WASHINGTON (AP) — Self-help author Marianne Williamson, whose 2020 White House campaign featured more whimsical appeals for spiritual healing than actual voter support, launched another major bid for the presidency Saturday, becoming the first Democrat to formally challenge President Joe Biden for the 2024 nomination.
“I, as of today, am running for the office of president of the United States,” she said at a campaign launch in the nation’s capital.
The 70-year-old onetime spiritual adviser to Oprah Winfrey is almost certain to provide only tentative primary opposition — a testament to how strong national Democrats are united behind Biden. But she one-upped the president, a longtime Amtrak rider, by holding her inaugural rally in the presidential suite at Union Station, Washington’s rail hub.
Biden gave his own speech from Union Station, near Capitol Hill, just before last November’s election, when he led Democrats in a surprisingly strong showing, urging voters to reject political extremism and saying he was at stake “the very the democracy”.
Williamson, whose red, blue and black campaign signs bear the twin slogans “A New Beginning” and “Disrupt the System,” plans to campaign in early voting states on the 2024 election calendar, including New Hampshire, which threatened to defy a Biden-backed plan by the Democratic National Committee to carry South Carolina in the nominating contests.
Democrats and Republicans in New Hampshire have warned that if Biden skips the unsanctioned primary and is won by a challenger, that result could prove embarrassing for the incumbent — even if that challenger has not no real chance of actually being the candidate.
“You can appreciate what the president did, defeating the Republicans in 2020, and still feel like it’s time to move on,” Williamson said in a recent interview on “Good Morning New Hampshire.”
Biden, 80, is the oldest president in US history and would be 86 at the end of a second term. Most people in the United States — even most Democrats — say they don’t want him to run again, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.
The president is expected to announce in the coming weeks that he will run again. First Lady Jill Biden recently told the AP that there is nothing left for the president to do but choose a time and place to announce his re-election bid.
Biden’s political advisers say they are not worried about the Democratic primary and say Biden wants to beat Donald Trump again in the general election. They say a 2024 campaign against another GOP candidate, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSandis, would look much the same because top Republicans remain supporters of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement.
The Democratic establishment — even potential presidential contenders who could have challenged Biden from the left or the middle — are behind Biden, showing how smooth his path to the nomination is likely to be. Even if other Democrats follow Williamson’s lead and enter the race, the party does not plan to hold primary debates.
Williamson insists her 2024 campaign is not just about making a statement. In an online post last weekend, he did not mention Trump by name, but noted that few predicted he would lead an unconventional campaign to the White House seven years ago.
“Since the 2016 election, it’s surprising that anyone thinks they can know who might win the presidency,” Williamson wrote. “And I’m not putting myself back into it just to add to the conversation. I’m running for president to help close an absurd chapter in our history and help create a new beginning.”
A Texas native who now lives in Beverly Hills, California, Williamson is the author of more than a dozen books. In the 1980s, he opened the Living Center in Los Angeles and later in New York, which worked to support people with HIV and AIDS. He ran an unsuccessful independent congressional campaign in California in 2014 and supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 progressive challenge to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
In 2020, Williamson was best known for wanting to create a Department of Peace and arguing that the federal government should pay massive financial reparations to black Americans as atonement for centuries of slavery and discrimination.
On the debate stage, he called racism “part of the dark underbelly of American society.” While she said Trump had used fear for political gain, she chided her fellow Democrats for getting too lost in the “muddyness” of policy details instead of trying to stop the then-president’s “dark psychic force of collectivized hate.”
Amid fundraising struggles, Williamson laid off her staff nationally and suspended her campaign in the weeks before the 2020 primary caucus in Iowa, saying she did not want to “impede a progressive candidate’s victory.” He later endorsed Sanders in the 2020 presidential race. He finished second to Biden.