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Marianne Williamson on Running for President, Challenging Biden & Calling for a Gaza Ceasefire

StoryJanuary 23, 2024
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It’s primary day in New Hampshire. As Donald Trump and Nikki Haley square off in the Republican race, we speak to 2024 Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson on her longshot campaign against President Biden. In an unusual twist, Williamson’s name is on today’s ballot, but Biden’s is not. Biden opted out of running in New Hampshire after the state refused to move its primary until after South Carolina’s. Williamson discusses why she’s running for president, her antiwar platform, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, immigration reform and the New Hampshire primary election. “Just like with health and sickness, you don’t just treat sickness, you learn to cultivate health,” she says. “We need to not just drop bombs and put people in prison when there is conflict. We need to learn to prevent conflict. We need to proactively create peace.”

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Voting has begun in New Hampshire in the nation’s first primary. On the Republican side, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is hoping to pull off an upset over former President Donald Trump, who won last week’s caucus in Iowa by a record margin. On the Democratic side, there is a primary today in New Hampshire, but it’s received little attention, in part because President Joe Biden’s name will not be on the ballot, though supporters are organizing an unofficial write-in campaign.

The Democratic National Committee stripped New Hampshire of its delegates after it refused to move its primary until after South Carolina. Historically, Iowa and New Hampshire have held the first contests, giving two of the whitest states in the nation considerable clout in the nominating process. In 2022, the DNC voted to hold the first primary in South Carolina, which has a significant population of color. Iowa agreed to the changes; the Democratic Iowa caucus will take place later. But New Hampshire did not and went ahead anyway with the primary of the Democratic Party, as well as the Republicans.

Over two dozen other candidates will be on the Democratic ballot in New Hampshire, most prominently Congressmember Dean Phillips of Minnesota and our next guest, Marianne Williamson, a best-selling author, self-described spiritual thought leader, who also ran for president in 2020. Williamson has campaigned for a single-payer healthcare system, cutting the Pentagon’s budget, creating a U.S. Department of Peace, and boldly addressing the climate crisis. She has also supported a ceasefire in Gaza. Marianne Williamson is joining us now from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Marianne Williamson, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about the fact that you are the only person on the Democratic ticket right now, of the major Democratic candidates, who is supporting a Gaza ceasefire? And then go into your call for a Department of Peace.

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: The ceasefire — even before the invasion of Gaza by the Israelis, I was on a video saying I thought it was a bad idea. And I have been calling for a ceasefire since the moment it began. You know, obviously, there’s a big difference between supporting Israel and supporting the Israeli government. There’s a big difference between supporting Israel and supporting the policies of Benjamin Netanyahu. And I’ve been very sorry to see the U.S. government go along with his policy and this war. I think it’s a terrible idea. It’s terrible for Israel, obviously terrible for the Palestinians, for the region and, I think, for the world.

In terms of the Department of Peace, you know, Franklin Roosevelt said we need to do more than end wars. We need to end the beginnings of all wars. Just like with health and sickness, you don’t just treat sickness. You learn to cultivate health. And we need to not just, you know, drop bombs and put people in prison when there is conflict. We need to learn to prevent conflict. We need to learn to proactively create peace.

And there are four — there are four main factors involved in what’s called peacebuilding. And when these factors are present, statistically, that means there’s going to be a higher incidence of peace and a lower incidence of conflict. And this is true whether it’s a corner of an American city or another place in the world. And those factors are greater economic opportunities for women, greater educational opportunities for children, a reduction of violence against women, and an amelioration of unnecessary human despair.

