President Trump on Modernizing Our Immigration System for a Stronger America

Rose Garden
2:35 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, everybody.  Thank you.  Please.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

We’re here on this very beautiful spring day in the Rose Garden to unveil our plan to create a fair, modern, and lawful system of immigration for the United States.  And it’s about time.  (Applause.)

If adopted, our plan will transform America’s immigration system into the pride of our nation and the envy of the modern world.  Our proposal builds upon our nation’s rich history of immigration, while strengthening the bonds of citizenship that bind us together as a national family.

Throughout our history, we have proudly welcomed newcomers to our shores.  Out of many people, from many places, we have forged one people and one nation under God, and we’re very proud of it.  (Applause.)  We share the same home, we share the same destiny, and we pledge allegiance to the same, great American flag.  (Applause.)

Our policies have turbo-charged our economy.  Now, we must implement an immigration system that will allow our citizens to prosper for generations to come.

Today, we are presenting a clear contrast: Democrats are proposing open borders, lower wages, and, frankly, lawless chaos.  We are proposing an immigration plan that puts the jobs, wages, and safety of American workers first.  (Applause.)

Our proposal is pro-American, pro-immigrant, and pro-worker.  It’s just common sense.  It will help all of our people, including millions of devoted immigrants, to achieve the American Dream.

We are grateful to be joined this afternoon by a tremendous number of people from the House, the Senate, and my Cabinet.  And I love you all, but I won’t introduce you all because I’ll be here all day long.  (Laughter.)  But you’re all here.

Our plan achieves two critical goals.  First, it stops illegal immigration and fully secures the border.  And, second, it establishes a new legal immigration system that protects American wages, promotes American values, and attracts the best and brightest from all around the world.

The proposal begins with the most complete and effective border security package ever assembled by our country — or any other country, for that matter.  (Applause.)  It’s so important.

This plan was not developed, I’m sorry to say, by politicians.  We have a lot of politicians.  But you respect the people and you know the people that have developed this plan.  It was designed with significant input from our great law enforcement professionals to detail what they need to make our border — which is 100 percent operationally secure.  One hundred percent.

Everyone agrees that the physical infrastructure on the border and the ports of entry is gravely underfunded and woefully inadequate.  We scan only a small fraction of the vehicles, goods, and all of the other things coming across, including people.  And, sadly, the drugs pour across our border.  We’re going to stop it.

Investment in technology will ensure we can scan 100 percent of everything coming through, curbing the flow of drugs and contraband, while speeding up legal trade and commerce.  It’s the most heavily traded — monetarily — border anywhere in the world, and it’s not even close.

To make certain that we are constantly making the upgrades we need, our proposal creates a permanent and self-sustaining border security trust fund.  This will be financed by the fees and revenues generated at the border crossings itself.

Importantly, we’re already building the wall, and we should have close to 400 miles built by the end of next year, and probably even more than that.  It’s going up very rapidly.  (Applause.)

And I want to thank the Army Corps of Engineers.  They’re doing a fantastic job on the wall.  And that’s a wall that is desperately needed.

As we close the gaps in our physical framework, we must also close the gaps in our legal framework.  Critical to ending the border crisis is removing all incentives for smuggling women and children.  Current law — (applause).  That’s right.  That’s right.  Women and children.  People have no idea how bad it is unless you’re there, and unless you are a member of law enforcement.  They see it every day, and they can’t believe what they see.

Current law and federal court rulings encourage criminal organizations to smuggle children across the border.  The tragic result is that 65 percent of all border-crossers this year were either minors or adults traveling with minors.  Our plan will change the law to stop the flood of child smuggling and to humanely reunite unaccompanied children with their families back home — and rapidly.  As soon as possible.  (Applause.)

We must also restore the integrity of our broken asylum system.  Our nation has a proud history of affording protection to those fleeing government persecutions.  Unfortunately, legitimate asylum seekers are being displaced by those lodging frivolous claims — these are frivolous claims — to gain admission into our country.

