This Spring, the Berkeley Public Policy Journal will profile the (many) candidates vying to become the next President of the United States. Starting Tuesday, March 5 – a calendar year before Super Tuesday – BPPJ will feature weekly posts written by Goldman students who are taking a look at who’s running and why. We note that these posts feature author opinions that do not represent BPPJ, the Goldman School of Public Policy, or UC Berkeley.
By Spencer Bowen
In early February, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker announced his candidacy for president with a video that dares you not to nod your head to the snare drum beat. Booker was a decorated student, graduating with both an undergraduate and graduate degree from the Bay Area’s second-best university, where he was recruited to play football, and receiving a graduate degree at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He went on to Yale Law School and was elected the 36th Mayor of Newark, New Jersey in 2006. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2013.
Three things about Cory Booker:
- Booker boasts a lengthy and well-documented record in support of criminal justice reform. Most recently, he helped usher the bipartisan First Step Act and its mandatory minimum changes through the Senate last year. Booker grilled Attorney General nominee William Barr just weeks ago, probing Barr about the social and racial biases built into federal drug policy. Many political analysts point to his progressive criminal justice and drug policy bona fides as reasons Booker should be taken seriously in a Democratic primary increasingly fueled by more progressive voters.
- Booker talks the liberal talk on income inequality and tax policy, but some far left activists doubt his commitment to taking on powerful corporate interests. He introduced the “Baby Bonds Act,” a measure to give American newborns a seeded investment savings account, but also voted against an amendment supporting Canadian drug imports that would lower pharmaceutical costs to consumers. Booker’s position on economic and tax policy is much less clearly defined than his stance on criminal justice reform and will be interesting to monitor throughout the next year.
- Like many Democratic hopefuls, Booker has made publicly standing up to President Trump a priority. Unlike many candidates, he broke with centuries of tradition and testified against a sitting Senator, Alabama’s Jeff Sessions, during his Attorney General confirmation process. Whether a political stunt, heartfelt stand, or some mixture of both, Booker created an indelible image and can use the hearings as an example of his commitment to racial justice.
Booker’s resume is chock-full of public service and memorable moments. On policy, he’s not much different than many contenders for the Democratic nomination, although some of his early views on criminal justice reform have aged well and will prove popular with progressive voters. He may be the most talented and inspiring orator in the field, a theatrical and intense speaker who oozes charisma. Booker promises to be a strong contender and could easily emerge from Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina as a frontrunner for the party nomination.
Spencer Bowen is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the Goldman School of Public Policy and a Senior Editor of the Berkeley Public Policy Journal.
This article is an opinion piece, and the opinions expressed represent the author alone. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the Berkeley Public Policy Journal, the Goldman School of Public Policy, or UC Berkeley.