Since his last visit to Nevada last month, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) has made plenty of news. He’s been releasing policy plans on gun violence, reproductive rights, and immigration reform. Even as some of the other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have been going to (a different kind of) great lengths to catch our attention, Booker has generally stuck to his vision for a better future, and a growing suite of policies to translate that vision to reality.
At Sun City Anthem in Henderson, we caught up with Booker as he met with just over 200 Nevada Democrats and likely caucus-goers. Today, Booker continued urging Nevada Democrats to dream bigger and aspire for better as he exclaimed, “I believe it’s time for a new generation of dreamers to take responsibility and to dream anew. It’s time for us to dream again!”
“We are one people. We are one nation. We all have a lot of common pain, but we’ve lost a sense of common purpose.”
– Cory Booker
At UNLV last month, Cory Booker spoke of his dream for a better America. As Booker sees it, “What’s going to become of our dream, the dream of America? This is the time for us to take responsibility for that dream. Dare I say, this is the time for us to dream again.”
Since then, Booker has forged ahead with a thorough gun violence prevention plan that includes a “purchase-to-permit” licensing program to better equip authorities to ensure dangerous firearms don’t fall into the wrong hands. When Georgia, Alabama, and a few other “red states” passed legislation designed to provoke a new U.S. Supreme Court decision that may result in the upending of Roe v. Wade, Booker responded with a plan of action to defend legal abortion that includes a pledge to only nominate federal judges who will protect women’s rights, federal legislation to ensure access to safe and legal abortion and contraception regardless of one’s income, and the creation of a new “White House Office of Reproductive Freedom” to coordinate federal efforts to protect reproductive health care access. And with immigrant communities in Nevada and elsewhere facing escalating attacks from President Donald Trump, Booker has reintroduced legislation to curb the 287(g) program that the Trump administration is using to weaponize local law enforcement against immigrant families.
At today’s town hall style meeting with the Sun City Anthem Democratic Club, Booker addressed these and other issues, and he spoke about how he’d work to resolve these issues. As Booker still sees it, “We are one people. We are one nation. We all have a lot of common pain, but we’ve lost a sense of common purpose.”
“The way we overcame that darkness was by showing more light. The way we overcame that hate was by showing more love.”
– Cory Booker
While Booker generally stuck to his positive message of patriotism, love, and “common purpose”, he snuck in a few softly subtle reads of his rival Democrats. Less than 48 hours before fellow Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) preaches his message of “political revolution” to this same group, Booker noted, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” He then added, “We don’t need saviors in our politics. We need better results.”
And in a gentle rebuttal to former Vice President Joe Biden and his “electability” theme, Booker stressed, “I know we want to beat Donald Trump, but let’s not just settle for that. That’s the floor. That should not be the ceiling. There was a lot that was broken before Donald Trump was elected.”
And in a rebuttal to those in the party who want a nominee who will give President Donald Trump some tastes of his own medicine, Booker cautioned, “We can not win by playing on Donald Trump’s turf. We are not going to win by showing the worst of who we are, but the best of who we are.” As he recalled other dark moments in American history, such as our first Civil War and the struggle to end the Jim Crow era, Booker declared, “The way we overcame that darkness was by showing more light. The way we overcame that hate was by showing more love.”
“This will be a referendum about the character of this country. We must not think small. We’ve never been about small dreams or small aspirations.”
– Cory Booker
(Warning: The videos below contain moments of flash photography.)
So if Cory Booker doesn’t want to beat Donald Trump with any kind of “beat-down”, how does he actually intend to defeat Trump? For Booker, that means bringing Americans together rather than rip them apart: “We’re not about bigotry and separation. […] We put more indivisible into one nation under god. This will be a referendum about the character of this country. We must not think small. We’ve never about been small dreams or small aspirations.”
He added, “We’re not just going to win the White House. If we work together, I promise you America will rise.” But hey, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is promising to “change the channel” on Trump while fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) promises “big, structural change” if Democratic voters join her to “dream big, fight hard, and change America”. Why should Democratic voters pick Booker’s vision over that of Warren, Buttigieg, or the 20+ other Democratic candidates running?
When the program moved to audience Q&A, Booker responded to the first question by sharing the story of Virginia Jones, a neighbor in his Newark apartment building whose son was murdered in the building’s lobby. Despite this tragedy, Jones continued to run “homeland security” in their building. And despite the challenges, such as gun violence, that plague their neighborhood, Booker continues to live in this same neighborhood in Newark that launched his political career.
Speaking to Virginia Jones’ determination to stay and fight for their neighborhood, Booker noted, “Hope is the active conviction that despair will never have the last word.” He continued, “I got by BA from Stanford, but I like to say I got my PhD from the streets of Newark, where I met some of the wisest people I know. This life is about service and helping other people.”
“In America, we need more courageous empathy. We understand that even if they’re not originally from here, people deserve dignity. When we deny people dignity, terrible things happen.”
– Cory Booker
As audience Q&A continued, Booker used his answers as opportunities to explain his policy proposals, such as the RISE Credit to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, his gun licensing plan, his ideas on lowering college students’ debt burdens while increasing colleges’ cost accountability, and his proposals to end Trump’s war on immigrant communities and address the origin of the Central American refugee crisis.
In a moment that evoked in me the times when Elizabeth Warren spoke of her mother and “The Dress”, Booker recalled, “In my dad’s time, the minimum wage could keep you out of poverty. But now, in my state, you need to make twice as much of the minimum wage just to stay above the poverty line.” In addition to the RISE Credit, Booker also wants “baby bonds” to help close the racial wealth gap, a $15-per-hour national minimum wage, and a 15-city pilot program that can eventually result in a federal jobs guarantee.
And in response to a question on Trump’s war on refugees and immigrant communities, Booker stated, “In America, we need more courageous empathy. We understand that even if they’re not originally from here, people deserve dignity. When we deny people dignity, terrible things happen.”
Booker closed the program with these questions: “What will become of our dream? Will it become diminished? Will it become diluted? Will it become divided against itself?” He answered his own questions with this: “I believe it’s time for a new generation of dreamers to take responsibility and to dream anew. It’s time for us to dream again!” And in the next nine months, it will be up to Nevada Democrats to decide to join Booker in pursuing this dream.