So, just like they play war games, we need to play peace games. Just like we have a military academy, we need to have a peace academy. Just like we have an army of military personnel, we need armies of peace builders. And we need to have that same kind of serious focus and resources placed in creating peace that we now have on fighting wars. This forever war machine that the United States has is a path to disaster in this century.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Marianne Williamson, can you talk about your decision to run as a Democrat rather than as an independent, given how much you diverge in many of your positions from the — against the Democratic Party elite?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Well, that’s the point. I don’t diverge from the traditional values of the Democratic Party. They do. I’m a Roosevelt Democrat. I believe that the policies of the U.S. government should be used to help people. Now, that Democratic establishment elite that you just referred to look at someone like myself or any progressive as though we are trying to hijack the party. In fact, they hijacked the party. We’re Franklin and Eleanor, and they’re the DuPonts and the Whitneys and the Morgans. They’re a bunch of economic royalists. You know, that Democratic elite that you’re talking about in the Democratic Party, when I was growing up, they would have been called Republicans. So, I’m where in — you know, in my youth and in my growing up and just sort of my perspective, I’m where the center of the Democratic Party should and would have been, had it not been for this profound influx of corporate money that has infused both parties.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you often invoke the idea of traditional values in your speeches. Could you talk a little bit more about what you mean by those traditional values?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Well, I think that there’s common sense involved in our trying to be better people. I think no matter whether someone is approaching this from a religious perspective or a secular perspective, we all know that if you try to be a person of integrity, of generosity, of forgiveness, owning your own mistakes but forgiving other people for theirs, your life works better. And I think that those same values and those same considerations, those same reflections on what it means to be good, should apply to public policy as much as it applies to our personal behavior.

Our public policy is guided by an essentially bankrupt, on a moral level, economic paradigm. There’s no sense of ethics. There’s no sense of owing anything to anyone. It’s all fiduciary responsibility to the stockholder. And that has been going on for 50 years now, and it has devastated this country. It has completely hollowed out our middle class. It has led to a $50 trillion transfer of wealth from the bottom 90% to the top 1%. If all you care about is stockholder value, at the expense of every other stakeholder’s interest, at the expense of the workers, at the expense of the community, at the expense of the environment, what happens? What happens is what has happened to this country, where a majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. A majority of Americans cannot absorb a $500 unexpected expenditure. And now 39% of Americans claim that they regularly skip meals in order to pay their rent. This is intolerable. It is unacceptable. And we need a president who will say so.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to talk about you being on the Democratic primary ballot. At a presidential forum you were at, that I co-moderated, in South Carolina in 2019 —

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: I remember.

AMY GOODMAN: — I questioned then-Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren during that forum at South Carolina State about the primary calendar.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Warren, just 30 seconds left. But speaking about racial injustice, do you think the order of the primary states should change? You have Iowa and New Hampshire —

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Wait, let me make — let me just — before you finish, are you actually going to ask me to sit here and criticize Iowa and New Hampshire?

AMY GOODMAN: No, I’m asking about the order.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: No, that is what Iowa and New Hampshire are all about.

AMY GOODMAN: But let me just ask. They’re two of the whitest states in the country, and then we move to South Carolina with a very significant population of people of color, and it means the candidates spend so much of their time catering to those first two states. Overall, do you think that should change?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Look, I’m just a player in the game on this one. And I am delighted to be in South Carolina. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much.

MUSTAFA ALI: Thank you, Senator.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: It’s good to see you.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Massachusetts senator and then-presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. If you could respond to that question, Marianne Williamson? I mean, the reason the DNC — they weren’t canceling the New Hampshire primary. They just said Iowa and New Hampshire should come after, later, especially South Carolina, which has a larger community of color. Talk about your decision to be on the New Hampshire ballot.

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Well, if the DNC was honestly, authentically and sincerely coming from a place of concern about racial diversity, that would be one thing. I don’t think that’s what happened here, and I don’t even think — I don’t know anyone in South Carolina who really thinks that’s what happened here. What happened here is that Joe Biden came in fourth place or fifth place last time, and they wanted to avoid an embarrassment.

