Assailed by bad polling numbers but obstinately refusing to let the world see him sweat as he ebulliently grinds toward the early primaries, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) took the stage in New Hampshire Saturday morning looking to make something happen.
Hoping for a turning point.
Eager for a statement.
Desperate to spike the football.
Craving an endzone dance.
Needing an Omaha Beach-sized toehold.
He anchor-legged his ten-minute speech on what he described as a “conspiracy of love.”
“Love is not just a sentiment,” Booker exclaimed. “Love says if your children don’t have a great public school my children are less better off.
“I grew up in New Jersey because a white couple put a bid on a house [which the realtor made clear he didn’t want Booker’s black family to occupy],” the senator added. “When we stand together, when we work together, no matter how much people try to drag us down, we will rise.
“This is not a purity test,” he added. “This is a moral moment.”
Booker was the second speaker at this morning’s New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention in Manchester, one among a big, clunky field of 19 candidates bucking for the party nomination to take on incumbent President Donald J. Trump in 2020.
In national polls, the senator – saddled through much of August by the Newark lead contamination crisis – continues to hover dismally between one and three percent. August New Hampshire polls showed the New Jersey Democrat doing that or worse in New Hampshire in a state snuggled up against the home states of U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts).
Booker assumed the stage after an unmemorable speech given by wobbly front-runner Joe Biden, former vice president, at hand a contrast opportunity arguably deflated by a frustratingly long speech by New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan sandwiched between the struggling septuagenarian and always-on-fire but never-in-the-polls Booker.
The New Jersey senator tried to take the timing rupture in stride, entering with a fist bump to the crowd on the heels of a Bruce Springsteen wail.
“This election is not a referendum on one guy,” Booker said. “It is a referendum on who we must be to one another. As this guy… tries to pit us against each other, it is time for us as Democrats to remember who we are. We are the party of inclusion, not exclusion.”
Booker tamped down savior atmospherics with Kennedy-like chords, swearing to summon people’s energy to common cause.
“This election is not about our plans, it’s about our heart and our gut,” he said. “I’m going to ask more from you [than any nominee].”
Looking to close big, he went back to the cultural roots of his political life with the Maya Angelou poem he quoted after losing his first mayoral race to incumbent Share James.
“Like dust, we will rise. We will rise. We will rise,” Booker shouted.
It seemed to work.
The arena lit up with a passionate roar absent from the aftermath of Biden’s remarks.
Somerset County Democratic Vice Chair Zenon Christodoulou said his candidate scored this morning, and not in a minor way. “I looked around me here in the arena and there were tears in people’s eyes, chills in the room,” Christodoulou said.
“He’s got momentum,” he added.
Despite the time gap created by Hassan’s speech, the energy contrast with Biden was evident, Christodoulou noted.
“Cory was phenomenal,” he said. “Biden was awful. His speech? He survived it. Cory was amazing. He was even better than Obama was in 2007 at the same event.”
Transcript of Booker’s Speech:It was 50 years ago that my parents tried to move to another New state, that one was New Jersey, and they encountered horrible racism.
Every time they would show up to try to buy a house in the places with the best public schools, a real estate agent would greet them and see that we were a black family and say, “No, I’m sorry, this house is already sold. You can’t move into this home.”
But what my parents really encountered, though, wasn’t just hate and bigotry, they encountered love. People that understood that patriotism is love of country, but you can’t love your country. Unless you love your fellow countrymen and women.
They encountered people that knew, that in this nation, Love is not just a sentiment, it’s not sentimentality.
Love says that if your children don’t have a great public school, My children are worse off. They knew that injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere.
So this community of activists, grassroots activists, like those in this room, mostly white folks, in that New Jersey suburban community said, we are going to set up a sting operation, a conspiracy of love.
And they actually got a white couple volunteering to follow my parents who my parents were told the house was sold, they would leave and a white couple would come out and find out the truth of the house was still for sale. I grew up in New Jersey, because a white couple put a bid on a house for my parents and it was accepted papers were drawn off.
And then the day of the closing, instead of the white couple showed up my father did and a lawyer.
Let me tell you right now. My parents raised me to know the truth of this nation, We have always had bigotry and hatred, and defensive leaders that have risen up all throughout time. But they told me to have faith in us, and in who we are.
Because when we stand together, and work together, no matter how much people try to drag us down, we will rise.
And so now, now New Hampshire, now America, we must understand this election is not a referendum on one guy in one office.
This election is a referendum on who we are, and who we must be to each other. It is a referendum on the spirit of America.
