Marianne Williamson promotes ‘outside the box’ agenda at Iowa yoga studio

At a yoga studio in Iowa City, author and spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson said she is the candidate to bring a transformation to American politics.


Jenna Galligan

2020 Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson speaks at Heartland Yoga on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. The author compared the government to the human body, promoting ongoing healing.

Caleb McCullough, Politics Reporter

Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson pitched herself as a political outsider at Heartland Yoga in Iowa City on Sunday, saying she is uniquely positioned to address fundamental problems she identifies in American politics.

Around 30 people were in the compact yoga studio, some seated on pillows on the ground to hear Williamson speak. Williamson criticized the political landscape, advocating for a return to moral leadership in the presidency.

She brought up her lack of previous political experience, framing it as a strength that will allow her to change a system she sees as corrupt.

“We’re supposed to think that only people whose careers have been entrenched for decades in the limitations of the mindset that led us into this ditch are qualified to lead us out of this ditch,” Williamson said.

An author and spiritual leader, Williamson previously ran unsuccessfully as an independent to represent California’s 33rd Congressional District in 2014.

When asked why she was seeking the presidency as her first foray into political office, Williamson said she isn’t cut out for the technical management of a governor or mayor.

Williamson said she is suited to be president because of her ability to address conceptual and abstract problems facing the country and consider things on a deeper level. She said the job of the presidency is less about administrative work and more about moral leadership.

“I believe the role of the presidency is someone who can see not just about the trees, but what’s happening in this forest,” she said.

Heartland Yoga owner Betsy Rippentrop said the Williamson campaign reached out to her to host the event at her studio. She said she’s been a fan of Williamson’s spiritual teachings for 20 years and plans to caucus for her in February.

Rippentrop said Williamson envisions things on a macro level and works to find the source of problems, and she’s excited that Williamson is bringing this thinking to the presidential race.

“You have to think about these bigger, philosophical ideas and what’s really underneath all of the corruption in our government,” Rippentrop said. “I love how she really digs underneath and looks at the root of things, and I do feel like that’s what our country needs.”

Williamson has struggled to gain support in Iowa and nationally. In a November Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll, none of the 500 likely democratic caucusgoers polled indicated Williamson as their first choice for the Democratic nomination, and she hasn’t qualified for a Democratic debate since July.

Margareta Arvidsson, 72, is a former actress and model who won the Miss Universe pageant in 1966. Now, she resides in Fairfield, Iowa, and volunteers for Williamson’s campaign, driving the candidate to events around the state in an RV covered in campaign merchandise.

Despite Williamson’s poor standing in polls, Arvidsson said she has seen momentum growing in Iowa. She said Williamson could generate interest in her campaign even if she doesn’t win the Iowa caucuses.

“She doesn’t have to win Iowa. She doesn’t even have to be second or third,” Arvidsson said. “But if she has a strong turnout in Iowa, then people would have to take her seriously. They will have to take a second look.”

Williamson also spoke briefly at an event for World Aids Day on Sunday in the IMU. University of Iowa members of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association, IC Red, and Positive Iowans Taking Charge hosted the event.

Williamson spoke about her experience working with HIV/AIDS relief in the 1980s. Williamson started the Center for Living in Los Angeles, an outreach organization that provided support for people with life-threatening illnesses, particularly those with HIV/AIDS.