Asylum abuse also strains our public school systems, our hospitals, and local shelters, using funds that we should, and that have to, go to elderly veterans, at-risk youth, Americans in poverty, and those in genuine need of protection.  We’re using the funds that should be going to them.  And that shouldn’t happen.  And it’s not going to happen in a very short period of time.  Have to get this approved.

My plan expedites relief for legitimate asylum seekers by screening out the meritless claims.  If you have a proper claim, you will quickly be admitted; if you don’t, you will promptly be returned home.

Crucially — (applause) — our plan closes loopholes in federal law to make clear that gang members and criminals are inadmissible.  These are some of the worst people anywhere in the world — MS-13 and others.  Inadmissible.  Not coming in.  We’re taking them out all the time by the thousands, a year, but they come in.  They are no longer admissible.  And for criminals already here, we will ensure their swift deportation.  (Applause.)

We will keep our communities safe.  Americans can have complete and total confidence that under this plan, the borders will finally be fully and totally secured.  (Applause.)

And I know a number of our Republican friends and others — Lindsey, I see you sitting right there, and Steve, you’re working on a plan — an immediate plan.  A smaller plan, but a very immediate plan to stop it as of this afternoon.  So, as fast as you can get something done.  This is the big, beautiful, bold plan, but we need something very quickly.  And if you can get it done, that would be fantastic.  Okay?  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Appreciate you working on it.

A topic of less discussion in national media, but of vital importance to our country, is our legal immigration system itself.  Our plan includes a sweeping modernization of our dysfunctional legal immigration process.  It is totally dysfunctional.  The system will finally be fair, transparent, and promote equality and opportunity for all.

Every year, we admit 1.1 million immigrants as permanent legal residents.  These green card holders get lifetime authorization to live and work here and a five-year path to American citizenship.  This is the most prized citizenship anywhere in the world, by far.

Currently, 66 percent of legal immigrants come here on the basis of random chance.  They’re admitted solely because they have a relative in the United States.  And it doesn’t really matter who that relative is.  Another 21 percent of immigrants are issued either by random lottery, or because they are fortunate enough to be selected for humanitarian relief.

Random selection is contrary to American values and blocks out many qualified potential immigrants from around the world who have much to contribute.  While countless — and you wouldn’t believe how many countries, like Canada, create a clear path for top talent.  America does not.

Under the senseless rules of the current system, we’re not able to give preference to a doctor, a researcher, a student who graduated number one in his class from the finest colleges in the world — anybody.  We’re not able to take care of it.  We’re not able to make those incredible breakthroughs.  If somebody graduates top of their class from the best college, sorry, go back to your country.  We want to keep them here.

Companies are moving offices to other countries because our immigration rules prevent them from retaining highly skilled and even, if I might, totally brilliant people.  We discriminate against genius.  We discriminate against brilliance.  We won’t anymore, once we get this passed.  And we hope to get it passed as soon as possible.  (Applause.)

Some of the most skilled students at our world-class universities are going back home because they have no relatives to sponsor them here in the United States.  And that’s the only way.  We want these exceptional students and workers to stay, and flourish, and thrive in America.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

As a result of our broken rules, the annual green card flow is mostly low-wage and low-skilled.  Newcomers compete for jobs against the most vulnerable Americans and put pressure on our social safety net and generous welfare programs.

Only 12 percent of legal immigrants are selected based on skill or based on merit.  In countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand — and others — that number is closer to 60 and even 70 and 75 percent, in some cases.

The biggest change we make is to increase the proportion of highly skilled immigration from 12 percent to 57 percent, and we’d like to even see if we can go higher.  (Applause.)  This will bring us in line with other countries and make us globally competitive.

At the same time, we prioritize the immediate family of new Americans — spouses and children.  The loved ones you choose to build a life with, we prioritize.  And we have to do that.  They go right to the front of the line.  Right to the front of the line, where they should be.  (Applause.)

America’s last major overhaul of our legal admissions policy was 54 years ago.  Think of that.  So a major update — and that’s what this is: merit system and a heart system — is long overdue.

The millions of legal immigrants who have come to America over the past half century are now cherished members of our national family.  Going forward — (applause) — it is their interest, and in their interest, and their children’s interest, to adopt a green card system that promotes a rising standard of living for all of our citizens.

