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"If things weren't going right, she'd freak out," Rosenman says. "But I don't think she had an excessive temper. If people were lazy, or did things wrong, it would bother her."
Williamson left the Center for Living in March 1992. Any pain she felt surely was offset by her first book, A Return to Love, which spent 39 weeks on the New York Times Advice/How-To best-seller list, and has sold more than 1 million copies.** Oprah Winfrey claimed to have bought 1,000 copies and to have experienced 157 individual miracles as a result of reading it.
It is no small measure of the book's cultural relevancy that a passage from it is routinely misattributed 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."
If Williamson's fame has receded somewhat, that is in part because so much of what she preached at the height of her fame has since been absorbed by mainstream society.
"My own sister, when she was diagnosed with cancer in 1989, said to her doctor that I had suggested she attend a spiritual support group, and her doctor said, 'Really, what medical school did your sister go to?' " Williamson says with a wry smile. "No oncologist would say that today."
Western medicine has come to embrace spiritual practices, support groups and recovery. Williamson says American politics must do the same — or face extinction.
"Whether an individual or a system is in crisis, it will not ultimately transform just by tinkering with some things on the outside," she says. "There has to be a deeper inquiry about who you are, what your principles are."
Williamson is still trying to figure out how to practice a new kind of spiritual politics. She wants her congressional run to be something transformational — a movement.
One political consultant quit on her after less than two weeks of service.
"There's a big gulf between what you do as a political operative and what you do for a celebrity," says one source. "Political people tell [a candidate] what to do. She kinda couldn't handle that."
"There seems to be in the political world a cookie-cutter approach, where political operatives create a campaign, and the candidate is expected to do what they're told, and that's simply not gonna happen here," Williamson declares emphatically. "Ten books and 30 years and thousands of speeches later, I'm not reading someone's else's material."
She isn't bothered by her campaign's loose organization or by its lack of a seasoned professional at the helm.
"Creativity is messy! Intimacy is messy! Democracy is messy! The transition from pure idea to excellent manifestation has to go through its chaotic phases," she says.
The Williamson agenda reads like a fairly standard progressive to-do list: Overturn Citizens United; rein in food companies like Monsanto; halt the extension of the Keystone pipeline; block the United States' entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that she says will "trump national sovereignty" (an argument many make against the World Trade Organization); and stop drone strikes, surveillance programs and wars of aggression.
Yet her message risks being overshadowed by lines such as, "I want us all to look at this campaign as a collective act of love."
Los Angeles Republican political strategist Jonathan Wilcox, who has taught a course on politics and celebrity at USC, read Williamson's campaign announcement last year and is following her campaign with some degree of interest.
"It sounded a little bit like a midcareer crisis to me," Wilcox says. "But what she wrote was very melodic, very heartfelt, wistful. ... She's all about the possibilities."
However, he hastens to add: "She's entering into the least dreamy, least romantic and least poetic business in this country. And it ain't beautiful. And there is nothing beautiful or poetic about Henry Waxman."
With enormous floppy ears, front teeth that are forever peeking out from his mouth and a nose that somehow manages to swoop upward, so that to look at him is to be staring directly into his nostrils, Rep. Henry Waxman looks a bit like a cartoon mouse.
Personable, avuncular, down to earth (literally — though his staff claims he is 5 feet 5 inches tall, he appears shorter than 5-foot-2 labor leader Maria Elena Durazo when they stand together), Waxman carries himself with all the pomp and splendor of a bookkeeper. With his gray slacks and corny jokes, he is, if nothing else, a study in the banality of statesmanship.
His legislative record is staggering: co-author of the Waxman-Hatch Act in 1984, which allowed for generic prescription drugs and saved consumers (according to him) trillions of dollars; co-author of the 1990 Ryan White CARE Act, which provides health care and medicine to low-income people with HIV/AIDS; co-author of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments to address acid rain and the destruction of the upper ozone layer; and co-author of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, mandating nutritional information on food.