Presidential long shot Williamson assesses debate performance: ‘I said some very substantive things’

Self-help guru and best-selling author Marianne Williamson spoke Monday during Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s annual convention.

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Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson

Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson speaks at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s annual convention Monday at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Self-help guru and author Marianne Williamson, a surprise hit at last week’s Democratic presidential debate, said in Chicago Monday that the wide-ranging — sometimes mocking — social media response to her debate performance is mostly deserved.

“In looking at some of the memes, I’ve been on the floor laughing as much as anybody has, and I have not found a lot of mean-spiritedness there. America could use a good laugh,” said Williamson, 66, from Houston, Texas, who spoke at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s annual convention downtown. “I understand that this was not an environment that I was used to — the kind of political boxing — but I also understand I said some very substantive things.”

Despite sharing a stage with nine other presidential hopefuls, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and California Sen. Kamala Harris, Williamson generated some of the evening’s more memorable lines — particularly her vow for her first act as president: to call New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, recently praised for her response to a mass shooting at a mosque in her country.

Williamson, a spiritual adviser to Oprah Winfrey, didn’t talk about foreign relations Monday; instead, she focused mostly on the need for a “revolution” in America to heal a political system riddled with “disease.”

“People in America are dying of despair. People in America are dying of the trauma,” Williamson said.

Too often, she said, government caters to the needs of the powerful, ignoring the poor.

“We cannot ignore what happens when people live with chronic economic despair day in and day out,” she said. “This is where so much of the domestic violence comes from. This is where so much of the addiction comes from.”

Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson speaks with Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson talks with the Rev. Jesse Jackson before speaking at a breakfast meeting during the Rainbow PUSH coalition’s annual convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago on Monday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Williamson, whose books have been on best-seller lists, said she considers herself a capitalist.

“But there is a virulent strain of capitalism that has now embedded itself — not only in our economics, but in our political system. . . . That virulent form of capitalism requires cheap labor,” she said. “And if you require cheap labor, you require people who are desperate enough to do anything to work.”

She blasted a system where huge tax cuts for the wealthy are favored over helping kids in “gun-violence-ridden neighborhoods where there aren’t even enough glue sticks and paper in their classrooms, when they go to school hungry.”

So what would she do?

“We have the social workers, we have the experts in early childhood, we have the elementary school teachers,” she said. “We have all the people who have the skill sets to help the children.”

Williamson was the latest of several presidential hopefuls to visit the Rainbow PUSH convention. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also spoke Monday. Biden spoke on Friday. On Saturday, the convention heard from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.;,and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). And on Tuesday, South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg will appear.

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