Three in four new jobs at the end of last year went to Americans previously out of the workforce.  Our economy is better probably than it ever has been in the history of our country.  (Applause.)  And because of that great economy, we’re able to do things that nobody ever thought possible before, and that’s what we’re going to do for immigration, finally.

Wages are rising but our current immigration system works at cross-purposes, placing downward pressure on wages for the working class, which is what we don’t want to do.

Last year, we also passed historic criminal justice reform.  (Applause.)  And we had tremendous backing — bipartisan — from Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals.  I guess we could also use the word “progressives.”  A new word that’s come about.

Americans with criminal records are getting a second chance at life in higher numbers than ever before.  Unfortunately, the current immigration rules allow foreign workers to substitute for Americans seeking entry-level jobs.  So, foreign workers are coming in and they’re taking the jobs that would normally go to American workers.

America’s immigration system should bring in people who will expand opportunity for striving, low-income Americans, not to compete with those low-income Americans.  (Applause.)

Our proposal fulfills our sacred duty to those living here today, while ensuring America remains a welcoming country to immigrants joining us tomorrow.  And we want immigrants coming in.  We cherish the open door that we want to create for our country, but a big proportion of those immigrants must come in through merit and skill.  (Applause.)

The White House plan makes no change to the number of green cards allocated each year.  But instead of admitting people through random chance, we will establish simple, universal criteria for admission to the United States.  No matter where in the world you’re born, no matter who your relatives are, if you want to become an American citizen, it will be clear exactly what standard we ask you to achieve.  It will be made crystal clear.  (Applause.)

This will increase the diversity of immigration flows into our country.  We will replace the existing green card categories with a new visa, the Build America visa — which is what we all want to hear.  (Applause.)

Like Canada and so many other modern countries, we create an easy-to-navigate points-based selection system.  You will get more points for being a younger worker, meaning you will contribute more to our social safety net.  You will get more points for having a valuable skill, an offer of employment, an advanced education, or a plan to create jobs.

We lose people that want to start companies, and, in many cases, they’re forced to leave our country; go back, usually, to the country where they came from; and they’ll start up companies, and some of those companies are among the biggest and most successful companies today in the world.  They could’ve started them right here in the United States, where they wanted to do it in the first place.  Now they’ll have a chance.  (Applause.)

Priority will also be given to higher-wage workers, ensuring we never undercut American labor.  To protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient.

Finally, to promote integration, assimilation, and national unity, future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission.  (Applause.)

Through these steps, we will deliver an immigration system that respects, and even strengthens, our culture, our traditions, and our values.

Four months ago, I had the honor of participating in a swearing-in ceremony for new Americans, right here in the Oval Office.  It was a beautiful reminder that American citizenship is the most precious gift our nation has to offer.  When we swear in new citizens, we do more than give them a permit; we give them a history, a heritage, a home, and a future of limitless possibilities and potential.

Our nation used to pride ourselves on this capacity: our unique ability to instill the spirit of America into any human heart, into any human being.  Many of the Democrats have claimed to be for these concepts at different times in their careers and, in many cases, in very recent history.  And I hope that they will end up joining me and all of the people gathered together today in putting politics aside, putting security and wages first, and pursuing these historic reforms.  It’s time.  (Applause.)

And if for some reason — possibly political — we can’t get the Democrats to approve this merit-based, high-security plan, then we will get it approved immediately after the election, when we take back the House, keep the Senate, and, of course, hold the presidency.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

But wouldn’t it be nice to do it sooner than that?  (Laughter.)  But it’s not a very long time, is it?  Sixteen months.

One of the reasons we will win is because of our strong, fair, and pro-America immigration policy.  It’s time to restore our national unity and reaffirm our national purpose.  It is time to rebuild our country for all Americans.

Together, we will create an immigration system to make America safer, and stronger, and greater than ever before.

Thank you.  God bless you all.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

Beto O’Rourke Says He’s Running a Positive Campaign

Beto O’Rourke, who came strikingly close to ousting Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, only to lose the Senate race by slightly more than 2 points — and with it his congressional seat — isn’t discouraged.

