Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson

Author and businesswoman

Marianne Williamson is an activist and entrepreneur whose writing and public speaking has focused on self-help, spiritual development, and relief for those with HIV/AIDS and other illnesses. She is running to spark a “moral and spiritual awakening” and criticizes an approach to foreign policy that relies on military force. 

In 2014 she ran unsuccessfully as an independent for a House of Representatives seat from California. Originally from Houston, Texas, she attended Pomona College in California for two years but did not receive a degree.

China

Williamson is critical of China over the theft of intellectual property and the country’s “drive to dominate global markets.” She says the United States must push back on Beijing’s human rights record.

  • Williamson warns about Chinese commercial espionage and disregard of intellectual property rights, and she told CFR that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) should be tougher on Chinese acquisitions of U.S. companies.
  • She says President Donald J. Trump is right in taking a tough stance on China but calls his tariffs too blunt of an instrument.
  • She says the plight of Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province reflects Beijing’s “aggressive drive for domination.” She promises to raise the issue, as well as her concern over Beijing’s “authoritarian push for greater control” in Hong Kong, with China’s leaders.

Climate and Energy

Williamson calls climate change a “psychological and moral challenge” and calls for an “emergency mobilization effort” on the scale of World War II, along the lines of the Green New Deal proposal championed by many Democrats.

  • Her climate plan calls for bringing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045, the power sector to net zero by 2040, and emissions from new buildings to zero by 2028.
  • She would do this by implementing a carbon tax, ending all subsidies for fossil fuels, banning all fracking, ending all oil and gas leases on federal lands, increasing federal clean energy incentives, and expanding direct investment in clean energy and new power grids.
  • She would reinstate the Clean Power Plan, a Barack Obama–era regulation to move power plants away from coal that Trump has opposed, and reinstate vehicle emissions standards that Trump has weakened. 
  • She would mandate that all vehicles built from 2035 run on electric power and would ban fossil-fuel cars from the roads by 2050. She promises to electrify all railways by 2030 and increase federal funding for urban mass transit.
  • She calls for pulling carbon out of the atmosphere through natural means such as planting trees and restoring wetlands, shifting people toward plant-rich diets, and protecting tropical forests.
  • She would break up large agricultural conglomerates because, as she argues, their practices are the greatest source of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.
  • She would immediately reenter the Paris Agreement on climate, from which Trump withdrew, and seek to strengthen its emissions-reduction targets.
  • She says reducing U.S. dependence on oil will save “potentially trillions of dollars from being wasted on foreign wars.”
  • She opposes the use of nuclear power.

Counterterrorism

Williamson says that a military response to terrorism can only partially solve the problem.

  • She calls for greater economic development and investment in education and women’s rights as strategies for preventing terrorism around the world.
  • She told CFR that the United States should be more involved in Africa to support states that could fail, and in turn lead to the rise of terrorist groups. 
  • She says drone strikes or other military actions against American citizens suspected of terrorism are unconstitutional. 

Cybersecurity and Digital Policy

Williamson has not spoken extensively about cybersecurity issues, but she warns that U.S. elections remain vulnerable to hacking by foreign adversaries, especially Russia.

  • She told CFR that Russia launched a “cyber Pearl Harbor attack” against the United States, referring to Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. She says she supports “massively strengthened cybersecurity.” 
  • She believes that big tech companies may need to be broken up to allow for increased competition.

Defense

While acknowledging that the use of force is sometimes necessary, Williamson is a critic of high levels of military spending and emphasizes peace-building efforts. 

  • She would create a cabinet-level department of peace to counterbalance the Department of Defense. It would focus on preventing conflict, replacing military aid with peace-building programs, and increasing humanitarian aid. 
  • She criticizes U.S. defense spending, which amounts to more than the next nine largest countries combined, arguing that military action “leaves the true, underlying problems unaddressed.” She says the approximately $700 billion defense budget includes money that the military doesn’t want or need and should be cut.
  • She calls for a ten-to-twenty-year plan to build a “peace-time” economy that would repurpose military resources and talent toward efforts including developing clean energy and infrastructure.
  • She told CFR that there is “no hope of military victory” in Afghanistan but that before withdrawing U.S. troops she would consult Afghan women to ensure their rights are upheld in any peace agreement.
  • She affirms that it is the sole privilege of Congress to declare war and says the president must seek fresh congressional authorizations for any use of the military.
  • She raises veteran suicide, homelessness, and health struggles to argue for better care for those returning from war. Her plan for veterans includes more resources for the Department of Veterans Affairs, a system for giving veterans affordable housing, and improved mental health services.

Diplomacy and Foreign Aid

Williamson’s proposals to shift from a “war economy” to a “peace economy” include a strong commitment to diplomacy, humanitarian aid, and the State Department. 

  • She says she would increase the State Department budget, which Trump has sought to slash, and appoint a “world class” diplomat as secretary of state.
  • She points out that the State Department budget is roughly $40 billion, compared with a military budget of more than $700 billion, which she calls unacceptable.
  • She would boost humanitarian assistance by increasing the budget of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to make the United States a “beacon of hope” around the world.
  • Williamson’s department of peace would be devoted to conflict resolution, childhood education, women’s rights, food security, health, and other aid programs.
  • She says she would rejoin major international agreements that Trump has withdrawn from, including the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal.
  • She told CFR that the Marshall Plan, a post–World War II effort to rebuild Europe, was the United States’ greatest foreign policy accomplishment.

Economic Policy

Williamson argues that society has become organized around short-term profits with no ethical responsibility, rather than democratic principles, marking a “radical departure” from America’s founding values. She wants federal investments to reduce wealth inequality and financial insecurity.

