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On the Road, Cory Booker Is Talking About the Issues. None of Them Have to Do With Russia.

Charles P. Pierce
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Esquire

COLUMBIA, S.C.-On Saturday, when William Barr was still a shadowy memory from a confirmation puppet show, Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, brought his presidential campaign to the Cecil Tillis Training Center on the north side of this college town. Booker was there to discuss strategies to cope with the economic inequality that has fallen so hard on the country, and particularly on its minority citizens. He spent over an hour discussing various strategies to mitigate the problem, from the forgiveness of student loans to the notion of "baby bonds," a proposal by which every American child would get $1,000 at birth and then an annual deposit to its account, based on the family income, until it turned 18. The event fair bristled with ideas, not all of them good, and none of them having fck-all to do with Russian ratfcking.

"Stock prices," said Booker, "are at an 85-year high and wages are at a 65-year low. Most families can't take a $400 hit. Many of us are two flat tires away from having to sell something or go into debt. Over 40 percent of Americans have zero net worth, which means they're living paycheck to paycheck. And this is not because productivity has gone down. Society does not value work any more. It's stripping away the dignity and many people in this room know this. We have a real crisis in this country over financial stability."

Put simply, anyone who's telling you that the Democrats are in danger of overreaching in their criticism of El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago is selling you wooden nutmeg. In my first weekend following the 2020 election around, I heard general questions and answers about the president*'s character. (Pro tip: he has none.) And I heard a lot of talk about prying the presidency loose from the brigade of grifters, temp workers, and clucks he's installed in those executive branch jobs he's deigned to fill. But, mostly, I heard dialogue about a lot of problems and possible solutions that stretch beyond the green rooms of cable news-an environment, I admit, not unknown to me, and even less unknown to Cory Booker, truth be told. For example, remember criminal justice reform? Remember the carceral state? It's still out there as an issue.

Photo credit: Getty Images

"We in this country find a lot of money to spend to build a new prison or jail every ten days from the time I was in law school to the time I was mayor of the city of Newark," Booker said. "Get them a job. Get them support, and you cut the recidivism rate down in half. If you call yourself a fiscal conservative, you should support this. These can lower costs and expand opportunity. I don't know why a country like ours wants to treat every problem with prison and jail."

At the moment, Booker is on the conservative end of the Democratic spectrum. His chumminess with Wall Street types-who, as he represents New Jersey, counts as a constituent service-is counter to the prevailing spirit of Democratic economics. But he's also been involved in combatting the excesses of this administration* as well as trying to address the country's genuine needs that, alas, will outlast this president*. Nobody's running against Donald Trump, friend of the Kremlin. But everybody's running against the grifter who's not up to the job.

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