He’s running for president, announcing a bid for the Democratic nomination in 2020 Thursday, March 14.

Last November, O’Rourke proved that a Democrat — or at least one named Beto O’Rourke — could be competitive in deep-red Texas. The moment O’Rourke lost to Cruz, his supporters (and not just those in Texas) were already calling on him to run for office again. He ran the closest Senate race in Texas since 1978, earning him national political celebrity.

He broke fundraising records and outperformed polling. His campaign landed him onstage with Willie Nelson and on a couch with Oprah Winfrey. He has been compared to Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln. He’s been consistently polling among some of the biggest 2020 names in the Democratic field in early surveys.

Important to understanding Beto O’Rourke’s success is that it’s based in ideas. Unlike other rising stars in the Democratic Party, like Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders, who got on the map because of a nerd fight over concrete policy proposals — O’Rourke has made waves for simply stating that a Democrat with liberal values could win in Texas.

Bernie Sanders is a Front Runner For President… So Far

Sen. Bernie Sanders caught the establishment Democratic Party off guard three years ago; few anticipated the strength of his candidacy and message.

Things have changed. Sanders announced on Tuesday he is running for president again — but this time, he’s not the underdog. This time, he is a frontrunner who, despite coming in second in 2016, has fundamentally altered the Democratic Party.

Sanders, now 77 years old, is the most popular senator among constituents in America and consistently ranks among the top potential 2020 candidates in early polls. That said, he’s joining a packed field, including progressive firebrands like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Kamala Harris (CA), and possibly Sherrod Brown (OH). Prominent Democrats such as Joe Biden are also expected to jump into the race.

Sanders, in an email to supporters on Tuesday, laid out a vision featuring a number of his longstanding policy priorities including free college and Medicare-for-all. “I’m running for president because a great nation is judged not by how many billionaires and nuclear weapons it has, but by how it treats the most vulnerable — the elderly, the children, our veterans, the sick and the poor,” the email reads.

As part of the message, Sanders is calling on 1 million supporters to sign on to his campaign and demonstrate the impact of grassroots backing — a key component of his 2016 presidential campaign that he intends to build on this cycle.

“We’re gonna win,” he said in an interview with CBS’s This Morning. “We are gonna also launch what I think is unprecedented in modern American history, and that is a grassroots movement to lay the groundwork for transforming the economic and political life of this country. That’s what’s different.”

Sanders, now a well-established contender, faces a fresh challenge during his second presidential run.

Cory Booker 2020 White House race

Our 4th in the series of Democrats announcing they are running for president — next up is Cory Booker.

Calling for a sense of common purpose, Sen. Cory Booker on Friday morning declared his candidacy for president.

The high-profile Democrat from New Jersey announced his White House run with a new website and a tweet featuring a two-minute-long campaign launch video, as well as an email to supporters.

“I believe that we can build a country where no one is forgotten, no one is left behind; where parents can put food on the table; where there are good-paying jobs with good benefits in every neighborhood,” Booker said in the video.

The former mayor of Newark, known for his oratory skills, added that he envisions a country “where our criminal justice system keeps us safe, instead of shuffling more children into cages and coffins; where we see the faces of our leaders on television and feel pride, not shame.”

Booker’s entry into the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination race was widely expected. His jam-packed December visit to New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House, had the look and the feel of a presidential campaign trip. Aides confirmed that in recent weeks, Booker’s been hiring staffers for his emerging campaign.

Unlike some of his rivals for the nomination, Booker skipped setting up an exploratory committee as a first step toward running for the White House. Campaign aides said that next weekend (Feb. 8-9) Booker will visit Iowa – the state that holds the first-in-the-nation caucuses – and then head straight to South Carolina (Feb. 10-11) – which holds the first southern contest. They added that Booker – who turns 50 in April – will return to New Hampshire over President’s Day weekend.

Booker joins a growing field of candidates including Sen. Kamala Harris of California; former San Antonio mayor and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; and former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have set up presidential exploratory committees, as has Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Booker’s announcement came less than two weeks after Harris jumped into the race on Martin Luther King Day, followed by a massive rally in her hometown of Oakland, Calif., days later. The two senators, both African-American, are expected to battle for the influential black vote in the Democratic primaries.

