Cory Booker announced his presidential bid. I'm going to sign up to volunteer with his campaign as soon as it's possible, and I think he’s the candidate worth supporting. Here's why:
Trump has made clear that he intends to further incite white voters in 2020 with racist appeals, and so far Democrats don’t have a great idea how to combat it. One idea is to do the same thing on the left and try to use equally angry rhetoric, and I think this could work, but it's not the best bet because (a) Trump isn’t actually that popular, he’s just a puzzle in his extreme political tactics; (b) left-leaning voters are just not as angry or hateful; (c) the blue coalition is very mixed and hard to unify as a singular group. Also, even if it works, it's probably better to go with a positive message for the long-term health of American politics.
It seems to me that there are two things that may work. First, representing underrepresented voters most affected by Trump. Second, crafting a theme that unifies in a positive way. Hillary Clinton was wooden and flat. Obama, by contrast, is still popular, and I think that has a lot to do with his having a bold, fairly progressive message AND a theme of national unity and compassion.
Cory Booker seems to me the candidate that most fits the bill. When he talks, he comes across as disarmingly humble and real. He speaks the language of love and redemption, and he's the only candidate who can actually make that work. He's a black candidate steeped in the language of civil rights and committed to fighting racist policies that also happen to be unpopular, chiefly mass incarceration and marijuana prohibition.
Taking the right stands makes him not just a good candidate but someone likely to be an excellent president. He's a true progressive. His chief campaign issue is likely to be criminal justice reform, where he has been a leader in the Senate, backing pot legalization, reducing incarceration, and fighting the stigma ex-convicts face. This is an issue that affects a staggering number of people, especially if it spills over to the states. There are well over 2 million people in prison in the U.S., and nearly 10% of the country and 33% of male African Americans have a felony conviction. Justice in this arena is long-denied and much needed. Booker already helped pass the only good thing Trump has done, the criminal justice reform bill of last month.
Booker's action on poverty also looks promising. His baby bonds bill would be a massive strike at the huge black-white wealth gap, and he would also fight the housing crisis in many American cities. He's promised action on climate change, another major issue (although I'm not a big fan of the "Green New Deal" when we're not in a recession—but that's a story for another day).
If we actually look at issues by how many people they affect how severely, then the top political issues in American politics should, I think, be mass incarceration and immigration. If any other country imprisoned 2% of its population, disproportionately from a minority ethnic group, we would see it as an atrocity. Booker is a leader on this, having drafted a bill with Utah Senator Mike Lee to address it. On immigration, every 2020 Dem candidate is fighting to be a distinguished opponent to Trump’s crackdown.
But now onto the thing that concerns me most: Cory Booker is a leader on protecting the vast majority of the U.S.’s inhabitants; that is, animals. Most readers of my blog know by now why this matters so much. For those who don’t, I recommend this article by Joseph Zabel in the Stanford Daily on why factory farming, in which billions of animals each year are crammed in filth-ridden sheds until a torturous death, is not just bad but the worst thing in the world.
Cory Booker is vegan for the animals. He frames it as a way of “living his truth,” and honestly, I think being vegan alone does not have much direct importance. What does matter, though, is that it’s clear that he cares very deeply about what’s happening to animals and wants to change it.
Among his pushes for animals: Cory Booker took the initially rare, but now increasingly common, position of opposing wasteful, unethical subsidies for agricultural conglomerates in the 2014 Farm Bill. He put his power where his mouth is and voted nay. When scandalous information came out about the lax enforcement of animal welfare labels, Booker joined with Dianne Feinstein to write the USDA with concern. When the government-funded egg board used its power to try to savage a plant-based company for its animal-abusing competitors, Booker joined with Utah Senator Mike Lee on a Bill to reform government check off programs that coddle industries in little need of coddling.
Make no mistake: Booker's stands on animals are daring and exceptional. Booker is a sign of how quickly things are moving for the animal advocacy movement. He's a candidate we'd be lucky to have in ten or twenty years–let alone 2020.
It’s worth noting that a vocal contingent of progressives, including some animal advocates, likes to claim Booker is a neoliberal shill. I vigorously disagree.
Exhibit A in the case against him is a vote against a medication imports proposal that Bernie Sanders prompted. Booker’s Heresy against St. Bernard Sanders was blown far out of proportion. Sanders had introduced an amendment to import medications without any measures to protect against safety, and while Canada has strong regulations, their regulations did not cover anything under the law. Booker stood accused of guzzling money from "big pharma," when in fact much of the money came from health care companies whose designation as "big pharma" is questionable.
What's most telling about Booker's views and character is what he did when confronted over it. Booker did not flip flop, ignore, or get defensive. Instead, he gave a genuine, good-spirited explanation of his views online, and he co-sponsored a bill with Bernie Sanders to do the right thing with the safety measures he wanted.
Booker is also accused of being a shill for Wall Street. Have fun going through any Democrat’s donations in that case. Elizabeth Warren spearheaded a bill to save a random industry from an Obamacare tax because it donated to her as well as the crony capitalist Dairy Pride Act. (On top of that, you can mark my words that she is dead in the water in the general election after her cringe-inducing Native American DNA stunt. Trump’s “Pocahontas” nickname will stick to her and sink her just like Crooked Hillary.) Bernie Sanders is in the pocket of the Vermont dairy industry, which of course is guilty of animal abuse and environmental destruction.
And Booker has a resoundingly progressive record. He steadfastly protested both recent Supreme Court nominations, including inviting sanctions against him by Republicans. (And of course SCOTUS is the institution that flooded elections with obscene sums of money.) If he’s a sell out to Big Business, then business isn’t paying like it used to.
I've noted that Cory Booker stands out on improving humans’ condition in the U.S.. Think again about animals, though. At any given time there are 3 billion land animals being tortured to death in the United States–tortured–and far more aquatic animals. There is a total of 325 million humans in the U.S., and most of them get to leave a confined space and see their families from time to time. Booker is the rare chance to make serious political progress for animals, and it’s time to take it. He deserves the vote of every dog or cat parent, every animal lover, and every progressive.
So, sign up for Cory Booker's campaign, and then tell all your friends to do the same (sharing this blog would help).
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