Monday, March 25, 2019

Is It Too Late For Cory Booker? Or Too Early?


Cory Booker by Nancy Ohanian

I was never much of a Cory Booker fan. Before he decided to be progressive-- for whatever reason and for however long his commitment turns out to be-- he was an unabashed Wall Street whore, a charter school fanatic and a loony Zionist. (He may still be a loony Zionist.) But, you know what? He was elected to the Senate and-- with a couple of glaring exceptions (like his refusal to vote for Bernie's bill to allow pharmaceutical imports from Canada)-- he's run up an impressive voting record. Since being elected, his ProgressivePunch crucial vote score is a sterling 97.09%, the 4th best in the Senate.

So far, his campaign for the presidency hasn't made much of a splash. Polls usually find him trailing, badly, frontrunners, Biden, Bernie, Kamala and Beto, rarely getting even to 5%. But the media still treats him as a serious contender. Yesterday, Politico reporters Burgess Everett and Natasha Korecki, looked into his struggle to find himself in the context of the 2020 primary.

The party has moved left in terms of policy preferences and Booker-- like his colleagues Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand-- has mostly followed along, albeit tepidly. "At the end of January," wrote Everett and Korecki, "Cory Booker was emphatic in his defense of the filibuster. 'We should not be doing anything to mess' with it, he said. By springtime, the New Jersey Democrat had softened his stance considerably: 'That door is not closed.' As some of his 2020 competitors warm to dramatic reforms like eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote threshold and adding justices to the Supreme Court, the White House hopeful from Newark is plainly wrestling with whether to follow suit."

[Note: Bernie and Elizabeth Warren aren't followers; they're leaders. Status Quo Joe has always been on the side of holding back and opposing the will of the unwashed masses. The rest of the electeds in the race are somewhere in between. Booker? A natural centrist with the smarts to understand the grassroots of his part is populist and progressive.]
In an interview, Booker laid bare what he is grappling with: He’s been in the minority most of the time he’s been in the Senate and seen the power of the filibuster block the conservative agenda. And he’s worried that if Democrats make changes to the fabric of the Supreme Court, it will be exploited to potentially greater effect by Republicans in the future.

“You have to understand that a lot of these that are talked about: If we do it when we have the control to do it, they can do it again. What we need to find is real solutions that are sustainable regardless of who is president,” Booker said. “We should be careful about the traditions in this country and how we honor them.”

But his institutional loyalties are being tested by an activist base lurching left and a need to break out of the sprawling Democratic field where he registers in the low- to mid-single digits.

His ambivalence toward such explosive changes reflects Booker’s broader positioning in the 2020 race and within the Senate Democratic Caucus. The 49-year-old senator has a reliably liberal record, though he’s clearly to the right of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and has worked closely with some Republicans to advance his priorities.

It’s a profile that could ultimately help him stand out among his 2020 counterparts-- if his bipartisan leanings and campaign of “love” can connect with primary voters eager to take down President Donald Trump.

In just the latest example of the party’s rapid shift, Booker-- long a pro-Israel stalwart-- is attending the AIPAC conference in Washington this weekend but only to meet with New Jersey constituents. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sanders (I-VT) are staying away entirely.

And in an appearance with Pod Save America last week, Booker expressed new openness to killing the filibuster and admitted the progressive podcast fires “a lot of people up” on the kinds of process reforms once discussed only on the fringes. He’s also sounding increasingly open to changes to the Supreme Court, like imposing term limits on justices.

Yet in the interview with Politico, Booker deemed the tit-for-tat among Democrats and Republicans that eliminated the filibuster on all nominations over the past few years as a “race to the bottom.”

“Are we going to turn the United States Senate into a majoritarian body like the House? Because I think if that’s the case there would be regret among 100 senators, regardless of the party,” Booker said. “Is there a way to get back to creating a body that deals by comity and serves the American purpose?”

The party’s energy is clearly concentrated among younger, more progressive activists. But more than 60 percent of the Democratic electorate most likely to vote in primaries is 40 and older, a statistical reality that potentially benefits a candidate who is viewed as more in the middle and focused on pursuing bipartisanship.

Though Booker brandishes a progressive form of politics and is eager to seize the spotlight at committee hearings, he’s also developed surprisingly close relationships with conservative Republicans like Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Tim Scott of South Carolina. He often cites those friendships on the campaign trail as evidence that he is the candidate able to heal a divided nation.

At the same time, Booker says that Republicans are “clearly” playing by a different set of rules than Democrats. And he seemed particularly miffed that the “blue slip” tradition of allowing home state senators veto power over appellate court nominees has officially been abandoned by the GOP.

“That just creates a certain sense with the Democrats: When we are in power, we’re going to double down and do the same thing at least,” Booker said, deliberating as he spoke. “That doesn’t mean … that we should somehow not try to balance the scales.”

Liberal groups argue their party’s most ambitious proposals-- not to mention counterbalancing the Supreme Court seat stolen from Barack Obama-- are impossible under current Senate norms and rules.

