‘He will eat a half-truth teller alive’: Marianne Williamson takes on Trump

Charlie Neibergall/AP
Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson (c.) speaks to local residents at a tailgate party at the Capital City Pride Fest on June 8 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 4 Min. )

Marianne Williamson is a bestselling author and lecturer on spiritual themes – and a Democratic presidential candidate who says she’s qualified to take part in the initial primary debates, which start on June 26. Currently attracting the support of around 1% of Democratic voters in national polls, she calls herself a “radical truth-teller” and says that approach is the only way Democrats will defeat President Donald Trump.

“He will eat a half-truth teller alive in this election,” Ms. Williamson says in an interview. “And the Democrats have been telling half-truths for decades now.” Ms. Williamson is on the left side of the political spectrum, favoring public financing of political campaigns, cuts to military spending, and reparations for the descendants of slaves. Her signature proposal is to create a Department of Peace and a Department of Childhood and Youth to address what she calls a “humanitarian emergency” among children in the U.S.

The following are excerpts from Ms. Williamson’s interview with the Monitor, conducted with Nadine Epstein, editor of the Jewish magazine Moment.

Why We Wrote This

Author and ’90s spiritual guru Marianne Williamson talks with the Monitor about her presidential campaign, and why she thinks there’s a “humanitarian emergency” involving children in the United States.

Marianne Williamson wants to take a page out of the Donald Trump playbook and remake American politics – again. And she wants to do it with a healing message of love, she says, not fear.

In 2016, President Trump proved that a political novice with a larger-than-life persona and big ideas could win the White House. Now Ms. Williamson – a bestselling author, activist, and lecturer on spiritual themes – is in the hunt, one of 20 Democratic presidential candidates who say they’ve qualified to take part in the initial primary debates, which begin June 26.

She faces a steep climb to the nomination. A mid-April poll by Change Research showed that 66% of likely Democratic voters do not know her name. A recent Monmouth poll put her support at 1%.

Why We Wrote This

Author and ’90s spiritual guru Marianne Williamson talks with the Monitor about her presidential campaign, and why she thinks there’s a “humanitarian emergency” involving children in the United States.

In an interview, Ms. Williamson calls for “an awakening of the American mind” and describes herself as a “radical truth-teller.” That approach to Mr. Trump, she says, is the only way to defeat him.

“The only way to beat big lies is with big truth,” says Ms. Williamson, who shot to fame in the early 1990s when her first book was featured by Oprah Winfrey. “He will eat a half-truth teller alive in this election. And the Democrats have been telling half-truths for decades now, ever since they too started playing footsie under the table with the same corporate forces that are the problem.”

Ms. Williamson has planted herself firmly in the left wing of the Democratic Party. Among her positions, she wants public financing of federal campaigns, cuts to “excessive” military spending, and reparations for the descendants of slaves.

But it’s her focus on the spiritual health of the nation and her signature proposal – creation of a Department of Peace and a Department of Childhood and Youth – that distinguish her candidacy. These cabinet-level agencies would boost U.S. efforts at international and domestic peace-building and address what she calls the “humanitarian emergency” around children in the United States.

Ms. Williamson bristles at the suggestion she’s a long-shot candidate. And, she insists, she’s not new to politics – both literally (she ran for Congress in 2014) and in a larger sense, as she has spent decades focused on how to heal society’s ills. 

“The political establishment has a way of proffering this illusion that they’re the only ones who sit around and think deeply about America,” says Ms. Williamson, whose latest book is called “The Politics of Love: A Handbook for a New American Revolution.”

“Everybody cares about America, and politicians don’t care any more than anybody else does, and they don’t have any better ideas than anybody else does.”

Ms. Williamson is the only Jewish woman in the presidential race, a point of pride for the Texas native. In college, she studied comparative religion and philosophy, and later, at a time of personal challenge, turned to a metaphysical book called “A Course in Miracles.” It is that book that grounds her work, as does her Jewish heritage. She has also read the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy.

The following are excerpts from Ms. Williamson’s interview with the Monitor, conducted with Nadine Epstein, editor of the Jewish magazine Moment.

What is some of the Jewish wisdom that guides you?

Tikkun olam [repair the world], certainly.  Also, I am so moved by the line: “You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you permitted to abandon it. Love mercy, do justice, walk humbly.”

What spoke to you about “A Course in Miracles”?

It is a book about universal spiritual themes. My mother had a close friend who was a conservative Christian lady. Anytime anybody did something good, she would say, “Oh, she’s such a good Christian!” One day, my mother couldn’t take it anymore, and said, “What do you think a good Jew is?” All these things this woman was saying, that’s also what a good Jew does. That’s also what a good person does. To be a good person is the core of all the great religious systems.

You speak of the “dichotomy” of American history. What do you mean?

Our country was founded on the most enlightened principles that have ever formed the founding of a nation. And from the beginning, we have been at times the most violent transgressors against those principles. We had slavery, but then we had abolition. We had the suppression of women, but then we had two waves of feminism and the women’s suffragette movement. ... To me, the modern political establishment – the Democrats no less than the Republicans – speaks to people’s self-interest. I’m not saying, “Elect me and I could do this for you.” Politics should be a far more noble conversation. It should be: This is what this generation should do for our unborn great-grandchildren.

Is anger an appropriate tool for political activism?

I’ve likened anger to white sugar. It gives you a high. “I’m angry! I’m going to get Trump!” But you will crash. Political change is a marathon, not a sprint. If all we do is beat Trump, those forces will be back in ’22 and they’ll be back in ’24. We have to do more than save us from the cliff. And that’s a deeper, larger, less sexy job that we’re going to need real nutrition for.

As a woman, what do you bring to leadership? 

It’s not just that I’m a woman. I’m a Texan, I’m a Jew, and I’m 66 years old. If I were president, I would be humane and compassionate and values-based with the use of power. I would not be timid. In politics, you must compromise. But with vision, you should never compromise. And to me, that’s part of leadership.

You refer to a “silent emergency” involving children. What do you mean?

Millions of American children go to classrooms where they do not even have the adequate school supplies with which to teach a child to read. We have elementary school children on suicide watch. Around 13 million American children go to school hungry every day. We have children living in what’s called America’s domestic war zones, where psychologists say the PTSD of returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq is no more severe than the PTSD of these children. These children should be rescued, no differently than if they were the victims of a natural disaster. And what is the political establishment doing, except normalizing their despair?

I want a massive realignment of investment in the direction of children 10 years old and younger. ... It’s not so much how I would exercise power differently than a man, it’s what I want to use power for that is different.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.