Booker 2020: Will He Rise?

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–The junior US Senator from New Jersey is struggling to have a breakout moment in a shrinking field of candidates for US President.

Senator Cory Booker may have qualified for the November 20 Democratic Presidential Debate, the fifth of the campaign so far, but he has largely failed to gain traction in his bid to be the next President of the United States

Senator Booker has been endorsed by a slew of New Jersey politicians. These include Governor Phil Murphy, Senator Robert Menendez, Mayor of Newark Ras Baraka, Middlesex County Democratic Party Chair Kevin McCabe, alongside every Democratic member of Congress from New Jersey.

Recently the Booker campaign has been pulling out all the stops, eager to gain momentum as candidates prepare for the first votes to be cast in 2020.

A former Mayor of Newark, Booker ran for US Senate in 2014, and is making his first bid for the White House in a crowded field of candidates hoping to earn the nomination and challenge incumbent President Donald Trump. Booker is the only candidate from New Jersey in the race.

Just two days before hitting the debate stage, Booker joined Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senator Elizabeth Warren in condemning NBC in the wake of the sexual assault harassment scandal that has plagued the network since 2017.

NBC may have fired former Today show host Matt Lauer, but the Senators argue that isn’t enough.

In their letter to Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the four Senators argued that NBC’s internal investigation of the sexual allegations against its own employees wasn’t enough and urged Comcast to pledge to launch their own third-party investigation into the culture of harassment at NBC.

“The latest allegations of sexual assault and harassment by former NBC employees perpetrated by NBC executives and on-air talent as well as a cover-up by NBC’s management are deeply troubling,” their letter reads.

“We, the undersigned candidates, are very concerned about the message it would send to sexual assault survivors if our next debate is sponsored by MSNBC without clear commitments from Comcast, the parent company of NBC and MSNBC, to conduct an independent investigation into the toxic culture that enabled abusers and silenced survivors.”

The Senators continued to slam the network as the letter continues, shaming NBC for its complicity in the cover-up of the allegations and failure to hold corporate management accountable.

The letter hammers its main point home, focusing on the hypocrisy of supporting NBC while decrying President Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump has been credibly accused of sexual harassment and sexual abuse by dozens of women,” the letter reads. “We, as a party, have to offer voters a clear and unquestionable difference come November when it comes to these important issues. We cannot do that when we prop up and support companies that have systematically covered up numerous incidents of sexual violence with no accountability or changes of leadership.”

On the same day, Booker also took to the Wendy William Show to reiterate his stance in favor of marijuana legalization.

“Let me talk to you about weed.” Sen. Booker says while sharing a laugh with Williams.

“So I put in the first major bill in the United States Senate to legalize marijuana. But I also have one of these very strong, strong convictions on this issue that you should never talk about legalization of marijuana if you’re not talking in the same paragraph about expunging the records of those people who have been convicted in the past.”

This came just two days after former Vice President Joe Biden, another contender for the Democratic nomination, said he would not legalize marijuana at the federal level at a town hall in Las Vegas, calling the plant a “gateway drug.”

Afterwards, Senator Booker went on to condemn the War on Drugs as “a war on people… people of color in particular.”

He highlighted its affliction against the black community but also recognized the veterans and poor people who are also disproportionally affected by the war on drugs as well.

“We need to not only legalize marijuana in this country but also expunge the records of those who have been unjustly targeted by this failed drug war,” Booker later tweeted regarding the Wendy Williams interview.

The thinly veiled rebuke of Biden was another product of the Booker campaign underlining his more progressive stances, trying to place Booker at the same caliber as some of his competitors.

This appears to be a sharp contrast with the direction of the Biden campaign, apparently hoping to bridge the gap with moderate voters.

Booker might be eager to quell any concerns about how progressive his presidency may be, considering his defense of the pharmaceutical companies that have a major presence in New Jersey.

The Senator hasn’t taken donations from pharmaceutical companies since 2017, in an effort to embody more progressive values like some of his tough-on-Wall Street competitors.

Booker’s top issues in the 2020 campaign revolve around criminal justice reform and jobs. In an op-ed for Essence.com, the New Jersey Senator took the time to make it clear what his biggest priorities are this election.

“In this campaign and in the Senate, I’ve put forward some of the most progressive plans and pieces of legislation on everything from criminal justice reform–legalizing marijuana and expunging records– to a federal jobs guarantee pilot program to get jobs to communities that need them.” Booker wrote.

“And I’ve worked across the aisle to actually get things done– in Newark, when I was the chief executive of our city during the great recession and in the Senate getting a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill passed into law that has already liberated thousands of people.”

After highlighting what policies he hopes to bring to the White House, Senator Booker also broke down the things that he feels makes him the best candidate in the 2020 field.

“Energizing, exciting, and igniting a diverse coalition of voters is the challenge we face in this election because that coalition won’t just decide who our nominee is, it will determine whether or not we beat Donald Trump,” Booker explained.

“I can, and have, excited a diverse coalition of voters. I can, and have, united progressives and moderates. And I can, and will, beat Donald Trump. “

The Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act was introduced in 2018 by Booker, along with Representatives Ilhan Omar and Bonnie Watson Coleman in an effort to provide more federal jobs to fifteen areas experiencing high unemployment.

The legislation would not actually create a federal jobs program but rather initiate a three-year pilot program at the Department of Labor that would test the effectiveness and results of a potential federal jobs guarantee.

“Both Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Franklin Roosevelt believed that every American had the right to a job, and that government would see to it that every person who wants to work would be able to,” Booker says on his website.

“This legislation is an attempt to fulfill that ambitious vision. A federal jobs guarantee is a major investment in our country’s most valuable asset – our workers – by getting them off the sidelines and into the labor force with a living wage and meaningful benefits, like paid sick leave and safe working conditions. Addressing the entrenched structural hurdles that hinder workers’ success by offering bold solutions is how we strengthen the working class, grow the economy, and broaden prosperity and dignity for workers in this country.”

New Brunswick Today had several questions for the candidate, but after weeks of correspondence with his team, received no answers.

Thomas Pietrykoski, a spokesperson for the Cory Booker 2020 campaign, finally replied: “Please accept my apologies for the delay. This slipped through the cracks.”

The November 20 Democratic Presidential Debate starts at 9pm and will be broadcast on MSNBC live from Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Reporter at New Brunswick Today

I'm a writer and videographer interested in government, local movements and activism.