PHILLIPSBURG – Cory Booker often sounds more like a preacher than a New Jersey politician, prone as he is to talk about love – or as he said today “radical love.” Then he was onto mentioning a “circle of faith.”
The senator is touring New Jersey this week, embarking on a mission to cover all 21 counties.
There is some history here. Back in 1978, Bill Bradley, then known as “merely” a former New York Knick, made it to all 21 counties in one day – literally a pre-dawn to near midnight excursion. If you care, he ended up in a diner in Little Falls, Passaic County.
Some years later, Chuck Haytaian, the Republican candidate for Senate in 1994. did very much the same thing. One of his first stops, not surprisingly given the early morning hour, involved milking a cow.
For the record, Bradley won his ’78 Senate race; Haytaian lost his 16 years later.
Booker’s journey is much more relaxing – up to a point.
On Monday, he was in Cape May and Atlantic City. Today, he began in Elizabeth to hype the Senate’s recent passing of the Inflation Reduction Act and then headed north to Sussex County Community College in Newton to unveil proposed legislation to help former members of the National Guard and Reserves facing homelessness.
There already is a program created in 2011 to help veterans from becoming homeless, and according to the senator, it has helped about 850,000 people.
But that program excludes those who served in the National Guard or the Reserves, which is something Booker called “inexcusable.” He said his bill would correct that oversight. A number of veterans were in attendance.
Booker, of course, serves during a time of extreme partisanship as a 50-50 Senate demonstrates.
Still, he likes to stress his belief that what binds Americans together is stronger than what pulls them apart. In that vein, he spoke of his friendship with the late John McCain. Given the fact McCain was very much an independent, it hardly seems all that odd that he and Booker got along well.
Then. Booker emphasized his point by talking about having dinner with Ted Cruz, a staunch right-winger. This allowed him to joke about trying to pick a restaurant to please both a guy from Texas and a vegan, such as Booker.
While the senator is sincere in talking so much about seeking common ground, it’s debatable how politically successful that is. Recall that in a surprise to some observers, Booker’s 2020 presidential campaign never gained traction.
As for the president who lost the 2020 race. Booker said, when asked. that he doesn’t want to judge too quickly Monday’s FBI raid of Donald Trump’s Florida home. But he did call it significant and unprecedented.
Following Newton, Booker and his accompanying staff traveled over some of the most rural roads in urban New Jersey to Phillipsburg in Warren County.
It seemed as if about 100 people were assembled under a tent as the senator formally awarded a $1,050,000 federal grant for the Norwescap Foodbank. The food bank serves at least 30,000 people in northwest New Jersey by distributing about two million pounds of food.
As many lawmakers are wont to do, Booker emphasized how New Jersey taxpayers send more money to Washington than they get back in aid. That makes such awards doubly-important.
“This is your tax dollars that we wrestled for in the Senate,” he said.
While Warren County is heavy Republican terrain, Booker at this gathering on Broad Street was treated like a celebrity. posing for photos after the event and recording smart-phone messages for many relatives of attendees.
The senator’s public remarks were consistent with his theme that the past, enduring and future goodness of America rests with people accepting their commonality and working together.
That’s where the “circle of faith” comes in.