You may have heard of Newark mayor Cory Booker. He oversees a city with 9.9% unemployment and nearly a fourth of its population beneath the poverty level. But he has responded to the job requirement accordingly: Booker’s the guy that witnessed a fire next door to his home and jumped in to save a citizen or two. He’s also the guy that delivered toilet paper to a woman in the middle of the blizzard two winters ago; he replied to her plea via Twitter. We’ve compared him to Ryan Gosling, 2008 Barack Obama, and Superman.
Last night, as co-chair of the Democratic National Convention’s Platform Committee, Booker delivered the donkey principles that he more or less wrote himself in a speech that provided the Democrats with all the guts and political cajones they’ve been missing over the past four years. See video after the jump.
To flash his blue collar off to the convention-goers, Booker started his speech with a few America First calls (chants of ‘U! S! A!’ sounded from the crowd throughout the entire thing). He demanded we “out-build, out-innovate and out-educate the world,” relying on the help of a “large and robust middle class.” To further nail in the populist point, he gave a shout-out to small businesses as the bedrock of our entire economy, further solidifying the constant theme of “small business versus big business” in this election. Booker stressed our “economic might and muscle,” a free market that works for everyone, investment in education and the notion that “being asked to pay your fair share isn’t class warfare – it’s patriotism.”
These line of arguments used by Booker have become the classic fall-backs for Democrats in the face of corporate-tax-cutting Republicans this election season: “We Are The 99 Percent, Not the Republicans.” Especially from the President: on the campaign trail, Obama has to keep reminding people that he and Michelle paid off his college loans, like, three years ago. It is the epitome of the identify-with-the-voter problem that is continuing to consume the two candidates in this election. Unfortunately, for the former CEO of Bain Capital, the problem immediately became a crisis.
However, what with Citizens United and our state of distrust with the federal government, it’s hard to pull off this move. Democrats are politicians, too; no matter how working-class they try to be, they are, in some sense of the word, part of the political elite. When Obama tells voters he had trouble paying off his debts, it’s almost impossible not to think, “Big deal; you’re still the leader of the free world,” especially when you’re dealing with an audience who overwhelmingly thinks the economy is still in the shitter.
But what made Mr. Booker’s speech so distinct is that you actually trust him when he tells you America is all about hard work and being able to “retire with dignity and respect” – even though, after doing the math for student loans, healthcare, rent and the likes, you know that’s bullshit. And does it all by incorporating a little liberal rarity called anger.
Throughout all of Booker’s speech, the mayor yelled; he didn’t raise his voice to the gray space between conversational and confrontational like the president, or do Howard Dean’s yippee schpiel. No, Booker straight-up told his audience about the unfairness of our economic system. He hammered in the unbelievably important decision in November, like a father telling his son or daughter,”GO TO YOUR ROOM RIGHT … NOW.” He wasn’t giving talking points to mull over—he was giving us no other option but to nod out of approval and fear.
After a rousing applause and streams of tears from the crowd, Booker told his party “THIS IS OUR PLATFORM” four time in a row. Who knows if this was his “Obama at the 2004 DNC” moment or whether the boss was even listening to the new employee. In the end, one thing was for sure: The Mayor of Newark means business.