As this man tries to divide us and demean Americans and degraded Americans and pit us against each other. It is time for us. It’s time for us as Democrats to remember who we are.
We are the party of we not the party of me. We’re the party of inclusion, not the party of exclusion. We’re the party of civil rights, the party of women rights, the party of the environment, the party of unions. matter who you are, what your background is, when we stand together and work together, we rise together.
And so we must understand that this is a time that will define the soul of our nation.
This is a moral moment in America.
We Democrats have to be careful. I don’t care who our nominee is, but we cannot tolerate democrats who turn against other democrats and try to tear us down.
This election is not about some purity test, that if you don’t mark every box correctly you’re not a good Democrat. We need leaders who are not going to turn against each other, but turn towards each other because that’s where our strength is.
And we can’t make another mistake. We can’t make the mistake that says oh, we gotta play it safe. This election is just about finding somebody who can beat Donald Trump.
Let me tell you right now. We gotta beat Donald Trump. But beating Donald Trump is the floor it is not the ceiling.
Beating Donald Trump gets out of the valley, but it does not get us to the mountaintop.
I want to go to the mountaintop.
We are in a moral moment. We are in a moral moment, and we cannot let someone who preaches hate twist our soul.
I was in a town hall meeting in South Carolina running up to the stage, a big guy sees me former football player, former all- American football player. The older I get, the better I was.
And he comes over, he puts his arm around me and says, “dude, I want you to punch Donald Trump in the face.” And I looked at him and I didn’t miss a beat and I go, “dude, that’s a felony!”
We have seen dictators, we have seen that kind of behavior.
We’ve seen bigots we’ve seen hate mongers, but the way we beat them is not by showing the worst of who we are, but by showing the best of who we are.
I went out canvassing with Joyce Craig, we knocked on a door and I met a man who is recovering addict, who has seen the ravages of the opioid crisis in his own life.
But what blew me away is now he’s an activist, on dealing with addiction the right way, not by incarcerating our way out, but by treatment, by empowering people.
This is a man that turned his pain into purpose, that turned darkness into light.
And that’s the call of where we are right now Democrats, we beat Bull Connor, not by bringing bigger dogs and bigger fire hoses, but by activists who got off of the sidelines, stood together and worked together and challenged the moral imagination of a nation.
And so now I’m going to be blunt with everybody here. A lot of candidates want to tell you what they’re going to do for them, and I’m putting out my plans.
But this election is not just about our plans, it’s about our heart and gut. And if I am your nominee, I’m going to ask more from you than any nominee in our lifetime.
I’m not going to ask you to put up with more, or suffer more, but I am going to ask you to work more and volunteer more and engage more. Because as Martin Luther King said “the problem today is not just the vitriolic works and violent actions are the bad people, but the appalling silence and inaction of the good people.”
I’m going to ask you to work, so that we get Jeanne Shaheen reelected.
I’m going to ask you to work so that we return Pappas and Kuster to Congress.
I’m going to ask you to rise up when they try to beat us down, because that’s who we are.
We are the people, who no matter what the obstacle, has returned, and always said together: “We Will Rise”
We come from great leaders. It was King who pointed to the mountaintop, and Kennedy who pointed to the moon and said to America “We Will Rise.”
We have a great history, when they tried to beat us down at Stonewall, when they tried to beat us back on the Edmund Pettus bridge, we didn’t turn against each other, we grabbed hands, stood together, and told the nation “We Will Rise.”
Well if I am the nominee, I’m going to turn to you and say we will rise, and make sure that healthcare is a right for everyone.
We will rise and make sure we have great public schools for every child.
We will rise and make sure that unions are strong again.
We will rise and make sure that take on the challenge of the climate crisis.
We will rise, and stand for veterans and with them.
Listen, there’s a man now who is trying to define this country at home and abroad.
He wants the world to be about him, but we know different.
He’s trying to lie to us. He’s trying to divide us. He is trying to demean and degrade the character of this country. This is a moral moment.
And we collectively have to summon the spirit of one of our greatest poets Maya Angelou. And say through our actions, and say through our works, the man in the White House and try to write our nation down in history with this bitter twisted laws. He may try to trod us down in the very dirt, but I tell you right now America, like dust we will rise.
We will rise. We will rise. We will rise.
America, we will rise.
Thank you everybody.
- 2020 Presidential Contest
- Barack Obama
- Bernie Sanders
- Bruce Springsteen
- Cory Booker
- Donald Trump
- Elizabeth Warren
- Joe Biden
- John F. Kennedy
- Maggie Hassan
- Maya Angelou
- New Hampshire
- New Hampshirre Democratic Convention
- New Jersey Democrats
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