So that’s why Cory Booker has not caught on

Peter Beinart (like the previous article that inspired me to write about Booker) likewise takes to the virtual pages of the Atlantic, but, in this case, offers a compelling argument for why Booker has failed to catch on.  I don’t know that Beinart is 100% right, but Beinart is a super-smart political observer and this take strikes me as pretty persuasive.  On to it:

The answer has a lot to do with Booker’s unwillingness to stand up for what he once believed. Since early this year, Democratic moderates who are uneasy about Joe Biden have been casting about for a candidate. But Booker, by refusing to challenge his party’s left in the early debates, took himself out of contention. And now it may be too late.

In his early political career, Booker embodied the market-friendly, fiscally conservative ethos of Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party. In 2002, when he ran for mayor of Newark as a darling of Wall Street who supported school vouchersNew York magazine called him “essentially a Clinton Democrat.” Jesse Jackson dubbed him “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” In 2011, Booker enraged New Jersey’s public-employee unions by backing Governor Chris Christie’s effort to cut health and retirement benefits for teachers and other state workers. And the following year, Booker—who during the 2012 election cycle received more than one-third of his campaign contributions from the finance industry—famously called on Barack Obama’s campaign to “stop attacking private equity” in an interview on Meet the Press.

Booker’s defining decision as a presidential candidate has been his refusal to defend this centrist, pro-business record…

It’s easy to see why Booker adopted this tack. Conventional wisdom holds that candidates who go negative hurt themselves even when they draw blood. Moreover, during the summer and early fall, Warren rose from the pack to draw even with Biden nationally and surpass him in Iowa, thus confirming the widespread perception that Democratic voters were hungering for an ambitious, unapologetic progressive.

But as Warren rose, so did a backlash among Democratic donors and officials who saw her economic policies as dangerously radical and feared that she could not defeat Trump. As Biden careened from poor performance to poor performance, they began searching in earnest for an alternative. Booker might have been it. He was better known to party and financial elites than centrists such as Klobuchar, Bennet, and Montana Governor Steve Bullock; possessed more star power; and offered a greater chance of putting together the coalition of black and relatively moderate white voters that usually powers successful Democratic presidential campaigns. Unlike Kamala Harris, another African American senator who is more moderate than Sanders and Warren, Booker also had a long record of making the very arguments for a pro-business, deficit-conscious liberalism that the Democratic elites who feared Warren and Sanders craved.

Yet Booker refused to play that role.

I still like Booker, and just maybe it’s not too late, but now I think I’ve finally seen a good explanation for Booker is languishing at the back of the pack.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to So that’s why Cory Booker has not caught on

  1. samuel h brewer says:

    The Atlantic article author was right, “His messaging has been consistent.” he has been consistently pro-corporate, which is as broadly unpopular with voters as it is popular with rich donors. pro wall-street, pharmaceutical, fracking, walton/gates/zuckerberg school privitization, etcetera. That author didnt mention any actual policies Booker has supported in his career. Beinart does a more thorough job of clearly identifying things he has supported but thinks he is highlighting his glowing resume instead of the exact things that people don’t like about him: his unpopular record.

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