Marianne Williamson, the self-help author and spiritual guru who became a viral sensation in the first Democratic primary debates before fizzling out, announced on Friday that she is ending her bid for president.
"I ran for president to help forge another direction for our country. I wanted to discuss things I felt needed to be discussed that otherwise were not. I feel that we have done that," she said in a post on her website. "I stayed in the race to take advantage of every possible effort to share our message."
However, she said, "with caucuses and primaries now about to begin ... we will not be able to garner enough votes in the election to elevate our conversation any more than it is now. The primaries might be tightly contested among the top contenders, and I don’t want to get in the way of a progressive candidate winning any of them. As of today, therefore, I’m suspending my campaign."
Williamson, a onetime spiritual adviser to Oprah Winfrey whose only other bid for office was a fourth-place finish in a 2014 California congressional primary, made a name for herself with an unconventional — and meme-able — pair of appearances in the party’s first debates of the 2020 cycle. She quickly came under harsh scrutiny, however, for her past skepticism toward vaccines and antidepressants.
News of Williamson’s impending exit from the race broke last week when reports surfaced that she had laid off her entire campaign staff. Her departure comes about a month before the first votes of the primary are set to be cast as the Democratic field begins to shrink. But the same night, she pledged to continue in the race with only a "volunteer" campaign staff.
It was not immediately clear what the catalyst for her exit ultimately was. Williamson told a journalist from Elon University just Thursday that she remained in the race "to the extent to which I wake up in the morning and my heart says be in the race. So this morning, I woke up and I knew I was supposed to be here tonight."
Williamson made reparations for descendants of slaves a key component of her campaign, and in an effort to resuscitate her flagging effort last fall, she became the first candidate to air campaign ads focusing on the subject.
But while her embrace of the idea of reparations was not unique among fellow White House hopefuls, Williamson also introduced more unconventional policy proposals like creating a cabinet-level Department of Peace and a Department of Children and Youth, while preaching a message of love and pushing “six pillars for a season of moral repair.”
She ultimately failed to break through in a historically crowded field of candidates, struggling to crack 1 percent in qualifying polls for months. After appearing in the first two party debates, she didn’t make the cut for the four most recent debates even as she managed to outlast sitting mayors, governors and members of Congress in the race.
On Friday, she expressed her "deepest gratitude to those of you who supported my candidacy for all these months," adding that "the ideas we discussed are important, and I hope they’ll find seed in other ways and in other campaigns."
And like nearly every other candidate who dropped out of the race before her, Williamson made no mention of endorsing one of her former rivals in her announcement on Friday. "Whichever one of you wins the nomination, I will be there with all my energy and in full support," she wrote.
Williamson’s debut on the debate stage — an appearance during which she railed against the idea of “plans,” spoke of harnessing love for political purposes, and pledged to make her first presidential phone call to New Zealand’s prime minister — vaulted her to a viral position on the national stage. She also became popular among Republicans who cheered the entertainment value of her candidacy and called for donating to her campaign to keep her in future debates.
But with the uptick in national attention came significant scrutiny for her persistent questioning of vaccine safety while she professed to be “pro-science” and merely anti-Big Pharma. Internet sleuths also resurfaced past comments in which she dismissed depression as a scam and questioned the merits of antidepressants. She apologized for some of her controversial remarks, but attributed the onslaught of criticism to a smear campaign originating on the left.
Williamson also struggled to push back on the perception that she’s a “crystal woo woo lady” and expressed frustration after her debate performances that she was not being taken more seriously in the campaign.
But overall, her closing words for her campaign struck a hopeful tone, with Williamson writing that "I learned many things about America during this campaign" and that "I’m more convinced than ever that we’re a good and decent people, that democracy matters, and that what our country has always stood for is worth struggling for."
"A politics of conscience is still yet possible," she concluded. "And yes….love will prevail."