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NEWARK – Cory Booker speeches tend to be spiritual as much as they are political.
But on this gorgeous spring day in his adopted city, Booker seemed to be searching a bit. A unplanned commotion in the crowd didn’t help, but more about that later.
As he formally “kicked off” a presidential campaign he has been running for about 10 weeks, Booker began by talking about “love.” He does this a lot and it’s probably debatable how much this approach resonates.
He spoke of love of family, community, country and each other. Then he talked about “defiant” love. Try to define that one.
Then he got around to the theme of the day and perhaps the campaign – justice. He said he was impatient for justice and he assumed many in the nation are as well.
A rundown of how he said he turned the city around as its mayor followed. And then he offered predictably liberal views on an assortment of issues – climate change, legalizing pot, women’s rights, unions and Medicare for all. No true Democrat anywhere would disagree with anything that he said.
Interestingly, he did not speak of Medicare for all as something that’s just going to happen. Booker said that as president he would start by lowering the age of Medicare eligibility, which is now 65. He didn’t say how much he wanted to lower it.
As Booker was speaking about these things, he seemed unaware of a mild disturbance in a crowd of about 2,000. A man stood up in the bleachers behind Booker, unfurled the Palestinian flag and started yelling, “Justice for Palestine.”
A handful of others in the crowd began doing the same.
Booker staffers, security people, or a combination of both, escorted the man and a companion from the bleachers. Some in the crowd were forced to leave as well. This episode, small as it may have been in the great scheme of things, aptly demonstrates a challenge for all Democratic candidates – keeping the far left at bay without dismissing them outright.
As for the disturbance of the moment. the last thing Democrats need is for their primary to be a referendum on the Middle East.
Booker did try to make a general point about how one-issue groups can gum up the works for the whole party when he said a true progressive movement doesn’t “stall out in righteous indignation”.
He stopped there, but maybe he was talking about hurt feelings of a few fringe groups.
Still, you wish he would have been blunter. How about, “Let’s not forget the goal here is to beat Donald Trump. That’s it.”
By the time all this happened, the day already was very long. The crowd began gathering amid tight security at Military Park before 10 a.m. There were many warm-up speakers, a performance by the Newark Boys Choir and even a marching band from nearby Shabazz High School.
The governor arrived around noon and talked briefly to the press. He said he didn’t think it was all that significant that the polls show Booker gaining not much traction at all.
Phil Murphy said it was a huge field and that he’s confident Booker’s charisma will shine through. And then the gov. used one of the sports references he likes so much, saying, “A lot of time is still on the clock.”
In real time, the clock now said 2 p.m. and the senator was wrapping up. Here he finally seemed to hit his stride as he told the crowd that today, April 13, is the 56th anniversary of a famous letter Martin Luther King Jr., wrote from the Birmingham jail.
The letter suggested that those who wait for justice and change discover that justice and change never come. Seizing the moment is the only option.
No, Booker said as his voice became more emotional, “We will not wait. … We will rise.”
Then, he hopped off the stage and plunged into the crowd to shake hands and take selfies with supporters.
This wait was indeed over as Cory Booker’s presidential campaign officially was underway.