NORTH LIBERTY — Cory Booker acknowledges that he may not have the best 15-point policy plans of the candidates seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
However, the New Jersey senator doesn’t think that’s what the 2020 election will be about.
“It is about us challenging each other to understand that we are not each other’s enemy. We have to have a deeper, more courageous empathy, and our politics must begin to reflect core values,” Booker said a Thursday campaign event in North Liberty.
It would be easy to blame Republicans for what ails the country, but Booker said Democrats have to accept responsibility for not turning out to vote in 2016.
In 2020, he said, Democrats have to “build new coalitions, strengthening bonds, by coming together in common cause and common purpose.”
Calling for healing and unity, Booker said it wouldn’t be enough for Democrats merely to win the 2020 election.
“You could win the White House and not heal the country,” Booker said during 90 minutes before an audience of more than 100 people at the North Liberty Recreation Center.
“We need a wave election, a new American majority,” he said. “We need to awaken each other to our common pain and turn that into common purpose.”
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He encouraged people to vote not just with their heads, but also with their hearts.
Booker acknowledged the challenge he faces in the three weeks before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses. He’s running sixth or lower in most polls and appears unlikely to qualify to be in the Democratic National Committee debate in Des Moines on Jan. 14.
“This is one of the most frustrating things in this presidential campaign,” he said when asked about not being in the debate.
“This is the first time we’ve had top-level Democrats in Washington telling Iowa who their choices are,” he said. “But you guys never cared much for national polls.”
He noted Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards were polling at 4 percent and 2 percent, respectively, in 2004 before campaigning in Iowa.
“They wouldn’t have made the debates, but they came in here, and you guys made them finish No. 1 and No. 2,” he said.
He faces the additional challenge of potentially being off the campaign trail to sit as a juror in the Senate impeachment trial later this month.
“We’re not deterred,” he said. “We have to upset expectations here.”
Later, in Mount Vernon, Jewish and Palestinian activists challenged what they called Booker’s contradictions between progressive values and his opposition to any form of accountability for Israel’s denial of Palestinian freedom or cuts in military funding.
“I have been standing for justice in that region long before I became a United States senator,” he said in North Liberty. “I’m proud of my record, and I will stand for the right of Israel to exist and the right for the Palestinians to have a country of their own.”
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