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Longshot presidential candidate has local Claremont roots

When she was an undergrad at Pomona College in the early 1970s, Marianne Williamson met Jane Fonda.

Ms. Williamson, a best-selling author and spiritual leader who is running for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, was walking with a professor, jazz critic Stanley Crouch, along Marston Quad when she bumped into the movie star.

She describes Ms. Fonda in true Marianne fashion. “I just remembered how gorgeous she was, and she looked over at us and I just saw such a light pouring out of her,” she said. “And she beamed a smile—it was Jane Fonda. At Pomona. I will never forget it.”

Ms. Williamson spoke to a full-house crowd at Pomona College’s Rose Hills Theater last Wednesday evening. The event was put on and moderated by The Student Life, the Claremont Colleges’ student newspaper. The audience ranged from students to supporters of Ms. Williamson, some of whom were clad in her colors of purple and pink.

While Ms. Williamson was a Sagehen for a couple of years, she did not graduate from Pomona. “In my junior year, I left and I told my parents I would be back in a couple of months, and it’s taken 49 years,” she quipped. “So it’s very poignant for me to be here.”

Right out of the gate, she made it clear to the crowd she was serious about her candidacy.

“We need a fundamental pattern disruption of the economic, social and political dynamics that prevail within our country,” she said.

She called President Donald Trump an “opportunistic infection,” one of a few immune system motifs she used during her roughly 45-minute speech.

“He could not have gotten hold of us, his agenda could not have gotten hold of us, had there not been a weakened societal immune system,” she said. “And each and every one of us should think of ourselves in a way as immune cells in our body politic.”

Ms. Williamson, 67, advocates for many progressive ideas that wouldn’t be out of form from a more left-leaning candidate such as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren—she talked about how trickle-down economics created a wealth gap between the one percent and the 99 percent. She has advocated for repealing the 2017 tax cuts, ending corporate subsidies, lowering drug prices, taxing billionaires, making college free and abolishing student loans.

But she also proposes creating two additional cabinet positions—the Department of Children and Youth and the Department of Peace. She is also fervently in favor of reparations for the descendants of African-American slaves.

The plan, she said, is to set aside $500 million and disperse it over 20 years through a reparations council. She justified it though historical precedent—Germany paying $89 billion to Jewish groups after World War II and Ronald Reagan giving thousands of dollars to surviving prisoners of Japanese internment camps.

“As were all talking these days about white privilege and understanding white privilege and atoning in our hearts, you know what, if you took $1,000 from me, I would appreciate the apology, but I would still like my money back,” Ms. Williamson said.  

Ever since she threw her hat into the ring, Ms. Williamson, who once was described as Oprah’s “spiritual advisor,” has been relegated to a peculiar outsider in a crowded field of presidential hopefuls. Her speech about defeating Donald Trump with “love” in the June debate spawned a deluge of reactions and memes across social media.

“After the second debate I was the most Googled person in 49 states,” Ms. Williamson said, to applause from her supporters. “One of the states that I was not the most Googled in was Montana, and Montana’s governor was on the stage, so clearly Montana said, ‘Who is he?’”

Montana Governor Steve Bullock is a fellow Democratic candidate and Claremont McKenna College alumnus.

But the dust has settled, and she is currently polling at around one percent, she missed the third debate and is having trouble getting into subsequent debates. 

She bemoaned to Marc Rod, managing editor of The Student Life and former COURIER intern, of the opinions people have about her, “That I’m anti-vaxx and I’m anti-science and I’m anti-medicine—a wacko, crystal lady.”

Those accusations have stemmed in part from her calling mandatory vaccines “Orwellian” and “draconian,” according to CNN. She has recently said she is pro-vaccination and pro-science. 

At first the memes were funny, she said, until they were not because they were “intentional.”

“I’m sure at this point, now that you’ve heard me tonight, I don’t need to tell you how inconvenient my ideas are to the prevailing establishment,” Ms. Williamson said. “And they said we’ve got to shut this down now. And they did in terms of their situation with the polls and all of that with which they seek to narrow the field basically to their club.”

She told the COURIER that at the time, she “didn’t have the money to create a counter-narrative” through television ads.

“It was such an onslaught,” she said.

She told the crowd that roughly $1 million is needed to keep herself afloat in the race and asked for donations though her website. She mentioned there’s enough money to keep going, “but if I don’t have TV ads there’s no way of any chance of me placing.

“When I’m in front of people, I know I can connect,” she said. “But when you’re not on the debates and you don’t have TV ads, you just don’t have the chance of reaching enough people.”

Despite being far from the upper echelon of candidates, Ms. Williamson has shown no sign of stopping her campaign.

“My heart says to be here. My heart says I was supposed to be here tonight,” she said. “My heart is not saying leave. And the last thing I’m going to do is skulk away, given the forces that have in effect told me to go away and go away quietly. It’s not my personality to bow to that kind of intimidation.”

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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