Cory Booker speaks about democracy, community and reconciliation at virtual event
SPA dialogue series will focus on “democratic vitality”
In the first conversation of the School of Public Affairs’ James A. Thurber Dialogues on American Democracy, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) spoke with SPA professor Thurber about the state of the nation.
Booker is the first of four speakers who will be featured during the three-part dialogue series, which will run until the end of March. Booker has served as the junior U.S. senator from New Jersey since 2013 and ran for president in the 2020 Democratic primary, but dropped out of the race in January 2020.
“I’m very worried about the ideals of democracy,” Booker said when asked about the state of bipartisanship. “A lot of the same issues that are going on in the United States are going on in other places.”
The Thurber series focuses on “democratic vitality” and what is currently threatening the “American Experiment.” Thurber is the founder of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University and has written books and articles about Congress, elections and interest groups.
In his book “United,” Booker said that grace, love, forgiveness and redemption are necessary in the search for a more perfect union. Following the Capitol insurrection, unity in Congress has been harder to find but not impossible, Booker said.
“I think that those ideals are our only hope right now [to combat partisanship] … not serving or evasion,” Booker said in the discussion. “Unless we can find a way out of this trap, we are in trouble.”
Booker also said that building infrastructure plays a key role in supporting communities with large populations of people of color.
Booker voiced his strong support for raising the minimum wage, but made it clear that this is not the only change that must be made in order to improve the lives of Americans. This process must also involve making issues that have become partisan bipartisan once again, he said. Booker referenced heavily-funded infrastructure projects, such as the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, computing and education.
“All of [the] things that were bipartisan initiatives to make America stand out on the planet, there is not always a bipartisan commitment to now,” he said. “Public education, infrastructure, research and development.”
Booker also said that one of the things that worries him the most is Americans’ hatred toward each other.
“There's more vitriol for other Americans than there are for the people that I know from my intelligence briefings are plotting … to undermine our democracy,” he said. “Our ability as a country to strongly face those challenges will come from our ability to come together.”