In his video, Booker told the story of his parents’ struggle to move their family into a predominantly white neighborhood with great public schools. He also highlighted how as an adult, he moved into Newark’s Central Ward, a low-income inner-city neighborhood where he continues to live.

“Together, we will channel our common pain back into our common purpose,” Booker said at the end of the video announcement. “Together, America, we will rise.”

His campaign highlighted that Booker – like many of his primary rivals – would reject contributions from corporate political action committees (PACs) and federal lobbyists. They added that Booker also opposed the use of super PACs to help his campaign or those of his rivals.

Booker, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, last summer and fall was one of the Democrats leading the push against the confirmation of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. He raised eyebrows and was widely mocked by Republicans for comparing himself to Spartacus, the Thracian gladiator and rebel slave who led a rebellion against the Roman Empire.

Booker was ridiculed by Republicans after threatening to defy the Senate rules and release what he thought were confidential documents concerning Kavanaugh’s past.

“This is about the closest I’ll probably ever have in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment,” he said at the time.

Reacting to his announcement Friday, the Republican National Committee blasted him as a “self-promoter” who’s out of touch with most Americans.

“Cory Booker is a political opportunist who left Newark ridden with crime and an ‘emblem of poverty.’ Even the liberal base thinks he’s a disingenuous self-promoter, and his embrace of policies like higher taxes, single-payer health care, and government-guaranteed jobs make him totally out-of-touch with most Americans,” RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens said.

Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire.



Sen. Amy Klobuchar is Running for President

In her 12 years as Minnesota’s senator, Amy Klobuchar has built a reputation as a quick-witted, hardworking, pragmatist: the “senator next door.”

Now Klobuchar is running for president, officially announcing a 2020 bid for the Democratic Party nomination Sunday, February 10. There are reasons to consider her a serious contender.

Klobuchar is popular with voters. At 58, she’s on her third term in the Senate — elections she’s won by landslide margins. She won reelection in 2018 by a whopping 26 points over Republican opponent Jim Newberger, including in 43 counties that President Donald Trump won in 2016.

She’s good at retail politics — a skill that’s served many candidates well in early caucus and primary states. She visits all 87 Minnesota counties every year, a fact she is quick to tell reporters. And she can fundraise; she famously once got her ex-boyfriend to donate $17,000 to her campaign.

But she also faces challenges. On the issues that that the Democratic Party’s base are prioritizing — Medicare-for-all, tuition-free college, a $15 minimum wage — Klobuchar is notably quiet. While other 2020 hopefuls like Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have made a point to sign on to major progressive legislation around health care and inequality, Klobuchar hasn’t. She’s earned a reputation as a moderate and has made a career of keeping out of the fights that will likely dominate the 2020 Democratic primary.

She’s also made headlines recently for her alleged mistreatment of staff — something that’s dogged her for years. In 2018 Politico used staff turnover data to include her on a list of “worst bosses in Congress.” Last week HuffPost and Buzzfeed quoted anonymous staffers describing her harsh and “erratic behavior,” like late-night emails berating them over small mistakes or misunderstandings. In one email, Klobuchar threatened to fire a staffer and included several colleagues on the chain. According to a HuffPost report, three operatives have withdrawn their names from the running to be her campaign manager because of her past treatment of staff.

Marianne Williamson, Spiritual Advisor, is Running for President

The 2020 election has already seen a motley crew of non-politicians express interest in running for the presidency, from fugitive/disgraced cybersecurity impresario John McAfee to former Starbucks CEO and self-aggrandizing billionaire Howard Schultz. Yet perhaps none of the potential nominees has been as head-scratch-worthy as author and spiritual leader Marianne Williamson, who formally announced her candidacy on Monday night.

In a live-streamed event broadcast from a Beverly Hills theater, Williamson strode onto the stage against the backdrop of a giant American flag, to rapturous reception from the crowd. She announced that she wanted to run for president as a way “to engage voters in a more meaningful conversation about America, about our history, about how each of us fit into it, and how to create a sustainable future.”

