Students and community members packed the auditorium at MSU’s Broad College of Business on Monday night to hear from an unlikely presidential candidate– author and spiritual leader Marianne Williamson.
In the event hosted by the MSU College Democrats, Williamson drew applause from the crowd for her stances on structural reform of American political and economic institutions.
Williamson, who’s currently polling at 8% in the race for the Democratic nomination for president, said that her experience visiting colleges and universities was a significant factor in making her decision to run for president. She said speaking to college students helped form her economic and social platforms.
“It is my sense that you feel as I do that there's no way in hell you should live your lives under the effect of bad economic ideas leftover from the 20th century,” Williamson said.
In her speech, Williamson addressed several issues that have been at the forefront of youth politics in America— from student loan debt relief to national legalization of marijuana. She said that canceling students’ debts is a key part of her campaign.
“I can't even imagine what it would be like to be in my twenties carrying tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt," Williamson said, "The only reason you're carrying the debt is because you're trying to better your life.”
Williamson acknowledged that her surge of popularity amongst young people and college students was largely due to a recent viral turn on social media, telling the audience they "probably know me from Tiktok."
Among people 18-25 years old, Williamson's favorability polling rises to 18%.
Williamson devoted a large portion of her speech to speaking out against economic inequality, calling for a “revolution at the ballot box” to ensure social services like universal healthcare and tuition-free public college in the face of corporate interests.
“What it will take to override this is an arousal of consciousness among the American people so great that we will flood the ballot boxes,” Williamson said. “We will have a revolution at the ballot box and we will have an inspirational burst of energy.”
After Williamson’s speech and a question-and-answer session, students and other audience members lined up to take photos with Williamson. While waiting in line for a selfie, pre-law junior Sebastian Linares said that he was energized by Williamson’s remarks, even though he wasn’t originally a supporter during Williamson’s first campaign.
“She had a sort of spiritualist, holistic message back then, but this time around, she's talking a lot more about the economic situation in this country– about the endless push towards war, against all these privatized industries and all these things that are driving down the standard of living and are burning people,” Linares said.
Linares and his friend, agribusiness management senior Mateo Ponton, attended the event because they were supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020, and felt that Williamson held many of the same policy stances that the two admired in Sanders’ platform.
Ponton said that his attraction to Williamson as a candidate stemmed from frustration with establishment Democratic politicians.
“I'm a Democrat, through and through, but I just believe that right now, like she said, there's some Democratic leaders that are just not taking things in the right way,” Ponton said.
Both Linares and Ponton said that if the Democratic primary were to occur tomorrow, they’d cast their votes for Williamson. However, she’s considered a long-shot candidate for the nomination, especially against President Joe Biden.
Biden announced his campaign for reelection the morning after Williamson's speech, on Tuesday, April 25.
Regardless, Williamson said she hopes to be considered on an equal level to candidates like Biden or Robert Kennedy Jr., the two other candidates currently in the Democratic field. In fact, she said she sees her outsider status as an advantage.
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“The last person you should be expecting to take us out of the ditch is someone whose career has been entrenched in the car that leads us into the ditch,” Williamson said.
Williamson criticized the establishment set of the Democratic party, calling party leadership “corporatists” who are seeking to relieve stress instead of making institutional changes. When asked how she differs from Biden, Williamson laughed and said she wasn’t sure where to begin.
“The president is taking an incremental approach to change,” Williamson said. “The president is not seeking any fundamental economic reform.”
For Linares, Williamson's vision was exactly the type of progressivism he wanted to see– he said he hopes people will realize that they deserve better than their current situation and vote accordingly.
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