Marianne Williamson has become the first Democrat to formally announce a 2024 presidential bid, setting up a primary challenge for President Biden who has long said he intends to run for reelection.
The self-help author who also ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential nod, railed against an “entrenched” and “corrupt” political landscape that has led the American democracy to the precipice of doom in announcing her candidacy Saturday from Washington’s Union Station.
“I’m so glad that President Trump did not win the last election,” she said. “That means we didn’t go over the cliff.”
“But let me tell you something, we’re still six inches away from it,” she said. “We are six inches away from the cliff in terms of the state of our democracy. We are six inches away from the cliff in terms of the state of our environment. We are six inches away from the cliff in terms of the state of our economy.”
She painted a picture of despair for most Americans that has continued under the Biden administration.
“We don’t need any more evidence that his system is intrinsically corrupted,” she said. “We can see it in the broken windows. We can see it in the shadow of shattered factories. We can see the addiction.”
Ms. Williamson began setting up her 2024 bid last month, teasing “an important announcement” on her webpage under the address events.marianne2024.com.
As speculation grew, she provided insight into why she would seek to replace Mr. Biden on the Democratic ticket in an interview with The Washington Times.
“Joe Biden deserves credit where credit is due, for one thing, he defeated Donald Trump, and … because he did that, America didn’t fall off the cliff,” Ms. Williamson told The Times last month. “On the other hand, we’re still six inches away from it.”
“I see President Biden as someone who is trying his best to help people survive an unjust system,” she said. “The Democratic Party shouldn’t stand for trying to help people survive an unjust system, the Democratic Party should stand for ending an unjust system.”
Mr. Biden entered the 2022 election cycle facing lots of skepticism from the leftwing of the party and appeared ripe for a challenge from a well-known progressive candidate.
Things changed after the party’s stronger-than-expected showing in the midterm elections where Democrats defied expectations.
The party overcame Mr. Biden’s low job-approval ratings and deep concerns about inflation, crime and border security to defend its slim majority in the Senate and give House Republicans only the narrowest and least-workable majority in decades.
Mr. Biden has long said it’s his intention to seek a second term, but he has held off on an official announcement.
Ms. Williamson, who has never held public office, had some moments during debates in the 2020 race. But she dropped out in January before any primary or caucus votes had been cast and she was still registering around 1% in polls.
Still, Ms. Williamson told The Times the American people are “waking up” to the reality they are being “played” by a federal government that has been “acting as a vehicle to chop wood and carry water for an oligarchic matrix in this country.”
“So we have about 20% of Americans who are doing pretty well,” she said. “I am among them, by the way, but we live on an enchanted island that is surrounded by a gargantuan sea of economic anxiety and despair.”
Most Americans, Ms. Williamson said, are living paycheck-to-paycheck, tens of thousands of people die each year from a lack of health care, millions of children live in hunger and tens of millions more are uninsured or underinsured.
“We truly are in our second Gilded Age,” the 70-year-old said, lamenting how the gap between the wealthy and the working class has been widening for decades. “The last one was met by Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.”
Ms. Williamson said the current challenges demand a bold agenda that includes passing legislation to establish universal health care, free higher education, guaranteed sick leave and paid family leave.
She said those positions are mainstream and she blamed the “corrupt” political system for casting them aside as far-flung and extreme.
“They’re not considered moderate issues because the American people have been played,” she said. “We are no longer functioning as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
“We are functioning as a government of, by, and for huge corporate interests, who put their short-term profits before the safety, health, and well-being of the American people and the planet on which we live,” she said.
She said the recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, is a byproduct of a crony capitalist system in which railroad companies sent donations to elected leaders to stave off regulations that could make communities more safe.
Ms. Williamson said the current situation demands an end to the status quo in Washington.
“It’s time to ask ‘how can I serve?,’” she said on Saturday. “I’m not saying that one person can fix it. I’m not saying even one president can fix it. But let me tell you something, a president who lays it down and says it like it is would do a lot of good.”
“As of today, I’m a candidate for the office of President of the United States,” she said.