Obviously, racial diversity matters. But let me tell you what else matters, and that is economic diversity. And when you want to talk about the actual experience of the average American, the working-class Americans in the United States, New Hampshire is as much a ground zero as is any other state. I don’t think that any of us should be thinking in terms of playing favorites with the states. And I’m just showing up where there are people. New Hampshire responded to the DNC by saying, “No, our state Constitution says we’re having a primary, and that’s just the way it is.” And so, I’m here because they’re having a primary. And I’m taking my cue from the people, and not from the DNC.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Marianne Williamson, I wanted to ask you about your position on supporting the ceasefire in Gaza. You’ve supported that since October. Do you think that the failure of the Democratic Party leadership and President Biden to take a clearer stand in defense of the Palestinian people is going to result in large numbers of young people, especially, turning away from this election?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: I think it’s a risk, unless we nominate someone, like myself, who’s been very clear about all this from the beginning. You know, the president showed great moral clarity on October 7th, but he needs to show the same moral clarity regarding what has happened to the Palestinians. And yeah, I think young people, particularly, see a deep injustice there. And yeah, I think that’s a good reason for the Democrats to nominate somebody who represents a stand for not just greater justice for the Palestinians, but for bold American leadership, to make sure that we are robustly and equally committed to the peace, safety, security and sovereignty of both peoples, both Israeli and Palestinian.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the New Hampshire’s “Vote Ceasefire” campaign? Even though President Biden isn’t on the ballot, there is a write-in campaign for him, but there’s also a write-in campaign to just say “ceasefire.” Your thoughts on this, Marianne Williamson?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Well, I believe that if we’re really concerned about the citizens of Gaza, if we’re most deeply concerned about what action would most get Joe Biden’s attention and make him actually reconsider his policies, I think it would be voting for a candidate who actually stands for a ceasefire. I would think that my getting a lot of votes, given the fact that I, in fact, do stand for a ceasefire, would get more of a raised eyebrow from the president than would a write-in campaign for “ceasefire.” But like in all of these things, the average — not the average — the citizen, the voter gets to make their decision for themselves. I hope that people who are considering writing in “ceasefire” from that position, which I know is a sincere desire to help the people of Gaza, I hope they will consider the possibility, which I believe is the reality, that a vote for me would be a stronger statement.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you what happened at Davos. The government-corporate elite there seemed to say that they think that President Trump is going to win this next election. When the stakes are this high, the two main contenders, Biden versus Trump, of course, always thrown around in the United States for any third party or another Democratic presidential candidate, like yourself, is you could be the spoiler in this high-stakes election. Your response to that?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Well, first of all, it’s important to remember that this, today, is a primary. You cannot be a spoiler in a primary. In terms of the general election, I think all of us who are committed to Donald Trump not returning to the White House have a lot to think about there. I would never do anything that I felt would increase the possibility of Donald Trump returning to the presidency.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We have less than a minute left, but I wanted to ask you about immigration, which has become a major, major issue once again in this presidential race. Your stance on the whole issue of sealing the border and reducing undocumented migration into the country and limiting the number of asylum seekers?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Asylum, to me, is a sacrosanct principle. Obviously, Congress has failed us, obviously, on the level of the symptom. We simply need greater infrastructure. We need more judges. We need more interviewers. We need more people who can establish credible fear, move people on in the process of integrating into American society, if they do meet that standard. Others need to go back to their home countries and begin the process legally from there.

However, in this issue as in so many others, my candidacy represents an intention to look at root cause and not just symptom. We need to ask ourselves: Why do so many people feel such a desperate need to make their way to the United States, from Latin America particularly? And if we look at that, we see America’s fingerprints in far too many ways.

I want to help the American people wisely and compassionately look in the mirror. If you look at the ways that our own foreign policy over the last 40, 50, 60 years have contributed to the economic destabilization of so many of these countries, I want to see the United States help restabilize what we, in too many ways, helped destabilize. That will include removing the sanctions on Venezuela, removing the sanctions on Cuba, removing Cuba from the terrorist list, obviously, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there.

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: And in addition to that, we should be giving far more aid. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Marianne Williamson, 2024 Democratic presidential candidate, on the ballot in New Hampshire. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

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