National Politics

Exclusive Marianne Williamson interview: ‘I’m not going away and I’m not being quiet’

Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson was in Rock Hill on Monday to talk with voters at Synergy Yoga and Winthrop University. Before the events, the self-help author talked with The Herald.

Here is a summary of the questions she answered. Some answers have been edited for brevity.

Rock Hill has had a lot of Democratic candidates come through. What is it about Rock Hill that makes all these candidates campaign here?

I know what it is about South Carolina. Obviously, it’s an early primary state. Obviously, all of us are going to be around here. I’m just interested in speaking to voters throughout the primary states and throughout the country. And my conversation with people is the same no matter where I am.

And what is that conversation?

I think it’s the state of the country that we all need to be thinking about, even more than the state of our own individual lives. We have a politics of people-pleasing, where too often politicians are trying to figure out what this group wants or what that group wants.

I talk the same whether I’m talking to a black audience or a white audience, or a rich audience or a poor audience. I think politicians often fail to appreciate how intelligent Americans are. I think it’s time for Americans to think nobly, to bring a conscience to bear on our view of citizenship and public policy. And to think about the future of this country, in a way that too often we don’t.

You owe it to yourself and to others to think about 10 years from now, and 20 years from now. None of us should live only for ourselves, and no generation should live only for ourselves. I believe Americans are ready because we can all feel there’s something wrong, deep down.

We need to have a deep conversation about the meaning of democracy, what it means to be a responsible citizen, what we owe to one another and how that relates to public policy.

My experience is the American people are ready to have that conversation. That’s why I love to talk in churches and yoga studios and colleges where people are ready for a deeper, more noble political conversation than we normally associate with the political establishment.

It sounds like you want to have these deeper connections with voters. Is part of that tactic doing these talks at yoga studios and at colleges?

When a person is at a church or religious institution, when people are at a yoga studio and also universities, because people are young, you have more of an opportunity for a more expanded dialogue than the prepackaged politics that has brought us to where we are.

We need to change the conversation if we’re going to change the country. We need to change the tenor of the conversation. I find the American people are more than ready to do that. The American people are not the problem.

The political establishment is more corrupt than I feared, but the American people are more wonderful than I even knew.

How do you think you stand in comparison to other candidates who have political experience?

I like the other candidates. I’m not running against anyone. I’m running with a lot of good people.

But at the deepest level, my strategy is just radical truth-telling to the best of my ability. That, I believe, is the ultimate strategy. I’m saying what I believe needs to be said, not what I believe people want to hear.

A political campaign is a long job interview. People deserve and need to know what you stand for and also who you are. I believe that is the strategy, for people to see who you are, what your views are and what you would do if they gave you that profound honor and responsibility of the presidency.

There’s no strategy like getting real with people.

Is that part of your strategy to gain traction in South Carolina, which is critical for the Democratic nomination?

South Carolina is an early primary state, so obviously, South Carolina is important, as is Iowa, as is New Hampshire, as is Nevada and as is California now, too.

I am told in South Carolina, people tend to be more traditional political thinkers, but I don’t buy that because if anything, the Democrat or the Republican establishment provided last time was that they had no clue what was going on beneath the surface. They had no clue what Bernie Sanders represented. They had no clue what Donald Trump represented.

So, when I hear people say, ‘The traditional political wisdom is,’ I roll my eyes. I think something is happening in America today. Everything is so interconnected, not just in this country but in the world. What people are thinking, what people are doing, what’s going on inside us — it’s not so much geographically diverse as it is philosophically diverse.

You weren’t in the last debate. You’re polling in the low numbers. What keeps you going?

Well first of all, after the second debate, I was the most Googled person in 49 states and what I call the political media industrial complex, saw that. The DNC is not a governmental authority. It has no authority in terms of elections.

It’s a private organization, and it builds this debate thing with the corporate media. Tremendous amounts of money are being made from this, and it’s like the modern equivalent of backroom deals.

They’re limiting who the candidates are, and they said, ‘Oh we need to narrow it down.’ No they don’t. The people who should narrow it down are the voters of New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and Iowa. That’s what primaries are.

Obviously my ideas are outside the box, but the box is so toxic that right now, outside the box is where a greater level of truth-telling is possible. So within three days of the second debate, the smear began: ‘Crystal lady,’ ‘Wacko,’ ‘Wackadoodle,’ ‘Anti-medicine,’ ‘Anti-science,’ ‘Dangerous,’ ‘Crazy,’ ‘Grifter.’ This is an intentional, well-strategized smear. So, of course, it made enough people who are considered quote-unquote likely Democratic voters to go, ‘Oh well, we can’t have her.’

A lot of my supporters have not voted Democratic primaries before. Some of them are Republican. Some are Independent. A lot of them are young people. We have millions of people voting in this next election who weren’t even born in the 20th century. They weren’t even able to vote last time, so I don’t believe the polls are proper indicators of the groundswell of support.

When you have people continuing to give money. when you have people continually give you standing ovations; when you have people continuing to come to your events, that’s what tells you whether to continue.

What keeps me going is I’m an American woman. I’m not taking that. The message is go away and go away quietly. No. First of all, I’m not even going away, and I’m not being quiet because it’s wrong and that’s not how a democracy should operate.

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Cailyn Derickson is a city government and politics reporter for The Herald, covering York, Chester and Lancaster counties. Cailyn graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has previously worked at The Pilot and The News and Observer.