January 14, 2020

Cory Booker Drops Out

“Democrat Cory Booker dropped out of the presidential race Monday.” AP News

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From the Left

The left notes Booker’s strengths and is surprised that he didn’t make more headway with voters.

“Booker is a mesmerizing orator — in my view, more compelling a speaker than any of the other Democrats running. He presents the story of his own life as an allegory of the best that this country can be. His destiny was changed by a white man, a volunteer lawyer, who helped his parents buy the home of their dreams at a time when New Jersey real estate agents steered African Americans away from white neighborhoods. Booker uses the word ‘grace’ frequently and calls for a ‘courageous empathy’…

“His problem was not that he lacked a solid operation. Booker had a talented campaign team, and a good organization, albeit one that ran out of money as his prospects dimmed. What was really misplaced, sadly, was faith that his uplifting message could be heard in the ugly moment we are in.”
Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

Dated but relevant: “Maybe it’s that he can come off like he’s trying too hard… Maybe he’s just too weird a confection of traits—a vegan Star Trek fanboy who still lives in inner-city Newark while courting Wall Street and dating the actress Rosario Dawson—to connect with a broad cross section of voters. Or maybe he’s being subjected to a kind of second-order racism: it’s not that voters are opposed to putting another black man in the White House; it’s that they’re afraid other voters won’t be willing to put another black man in the White House—a sort of racist Prisoner’s Dilemma.”
Edward-Isaac Dovere, The Atlantic

Many posit that “Despite introducing notable policies on gun control, criminal justice reform and the racial wealth gap, [Booker’s] candidacy lacked a defining issue or position on the ideological spectrum in a contest defined more by the divide between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party. But his campaign also suffered from factors beyond its control. In a historically diverse field, Mr. Booker struggled for attention amid the excitement of new candidates like Senator Kamala Harris of California, who allowed voters to imagine a black woman as president, or Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., whose campaign as an openly gay man is also historic.”
Nick Corasaniti, New York Times

“[There is also] the unusual nature of the incumbent. [Bernie Sanders and Tom Steyer] insist that it will take an unconventional candidate to defeat Trump. Meanwhile, middle-of-the-road candidates such as [Joe] Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) say voters are hungry for a return to normalcy. Booker and the other folks who’ve fallen by the wayside represented neither a complete break with convention (except for Williamson, who proved that simply being unconventional isn’t enough) nor a pendulum-swing back to the salad days of pragmatic policymaking and bipartisan governing of the Clinton presidency.”
Jon Healey, Los Angeles Times

“There is a moral radicalism to the way Cory Booker lives out his politics. He lived for years in a housing project. He leads hunger strikes. He challenges political machines. He’s a vegan. He has a more ambitious policy vision than is often discussed, but beneath that is a far more radical ethical vision than he gets credit for. The problem is that while he’s comfortable saying what that ethical vision demands of him, he’s very uncomfortable saying what it demands of the rest of us

“Booker is trying to craft a politics of love and reconciliation in a time of conflict and confrontation. But how do you fight and heal simultaneously? If you need to create friction to get attention, how do you not feed the thing you think is ripping the country apart?… The race will be poorer for Booker’s absence. There’s something he was trying to say that I think the country would benefit from hearing. I hope he figures out how to say it more clearly, and we get more opportunities to listen.”
Ezra Klein, Vox

From the Right

The right is critical of Booker’s campaign strategy and the media’s focus on his race.

The right is critical of Booker’s campaign strategy and the media’s focus on his race.

“Perhaps the most interesting thing to say about Booker’s campaign is that he’s a vivid illustration of how the traits that make a politician interesting for media profiles don’t always translate into actual support on the trail. Booker was the multiracial, vegan, former standout Stanford tight end who had been the subject of Oscar-nominated documentaries [and] generated tales of heroics as mayor of Newark…

“Despite all that, Booker could often come across as boring. His debate one-liners and applause lines were so perfectly rehearsed that they came across as cloying. His signature move in the debate was to wait until an argument between two other candidates had started to get interesting and impassioned, and then interject with a disapproving: ‘this kind of infighting is just what the Republicans want to see.’ But ‘this kind of infighting’ was also a serious disagreement about which policy direction was right for the Democratic party, which is precisely the sort of thing a presidential primary is supposed to sort out.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“Booker’s campaign failed to make a significant impression — on black voters, progressive voters, or older, establishment voters. Perhaps that’s because his message was so unoriginal. Even his signature policy, gun control, was associated more with Beto O’Rourke’s campaign than with Booker’s. And many of Booker’s other proposals have been dominated by Warren and Sanders.”
Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner

“Here’s a guy who was a high-school football all-American, went to Stanford, earned a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford, graduated from Yale law school, served two terms as the mayor of a medium-sized city (almost three times larger than South Bend, Ind.) and has twice been elected to the United States Senate. But what the [mainstream media] really wants you to take away here is that he’s a black guy. He did all those amazing things, and the [media’s] response is to reduce Booker to his race. No wonder he had to drop out…

“By a literal interpretation of identity politics, the debate ended up as quite diverse by any empirical standard when compared to recent history: two women, two men of Jewish ancestry, the son of Taiwanese immigrants and one Roman Catholic. But as the [media] says of Booker and as Booker said of Harris and Julian Castro before him, some diversity is more diverse than others.”
Chris Stirewalt, Fox News

“Are rank-and-file black Democrats distressed by the absence of debaters who share their skin color? I doubt it. Black Democrats have not supported black presidential candidates in this cycle. They prefer the very white Joe Biden… The fact is that if black Democrats supported Booker in large numbers, he would be on the stage. If they had supported Kamala Harris in large numbers, she wouldn’t have seen the need to quit the race, and she would be on the stage. But black Democrats seem to be largely color blind when it comes to evaluating this cycle’s crop of candidates. Bless them for that.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

“Cory Booker has run a campaign centered on ‘love’ in a political era with little time for it. Most of the Democratic candidates vie to see who can denounce President Donald J. Trump in more florid terms. For former Vice President Joe Biden, Mr. Trump is destroying the soul of America. For Mr. Sanders, he is a racist. Mr. Trump hits right back, accusing the Democrats of embracing socialism, crime and even terrorism. Mr. Booker, on the other hand, says he ‘loves’ Donald Trump — not his policies, or his personality. He just says he won’t be drawn into the hateful morass that constitutes American politics in the year 2020. Love manifestly isn’t selling, alas.”
Editorial Board, Washington Times

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