Cory Booker: Why You Should Be Paying Attention

Just last year, I remember sitting in my AP US Government and Politics class, fighting hard to keep my eyes open as I felt the waves of tiredness wash over me on an early morning. I silently cheered when my teacher announced that we would be watching a movie, knowing I could let my mind wander during the rest of the class.

Yet, the further we got into the movie — a documentary called “Street Fight,” following the 2002 mayoral race in Newark, New Jersey — I found myself engrossed in the content. The film surrounds then-attorney Cory Booker in his fierce attempt to defeat incumbent Sharpe James, a man who had previously held the position as mayor for 16 years. The documentary captures the essence of the political machine and the cutthroat process which occurs upon campaigning for an election.

I hadn’t heard of Cory Booker prior to watching the film, but I was immediately engaged with his presence. He spoke with poise, clarity and carried a level of charm I had yet to see in other politicians. I admired his compassion and dedication for his community and found myself rooting for him throughout the documentary.

Though he lost the 2002 mayoral race, Booker campaigned again in 2006 and served as mayor until 2013. He then moved on to serve in the Senate as a representative for New Jersey. Today, he is one of the Democratic candidates for president. Though he’s amassed a significant amount of praise for his campaign efforts and debating skills, he hasn’t broken through as swiftly as other candidates like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. He’s been named the “winner” of the Democratic debates on many occasions, yet he continues to poll at 1-2%.

To me, this is a troubling statistic. While Pete Buttigieg is often praised for his reputation as a Rhodes Scholar, this is rarely mentioned when discussing Cory Booker. In fact, Booker holds an outstanding academic record. He attended undergrad at Stanford University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a Master of Arts in sociology. He then completed an honors degree in United States History from Oxford University. From there, he earned his Juris Doctor at Yale Law School. 

While he may come from a scholarly background, Booker is anything but pretentious. He often recites a quote from his father in his speeches and interviews: “Boy, you got more degrees than the month of July, but you ain’t hot. Life ain’t about the degrees you get, it is about the service you give, and you owe a debt in this country.” He typically cites this statement as his motivation for his passionate pursuit of a life dedicated to service, and he hasn’t let his father down. During his time as mayor, he worked unceasingly to break the constraints of housing segregation and aid his constituents in achieving housing rights. He’s always chosen to be a voice for those who are underprivileged or in the minority throughout the entirety of his political career.

In this sense, his compassion is unmatched. When watching him speak, his character inevitably shines through. He preaches that America must uncover our “moral moment,” that we must see this period in history as not just an election to defeat Donald Trump, but a time to care for one another, stand up for what is right and support the “radical notion of love.”

He’s a fantastic orator and his speeches are marked with substance. He’s a strong advocate for climate change and the environment, receiving high praise from Greenpeace among other environmental groups. Additionally, he has several unique plans for his position as president. Primarily, he’s rolled out one of the boldest plans for gun control in 30 years — one that demands gun licensing on the basis of common sense. Booker argues that if one should have a license to drive a car, they should be required to hold a license to own a gun as well. He also fights for criminal justice reform — a subject in which he’s passed legislation under Trump to release individuals in prison for unjust sentences regarding marijuana. Among other plans, he’s the only senator who has introduced a bill in the Senate which would make clean air and water a civil right. Aside from such issues, he consistently holds the most pro-animal welfare voting record in the Senate year after year. 

While he may be an underdog in the race, I believe so strongly in his campaign. In today’s political climate, Booker’s message of love and unity resonates with me. It’s time for our moral moment, and I think this must begin with a moral leader like Booker. 

Even if you aren’t on Team Cory, please register to vote. Every vote counts! If you want to learn more about Booker’s campaign, check out https://corybooker.com/.