”Our national challenges are deep, but our political conversation is shallow,” Williamson said. “My campaign is for people who want to dig deeper into the questions we face as a nation and deeper into finding the answers.’’

If you listened to Williamson’s speech without knowing anything about her or her work, you’d be forgiven for assuming she sounded less like a presidential candidate than like a New Age-style spiritual leader of sorts, because that’s exactly what she is. A world-famous spiritual leader and author of New Age tomes such as A Woman’s Worth and A Return to Love (the latter of which was plugged by none other than the high priestess of the genre, Oprah Winfrey), the brassy, straight-talking, highly charismatic Williamson has attracted fans all over the world, including celebrities like Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian, Nicole Richie, and Laura Dern. To a degree, she’s something of an antecedent to Goop, albeit sans the plugs for jade vagina eggs and with more sensible pantsuits and casual references to Jesus.

But who exactly is Marianne Williamson, and why is she running for public office? Here’s a primer to the career of the self-proclaimed “bitch for God.” She may have next to no shot at taking the White House, but as spiritual gurus exert more and more influence over American life, she’s worth understanding.

Who is Marianne Williamson?

The daughter of an immigration lawyer and a homemaker, Williamson was born in Houston, Texas. She was raised Jewish, though she did not regularly attend synagogue as a child. (While her books and lectures quote a range of spiritual leaders from Jesus to Buddha, Williamson still identifies as a practicing Jew and does not see a conflict between her faith and much of the Christian-inflected language she uses in her work.)

Like many self-help gurus, Williamson has often spoken about being aimless and adrift prior to her spiritual awakening. She spent two years at Pomona College, a liberal arts school in California, before dropping out to move to New Mexico, where she briefly lived in a geodesic dome on a commune. She then ping-ponged between the East and West coasts, spending her 20s temping and occasionally working as a cabaret singer. “I sank deeper and deeper into my neurotic patterns, seeking relief in food, drugs, people, or whatever else I could find to distract me from myself,” she later wrote in A Return to Love.

It was around that time that Williamson discovered the book that would determine the

path of her career: A Course in Miracles. Otherwise known as the Course, A Course in Miracles is a massive three-volume religious work that teaches that the only real thing in the world is God’s love, and surrendering to God’s plan can lead to inner peace and real-life miracles.

Although A Course in Miracles is often marketed as a secular self-help text, it relies heavily on the language of Christianity; when it was published in 1976, the author, medical psychologist Helen Schucman, claimed Jesus had dictated it to her. Nonetheless, the teachings of the book resonated with Williamson. “I never realized you can’t find peace in your life without forgiving other people,” she told the LA Times in 1992. “I never knew how many of my problems stemmed from my fear of other people.”

In 1983, Williamson moved to Los Angeles and began teaching the book at the Philosophical Research Society, a center for metaphysical study. Over the next decade, she garnered a massive following — particularly among LGBTQ men amid the HIV/AIDS crisis, for whom she held weekly support groups at the Center for Living, an organization that provided counseling for HIV-positive patients during the early days of the crisis, when few other organizations would. (She also founded a charity, Project Angel Food, to deliver meals directly to HIV/AIDS patients’ homes.)

”Western medicine had nothing to offer,” Williamson told LA Weekly in 2014 of the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis. “Organized religion was silent for quite a while. … And there was this young woman in Los Feliz talking about a God who loves you no matter what.”

With the publication of A Return to Love, her first book, in 1992, Williamson ascended the ranks from West Coast shaman to world-famous spiritual guru: The book became a self-help classic, spending weeks on top of the New York Times best-seller list. A plug from Oprah, who claimed she experienced “157 miracles” after she read the book, led to sales of an additional 1 million copies; over the next few decades, Williamson would become a regular guest on Oprah’s show, and she is often touted as Oprah’s spiritual adviser.

