conversation and ultimately contribute to the regeneration of our democracy.
Marianne is a bold truth-teller who also understands how to bridge divides. She brings important medicine for what ails our country, and she has earned her spot in the upper tier.
If major media prevent her voice and policy ideas from being given serious attention by not even including her in the list of candidates, that will be a profound loss for our country.
Let’s take her seriously and, by extension, the millions of people she already represents — and the potentially millions more that her candidacy can inspire and engage in this important election cycle.