BERMAN: The race for 2020 is on. The wide range of potential candidates includes several members of Congress, a billionaire former Starbucks CEO, and our next guest who is the one with the largest social media following of any declared candidate so far.
[08:20:08] Marianne Williamson, Democratic candidate for president, bestselling author and activist.
Marianne, thank you so much for being with us. You are well-known to millions of people who have read your books, including “A Return to Love”. But some people who followed politics closely might not have seen you. So, I want them to get familiar with where you are coming from politically.
You said: We have a problem with the psychological fabric of the country as a low level emotional civil war has begun to rip us apart. In order to deal with that, we must address it on the level of our internal being.
That’s on your campaign website. So, how exactly does a president address this?
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a moral and spiritual awakening in the country. And nothing short of that is adequate to fundamentally change the patterns of our political dysfunction. There are many things we need to discuss, many things we need to name.
We have an economic and amoral economic system. We need to discuss this.
We have millions of American children live in chronic despair and trauma. We need to discuss this.
We have systemic racism — layers of systemic racism that are leftovers from slavery. We need to discuss this.
And while we are good at preparing for war, we do not wage peace on the levels we need to. We need to discuss this.
You know, Franklin Roosevelt said the administrative aspects of being president were secondary. What really matters, he says, is moral leadership. We need someone to articulate what’s really happening, the deeper levels of our moral dysfunction. I have had a 35-year career in naming and transforming those dynamics. And I think that that’s my qualification for the presidency at this time.
BERMAN: Your campaign has a number of proposals already out there listed on your website. Some very specific. You call for universal health care, Medicare for all, make permanent middle class tax cut, provide free higher education, including free tuition for public colleges, government support for children’s services, establish a green new deal. All of these sound like many of the policies from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
Do you feel it’s necessary to come up with a way to pay for these all?
WILLIAMSON: Well, that’s such a canard in this country. Anytime somebody wants to have a $2 trillion tax cut, where you give 83 cents of a dollar to the richest among us, nobody is supposed to ask how to pay for it. Any time somebody wants to have a $2 trillion war that turns out to be the biggest foreign policy blunder in our history, nobody is supposed to ask how we’re going to pay for that.
The truth of the matter is, every dollar that we invest in education is money we are investing in our economy. If you really want a vibrant economic system 10 years from now, 20 years from now, you take care of your children today.
Our current economic system does not lead to a vibrant economy. It leeches. When you have short-term profit maximizations for huge corporations as your bottom line, you’re allowing market forces to replace democracy as your organizing principle for your society. You’re not building a strong economy. We need to name that, see it for what it is.
It is propaganda that serves a veiled aristocratic system. We want, of course, a vibrant economy in the United States. What you do is unleash the creativity and the productivity of the American people.
In 2014, Marianne Williamson ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, California District 33, on this platform.
BERMAN: You know, it’s interesting, again, some of the policies, not dissimilar to what Bernie Sanders ran on four years ago. And you supported him in the Democratic primary four years. WILLIAMSON: Absolutely.
BERMAN: Why haven’t you waited to see if he jumps in before declaring your own candidacy?
WILLIAMSON: I certainly agree with many of the things Bernie Sanders says, many of the things that Elizabeth Warren says. I’m simply having a more expanded conversation.
It’s like an integrated model of health and healing. You need more than external remedies. You also have to address the psychological and emotional and spiritual issues that both cause disease and help ameliorate it when it occurs. We need an integrated model of politics.
The political conversation is so stuck on externals but that is inadequate. We need to talk about the larger panoply of what is actually happening. Otherwise, you do what our political system does, you water the leaves of our democracy, but you’re not watering the roots. And that’s what I’m introducing, a conversation that I feel is the only one that is adequate to navigating and transforming.
BERMAN: Is it that what you would do as president? Is the conversation what you are promising as president?
WILLIAMSON: Well, first of all — well, first of all, the bully pulpit of the presidency is not to be undervalued. But even more importantly, it is the consciousness of the president that then drives his or her policy decisions, both in our domestic policies and in our international policies, where underlying ways in which we are not addressing our deeper humanitarian values and our deeper democratic values.
Our democracy and our capitalism has swerved off course from an ethical center.
BERMAN: Right. Let me —
WILLIAMSON: I believe, yes, it is the job of the president to name this.
BERMAN: We have a short time. And you do have specific proposals and policies and I’d like to get to a couple more of them right now.
[08:25:03] You are a candidate who believes that African-Americans should receive reparations for slavery, specifically $100 billion paid in a 10-year, annual installment of $10 billion. Is this symbolic or do you think this money goes to a practical purpose?
WILLIAMSON: This is not symbolic at all. At the end of the civil war, General Tecumseh Sherman promised to every formerly enslaved person 40 acres and a mule. And those 40 acres and a mule would have given a formerly enslaved population an opportunity to reintegrate — to integrate into free society.
What happened instead, of course, was black code laws were passed in the American South which ensured sub-par social and political and economic opportunities for the former slave population. This was not addressed for a hundred years until the civil rights movement. And while the civil rights movement gave Voting Rights Act although that was chipped away since 2013 and gave a lot of political opportunities that had not been there for the hundred years previous.
It did not address the fact that we have not yet paid that debt. Germany has paid $89 billion in reparations to Jewish organizations since World War II. And Ronald Reagan signed the American Civil Liberties Act, by which we paid every surviving member who had been interned during World War II in the Japanese internment camps $22,000.
BERMAN: All right.
WILLIAMSON: I believe a hundred billion dollars given —
WILLIAMSON: — to a council to apply this money to economic projects and educational projects of renewal for that population is a debt to be paid. Until we pay it, we will deal with these issues.
BERMAN: You are not a novice to politics. You have been an activist for years. You also ran for Congress, people don’t know this, in California, in 2014. What do you see as the path to victory here for the Democratic nomination? Do you think you can win?
WILLIAMSON: First of all, Donald Trump is president. This idea of predicting who can win, we should throw that out the window.
WILLIAMSON: My strategy isn’t strategy. My strategy is that I seek to speak as deeply, articulately and passionately as I can what I see as the deeper truths confronting our nation, challenging our nation to live up to them.
I’m speaking from the depth of myself to the depth of the American in all of us. This is not strategy. The whole strategic mind is part of the corruption of the political system.
I’m not trying to figure out what to say to get people to vote for me. I’m seeking to have the conversation that I believe we need to be having. These are very serious times. We need to be very serious deep thinkers.
I’m not trying to get shallow or superficial so people will hear me. I’m inviting the American people to get deep with me. It’s time for that in order to address these times and to transform them.
BERMAN: Well, Marianne Williamson, we appreciate you coming on and having the conversation. You’re in Iowa today, in Des Moines. You’re headed to South Carolina.
I know this is a real campaign. Again, you’ve got a campaign manager. There is a website with a lot of policies. We look forward to speaking again as the campaign season continues.
WILLIAMSON: Thank you. I appreciate your having me on.