  • Her economic policy plan calls the 2017 tax reform, which cut both corporate rates and individual income tax rates, “an economic theft of resources” that could have gone toward clean energy, infrastructure, and education. 
  • She would repeal the corporate tax cuts, raise estate taxes and other taxes on the wealthy, and institute a tax on financial transactions.
  • She would invest “billions of dollars” in infrastructure, clean energy, and public transit.
  • She would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, guarantee paid leave for all employees, and offer a $1,000 universal basic income along the lines of fellow candidate Andrew Yang’s proposal. 
  • She promises to “hold Wall Street accountable.” She backs reviving Glass-Steagall—a law that previously separated commercial and investment banking—ruling out bank bailouts, and breaking up “too big to fail” banks. 
  • She proposes free college or technical school and action on addressing the nation’s $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, including zeroing out interest rates and in some cases full forgiveness.
  • She would institute a national service program requiring all Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six to perform one year of service in one of a wide array of fields.

Immigration

Williamson says that immigration is at the heart of U.S. identity, and she criticizes Trump for “scapegoating” immigrants for political gain.

  • She says she doesn’t support open borders, but maintains that there is no crisis at the southern border, as Trump and other immigration restrictionists argue. She points out that undocumented immigration has been going down in recent years and that immigrants have lower-than-average rates of criminality. 
  • She backs immigration reform to provide a path to citizenship for the estimated eleven million undocumented residents in the United States.
  • She promises to end family separations at the border, reduce detentions and close private detention centers, fund a “vast increase” in immigration judges to speed up the asylum process, and expand asylum protections for LGBTQ+ people.
  • She supports the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shielded those brought to the United States as children from deportation.
  • She is against expanding the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, as Trump has championed, pointing out that many undocumented residents are overstaying legal visas.
  • She wants to invest in “smart border security” that focuses on disrupting transnational drug and human trafficking rather than blocking asylum seekers. This would include more electronic surveillance and border guards.
  • She blames, in part, the war on drugs and “failed United States intervention in Latin America” for creating the conditions that have prompted people to seek asylum in the United States.

Middle East

Williamson advocates for her peace-building ethos in her approach to the Middle East, calling for increased diplomacy with Israel and Iran and promising to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

  • She affirms her commitment to the “legitimate security of Israel” and supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 
  • She told CFR that she considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal and opposes the blockade of Gaza. She says she would “put pressure” on Israel to restart negotiations.
  • She called Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “unnecessarily aggressive.” She has issued conflicting statements on whether she would move it back. She would, however, rescind Trump’s affirmation of Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights. 
  • She says Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal strengthened hard-liners in Tehran, and she promises to rejoin the agreement. She warns that Saudi Arabia “would like to provoke a war” with Iran and pledges to resist.
  • She would distance the United States from Saudi Arabia, arguing that the country’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks has been forgotten. 
  • She promises to end U.S. support for the “genocidal” Saudi-led war in Yemen, stop U.S. arms sales to Riyadh and its allies, and press for an independent investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • She has previously opposed U.S. bombing in Syria, arguing that military force will not solve the country’s civil war.

North Korea

Williamson supports efforts to reduce tensions with North Korea and pledges to pursue talks to dismantle the country’s nuclear program and end the Korean War.

  • Williamson told CFR she favors a general reduction of tensions with Pyongyang, which she says will “naturally” lead to productive talks on denuclearization.
  • She calls for a variety of trust-building measures, including “citizen diplomacy,” reuniting families separated by the Korean War, and increased trade and humanitarian relief efforts. She also supports negotiations to declare an official end to the Korean War.
  • She would offer partial sanctions relief in exchange for “serious dismantling” of North Korea’s nuclear program. She opposes sanctions generally, arguing that they usually fail, harm innocent people, and increase tensions that can lead to war.

Russia

Williamson warns of the threat of election interference by Russia in the United States, Ukraine, and the European Union, arguing that U.S. elections remain vulnerable to hacking. 

  • She told CFR that Russia launched a “cyber Pearl Harbor attack” against the United States, referring to Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. She says the United States needs “massively strengthened cybersecurity.” 
  • She says that the methods Russia used on the United States were first used against Ukraine, and she supports “vigorous investigation” of Russian tactics in Ukraine and throughout Europe.

Trade

Williamson offers conditional support for global trade deals, saying they can expand markets for U.S. products, create jobs, and strengthen U.S. alliances, but that they must be “structured fairly” to include strong protections for workers, the environment, and indigenous communities.

  • She told CFR that she cannot support Obama’s signature Asia-Pacific trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), from which Trump withdrew, without greater protections for workers and the environment.
  • She says Trump is right in taking a tough stance on China because of its intellectual property theft and other trade abuses, but calls tariffs too blunt of an instrument.

Venezuela and Latin America

Williamson is a staunch opponent of U.S. intervention in Latin America, opposing Trump’s efforts to force Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro to step down and arguing that U.S. policy in the region has done more harm than good. 

  • She told CFR that Washington’s efforts at regime change in Venezuela, dating back to a failed coup against former President Hugo Chavez in 2002, have made things worse in Venezuela and have “arguably harmed U.S. regional interests.”
  • She calls Trump’s support for opposition leader Juan Guaido, who in January 2019 was recognized by many South American and European countries as the rightful interim president, “counterproductive.” She opposes U.S. sanctions that she says are making the economic crisis worse and driving the refugee crisis. 
  • She says Washington should instead “help create the conditions for effective dialogue” by supporting moderates who seek a peaceful transition. 
  • She blames, in part, the war on drugs and “failed United States intervention in Latin America” for creating the conditions that have prompted people from Central America and elsewhere to seek asylum in the United States.

This project was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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