Activists say Booker is listening to them, even as he refuses to embrace their strategies just yet. For instance, Booker argues a Democratic Senate majority could use budget reconciliation to repeal the GOP tax cuts without gutting the 60-vote threshold for legislation. People close to Booker say he’s unlikely to be the first to explicitly endorse killing the filibuster or expanding the Supreme Court.

His stances track neatly with a record that leans left, with an occasional tack toward the center.

He routinely votes against Trump’s nominees, endorses the “Green New Deal” and “Medicare for All” and said he’d risk expulsion in his fight against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

But he also took weeks before declaring his eventual support for Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, drew flak for opposing a measure aimed at importing drugs from Canada and made liberals squirm way back in the 2012 presidential campaign when he called attacks on Mitt Romney’s old firm Bain Capital “nauseating.”

In the previous Congress, Booker worked closely with Trump aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner to reform criminal justice laws, while teaming with Grassley and Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham to try and protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by the president.

No one would call Booker a moderate, but in the spectrum of the Democratic primary he falls somewhere in the middle. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who plays basketball against the former Stanford tight end, described Booker and his politics this way: A “smart son of a B.”

Jim Demers, a Democratic strategist and longtime New Hampshire activist backing Booker, called the senator a “pragmatic progressive.”

“Voters are frustrated, and they’re frustrated because the country is so divided,” Demers said. “He’s walking a fine line of espousing positions that are very progressive but also recognizing that when this election is over, a president has to get things done.”

Simply by virtue of how many Democrats are in the primary, there’s also a decent chance that Booker falls short and remains a senator for decades. For that reason, his GOP colleagues say he’s unlikely to be the candidate trashing the Senate as a campaign tactic.

“He’s a positive person who looks for the best in situations. And he is critical when necessary. But not critical as a way of simply attracting folks to a conversation,” Scott, the Republican senator, said of Booker.

It’s also not clear whether process reforms resonate with voters, anyway.

“In Iowa, how many people are going to vote on your position on the Supreme Court? … It’s probably a mistake to overhype the power of some of those process litmus tests,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who is close friends with Booker. “Cory probably has a legitimate interest in trying to find a long term way for Republicans and Democrats to work together.”

There’s also some evidence that primary voters are leery of candidates who are moving too far to the left. In a recent Iowa poll where both Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders dominated the field, 44 percent of those surveyed said Sanders’ political views were too liberal. Meanwhile, 70 percent of the Iowa Democrats polled said Biden’s views were “about right.”

The same poll showed 42 percent believed Booker’s views were “just right,” with only 9 percent seeing him as “too liberal.”

“My sense is he is trying to distinguish himself,” said Brady Quirk-Garvan, former chairman of the Charleston County Democrats in South Carolina, who has endorsed Booker. “Booker is now saying: Here’s what is different and unique about me. Here’s what makes me uniquely qualified to be the nominee.”

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At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Short Bursts:

"But the media still treats him as a serious contender."

Corey Booker is a Black male. The nation survived the first one to hold office, so the spectre of another one isn't so terrifying to the corporatist media - especially since Booker is "friendly" to Wall St.

"...eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote threshold and adding justices to the Supreme Court..."

These are not issues which resonate with most voters. I personally am far more concerned about attacks on Social Security and Medicare and the huge tax breaks bought by corporations for which I have to pay.

"...Booker says that Republicans are “clearly” playing by a different set of rules than Democrats. "

NO! REALLY??? Despite the cnark, I will allow a point for Booker to say this openly. Most corporatists wouldn't come anywhere close to that tripwire.


In Iowa, how many people are going to vote on your position on the Supreme Court? … It’s probably a mistake to overhype the power of some of those process litmus tests,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)..."

The only comment in the article from any Dem worth acknowledging.

At 6:27 PM, Blogger edmondo said...

Cory Booker is owned and operated by Eric Schmidt of Google fame. He is bought and will stay bought. That's why the Democrat establishment loves him.

At 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Short as usual is on it. I'd only augment yours by adding 'booker is a black male and a corporate whore, just like obamanation'.

edmondo, I expect booker to expand his corporate whoring a lot in order to get elected.

While the rest of the democrap corporate whore slate are staggering left (lying) trying to find some sweet spot between what they are and what their brain-deficient voters want them to be... booker is more or less standing pat. he's smarter than the voters and is articulate enough to flummox them... so he doesn't seem to be in any trouble for it... yet. The DNC will not abide Bernie or Elizabeth, so booker is probably pandering more to the DNC than the voters... an ominous development, really, as well as the more honest approach.

If voters fall for his schtick, clearly the republic will die very soon.

he has a point about whatever one side (the democraps) does, the other side will undo. It doesn't work the other way, however. Whatever evil the Nazis have done over the past 4 decades, the democraps have steadfastly refused to undo. not one thing.

Not a recipe for unity (why would the Nazis want to if they know they don't have to) nor for a healthy republic.

And, as always, it's the voters refusal to make those they elect act in their interests that is the underlying cancer.

No democracy can be any good when the voters are dumber than shit.


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