The book is the source of Williamson’s most famous quote, which is often seen on inspirational Instagrams and erroneously attributed to Nelson Mandela: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

Williamson has since written 12 books, from the career guide The Law of Compensation to the spiritual weight loss manual A Course in Weight Loss: Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight. Her rise to fame has not been without controversy: She has been subject to accusations of hucksterism, not to mention bullying. Former employees have said she has alienated even her most fervent believers with her egocentric behavior and intimidation tactics, with one source telling Entertainment Weekly in 1992 that Williamson has a ”despotic, tyrannical streak and inability even to hear dissent” and that her charitable organizations are a front to ”sell her book and increase her own fame.” (Williamson has laughed off such critiques, referring to herself as “a bitch for God.”)

But even Williamson’s detractors cannot dispute her naked charisma and prodigious rhetorical skills. “She uses the language and attraction of sensuality to hold an audience,” one Psychology Today journalist wrote in a profile of Williamson in 1992. “Her charisma is sexual and humorous. Watching her perform is more like wrestling naked with Venus than kneeling with the saints.”

Why is Marianne Williamson running for president?

This is not Williamson’s first foray into politics. Throughout her career, she’s been vocal about her political views, from her stance in favor of offering reparations to black Americans (which she compares to the German government offering billions of dollars in compensation to Jewish victims of the Holocaust) to her proposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (“I don’t think the ultimate answer will be about settlements or checkpoints,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last fall, in what is perhaps the most Marianne Williamson response of all time. “The work of the genuine peace builders must be on the level of the heart.”)

In 2014, she ran for Congress as an independent in LA’s 34th Congressional District, against longstanding Democrat Henry Waxman. Despite raising $2 million for her campaign and garnering such high-profile supporters as Nicole Richie (who appeared in her campaign video), Katy Perry, and Alanis Morissette (who wrote her campaign theme song), Williamson only came in fourth, winning 13.2 percent of the vote; Ted Lieu ultimately won the seat.

But Williamson’s experience in a congressional election apparently didn’t slake her thirst for politics in general. Prior to announcing her bid for president (she is now running as a Democrat), she publicly endorsed Bernie Sanders and has spoken out at length against Donald Trump’s administration. In her announcement speech, she made it clear that her bid for the presidency was in direct response to what she saw as the “spiritual and moral rot” in Washington.

It’s also clear that she is positioning her bid for the presidency as a moral imperative, using the language of spirituality that is woven throughout her work. “It’s going to be a co-creative effort, an effort of love, a gift of love, to our country and hopefully to our world,” she said in the video for her exploratory committee.

Nonetheless, while Williamson’s congressional campaign was largely dismissed in 2014 — “she’s not a credible candidate,” Eric Bauman, the LA County Democratic Party chair, sniffed in the LA Weekly piece — the political landscape has irrevocably changed since, and it’s clear that she and her followers are taking her presidential run seriously, even if many other Democrats may not.

”It is time for us to rise up, the way other generations have risen up,” Williamson said in her speech as a crowd of her acolytes roared.

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Pete Buttigieg – Could a small town mayor be the first US gay president?

Pete Buttigieg, a naval reservist, Afghanistan War veteran, and the current mayor of South Bend, Indiana, announced today with a launch video and a Washington press conference that he’s forming an exploratory committee and running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

It would obviously be unprecedented for the mayor of a small city (or, indeed, even the mayor of a big one) to be elected president. But until Donald Trump pulled it off, it was also completely unprecedented for a celebrity with no experience in public affairs to be elected president, so why not give it a try?

Buttigieg’s launch is relatively light on policy specifics but leans hard into the idea that as a 37-year-old he’s an appropriate leader for the rising “millennial” generation who can counter Trump’s brand of nostalgia politics.

When Buttigieg talks about national politics, he tends to make two big points.

One is the contrast between the dysfunction of Congress and the somewhat less polarized, more pragmatic view of public affairs that one sees at the local level.

The other is that while the specific details of policy issues facing the town of South Bend are probably not of enormous interest to the wider world, they actually illustrate a set of issues impacting a much broader range of communities. South Bend was the former home of the Oliver Plow Equipment Company and the automaker Studebaker, both of which went belly-up in the mid-1960s. Consequently, South Bend entered the cycle of post-industrial decline a generation earlier than many other former industrial centers — and, Buttigieg says, entered the recovery cycle faster.