Many of us assumed that vanity candidates for the presidency did so as a means to gain publicity for their other ventures. Tessa Stuart writes how erstwhile presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, who thinks that it was collective prayer that caused Hurricane Dorian to veer away from the mainland, started hawking various seminars and other products offered by an entity she created called The Williamson Institute. (In case you were wondering, Williamson is still technically in the Democratic primary race though she did not qualify for the third and fourth debates and is unlikely to do so for the fifth.)
The Williamson Institute, it’s worth noting, did not technically exist yet. (A note on Williamson’s personal website indicated it would be launching “soon.”) The email linked instead to Marianne.com, where for a cool $249 one might enroll in a four-part online course on “aging miraculously” or a five-parter on “miraculous relationships.” The four-part weight-loss seminar, five-parter on making money (or, rather, obeying “the law of divine compensation”), and a three-part “Aphrodite Training” were each comparative steals at $149 a piece.
The Williamson Institute offers free guided meditation, but everything else comes at a price: from the 10-part online course “The New You: A Total Life Makeover” ($299) to iPhone cases ($19.26), notebooks ($12.43), and tote bags ($15.26) branded with the mantra “The Universe Is Already On It.” Williamson’s old lectures are available for $9.95 a piece; blog posts and podcasts are behind a paywall only accessible to members willing to pony up $19.99 or $29.99 a month, for student and advanced levels, respectively. (Truly committed Marianne-heads can purchase an annual advanced membership for $305.) Other benefits of membership include a “daily recorded download of Marianne reading the workbook of A Course in Miracles,” “access to our private 24/7 online forum,” and “daily tips and tools.”
[A]t this point, it’s basically accepted that many (if not most) people who run for president are ultimately running one grift or another. Herman Cain used the email list he amassed during a failed bid for the Republican nomination in 2012 to hawk dozens of get-rich-quick schemes and dubious cures, including an erectile dysfunction drug called “TestoMax 200.” Rick Perry parlayed his aborted campaign into a turn on Dancing With the Stars. Mike Huckabee’s failed White House run transformed him into a one-man media empire, complete with a terrestrial radio time slot opposite Rush Limbaugh and a hosting gig on Fox News. (Alas, the long-promised Huckabee Post never materialized.)
As politics gets more and more trivialized and resembles reality shows, we are going to see many more vanity candidates running for office in order to make a quick buck from the rubes who buy this kind of nonsense.