Opinion | The Democratic primary needs more crystals and good vibes

Chance Phillips, Contributing Columnist

To be frank, Marianne Williamson will not be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 2024. You should still vote for her in the primary.

Williamson is a 2020 Democratic primary “also-ran” who basically ran the derivative, vaguely woo-woo campaign one expects from a spiritual New Age-y self-help author.

Her 2024 campaign, in contrast, cribs from the Bernie Sanders playbook of actually addressing the elephant in the room: America’s horrific inequality.

Williamson’s platform includes firm commitments to single-payer healthcare and wartime-level mobilization against climate change as part of a deep moral critique of the modern economy. Her viral TikToks showcase plans for how President Williamson would support organized labor.

To win, Williamson needs to wrestle the Democratic nomination away from current President Joe Biden. It would be an uphill battle.

When primary challenges to incumbents like Biden are discussed, Ronald Reagan’s 1976 challenge of then-President Gerald Ford and Pat Buchanan’s 1992 challenge of then-President George H.W. Bush come up often.

The story goes: Primary challenges to incumbent presidents divided the party, resulting in the failed reelection bids. Therefore, running against an incumbent president in the primary means putting the general election at risk.

What’s missing from this story are any specifics. Ford may have lost in ’76, but Reagan won both the nomination and the presidency four years later.

Bush lost in ’92, but he had broken a major campaign pledge to not raise taxes, had presided over a recession and was running in the first presidential election with three major contenders since 1980 (arguably since 1968).

Buchanan’s candidacy also showed how unsuccessful campaigns can inspire future candidates. Buchanan drew direct inspiration from former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke’s failed run for Louisiana governor.

Even though Duke lost the gubernatorial election by more than 20 points, he had won the Republican nomination and Louisiana’s white vote by using Reagan’s rhetoric to appeal to voters’ racial animus.

Buchanan took this as a sign that a much more vicious and overtly racialized politics, known as “paleoconservatism,” could find success in the Republican Party.

It’s obvious Marianne Williamson chose to run again because of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. 

Sanders’ and Warren’s campaigns showed progressives are a significant block within the Democratic Party, and they are incredibly dissatisfied with the status quo. The Biden presidency hasn’t changed that.

After young voters’ preferred candidate, Bernie Sanders, lost the 2020 primary, young adults still overwhelmingly voted for Biden in the general election. Over the past few years, there has been a veritable torrent of pieces saying Biden could deliver on some of Sanders’ campaign promises and become a new Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

It is undeniably true Biden has been shockingly progressive for someone selected in 2008 as a moderate counterbalance to the progressive Barack Obama.

He has done things Obama would never have considered, like trying to cancel student debt by executive action. Despite this, Biden doesn’t seem like he still has the fire in his belly to be an effective progressive populist, if he ever did.

Denying railway workers their right to strike and needing constant popular pressure before using the presidency’s powers to help struggling Americans are not indicative of a new 21st-century Roosevelt.

Voting for Williamson in the absence of any more serious progressive option may be the only way to make it clear that even if young voters will vote for Biden again, we demand a future simple Eisenhowerian statesmanship could never create.

Freed from the need to be reelected, many second-term presidents double down in the hope of creating a legacy. If Biden is reelected in 2024, he should take the oath of office again knowing millions of Americans need him to double down on economic populism, on delivering good safe jobs, affordable housing and accessible health care.

A strong showing for Williamson in the 2024 primary would also show potential 2028 presidential candidates there is a high floor of support for candidates willing to argue that the future can be better and that the American people do deserve more.

Democratic politicos obviously dreaming of life in the White House, like California Gov. Gavin Newsom, must feel like they need to start working on establishing their progressive bona fides right away. The path to the presidency ought to require a history of ambitious progressive policy making, like publicly manufacturing insulin, overturning laws infringing on workers’ rights and creating public options for health insurance.

Generation Z is the generation most willing to admit the government “should do more to solve problems” facing the world today and for good reason. Our childhoods were shaped by private finance tanking the global economy, and we are entering adulthood after decades of college tuition, health care costs and housing prices skyrocketing.

Despite this, young adults don’t vote. The politicians who represent us are older and more moderate than us because the people who vote for them in primaries and general elections are older and more moderate.

If you want to live in an America where you aren’t stuck in perpetual debt and where everyone enjoys freedom and dignity, you need to vote for candidates who will fight for you, in every primary, general election and runoff you can legally vote in.

The first step you take toward a better, kinder future could be voting for Marianne Williamson to be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee.