PHILADELPHIA – So much of the energy emerging from the Democratic presidential candidates and party voters themselves revolves around beating Donald Trump.
That in itself is not good enough. So said Cory Booker in a spirited rally Wednesday night in a converted warehouse near the city’s waterfront.
Booker told about 1,000 or so people that beating Trump gets us out of the valley, but “doesn’t get us to the mountaintop.”
References to the bible and to Martin Luther King Jr. – there is some overlap here – are standard fare at Booker events. So much so that an uninformed observer may mistake the senator from Newark for a
“This is a time of hurt in this country,” Booker said upon taking the stage, explaining that today’s “fear-based” environment is especially toxic. He was talking about guns and the recent mass shootings.
Booker doesn’t downplay the president’s often divisive rhetoric, but told the crowd that Democrats can’t defeat Trump by mimicking the president’s behavior.
“Hate can’t drive out hate,” he said, quoting King.
Instead , people must look within themselves.
And that led Booker to an anecdote about Newark. Booker commonly tells stories about the people he’s encountered in his adopted city of Newark, which quite obviously, provides more fodder than suburban
Bergen County where he actually grew up.
This one was about a woman who lived in the “projects.” Booker, then a young man out of Stanford University and Yale Law school, rang her bell and offered to “help” her. The older woman gave a cynical reply, led Booker outside,and told him that “help” only improves things when people see inside themselves and fight for the just world that they want.
I first heard the substance of that story when then-Mayor Booker spoke to local Democrats in Morristown about 10 years ago. Now, it seems to encapsulate Booker’s message on the campaign trial.
He wants voters to see the “good” in themselves and others and to lead the way to a more
He ended the rally by repeating the two words the woman told him a while later when there was a fatal shooting in the neighborhood – “Stay faithful.”
All this can be uplifting, but in the real world both national and state polls show the senator continuing to lag far behind the top tier of candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. For example,
in a poll out Thursday of Pennsylvania Democrats, Booker was at 2 percent. Front-runner Joe Biden was at 28.
Still, the Booker camp has been buoyed by the senator’s good performance in last week’s debate.
As for the senator himself, he dismissed a question about the polls in a post-event meeting with reporters.
“Polling -schmolling,” he said. adding that it’s still about six months before people actually start voting and that his name recognition is bound to rise.
And when voting begins, Booker said he’s confident he will win three early contests on the primary and caucus calendar – those in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.