Senator Cory Booker has officially announced his campaign to run for president, throwing his weight into what is becoming an increasingly progressive and diverse field of Democratic nominees. He hit the ground running, ensuring that his message of unity would reach a broad base of constituents; he brought the announcement to a popular female morning show (The View), a national urban radio show (the Tom Joyner Morning Show), and an interview that was conducted almost entirely in Spanish (Despierta America).
In his public video announcement on Friday, the first day of Black History Month, Booker paid his respects to the country’s legacy of slavery while channeling themes of unity that will surely underpin his campaign: “The history of our nation is defined by collective action; by interwoven destinies of slaves and abolitionists; of those born here and those who chose America as home; of those who took up arms to defend our country, and those who linked arms to challenge and change it.”
An American Destiny in Newark
Much of his campaign centers on his ties to Newark, where he currently lives and has previously served as mayor. “Your destiny is attached to the destiny of Newark in ways most people won’t admit,” he told a writer from Politico. “If the American Dream doesn’t work here, it doesn’t work anywhere.” While the messaging sounds nearly intersectional, some of people in his hometown have expressed the feeling that Newark was simply used as a “stepping stone” toward his bid for president. Mayor Ras Baraka, son of activist and poet Amiri Baraka, has been a fierce critic of Booker’s legacy in Newark — but he has also been an unequivocal supporter of his work at the national level. “Right now, I think we’re on the same side of history,” he told the Gothamist. “It would be a mistake for us not to support Cory Booker.”
Booker is one of the most active senators in the context of introducing bills to Congress, having sponsored legislation that supports women’s reproductive rights, marijuana legalization at the federal level, a living wage for all, bans on assault weapons and bump stocks, measures that would make prescription drugs more affordable, increased protections for DACA recipients, defining anti-lynching as a hate crime (a bill he sponsored with Senator Kamala Harris), and perhaps most notably, reforming the criminal justice system. One of his criminal justice reform bills, the First Step Act, was passed into law this past December with bipartisan support.
Cory Booker 2020, Jimmy Carter 2.0
Some media outlets have been eager to paint him as the next Barack Obama, likening the strength of his oratory to the former president’s while clearly drawing racial comparisons. However, keen journalists have pointed out his similarities to former President Jimmy Carter in how he champions a message of love. “I believe we need a revival of civic grace in our country,” he wrote on Instagram, posting a picture of himself with Carter. He went on to emphasize the common pain that Americans face, and the need to address this pain through a common purpose. “Each of us, must be light amidst the dark; tireless kindness amidst mean spiritedness; moral voices amidst moral vandalism; healers amidst the hurt — each of us must lead with love.”