2020 Candidate Sen. Cory Booker: Trump 'Trafficking In Racism' To 'Gain Power'

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) speaks during a presidential candidate forum at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) speaks during a presidential candidate forum at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

We're talking with presidential candidates in the runup to the 2020 election. Check out all of our conversations.

Democrats are blasting President Trump this week for his racist tweets targeting four Democratic congresswomen.

And New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) is no exception.

“He is trafficking in racism, using it as a weapon, to prey upon minorities and women … as a way to gain power and control,” Booker tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson. “And it is one of the more sort of insidious elements in our culture and our heritage, but we should know it's nothing new. The gardens of our democracy have never been free of the weeds of this type of demagoguery and hatred.”

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate says his parents taught him not just about hate, but how it was defeated in the past. Booker says that’s what this election is all about.

“I'm saying quite simply this election is not a referendum on Donald Trump and his spewing of racism and bigotry,” he says. “It's really a referendum on who we are, who we are to each other, and we will beat him.”

Interview Highlights 

On the challenge of getting his message across in a crowded Democratic field

“For me, my focus is the people and what I've done in the past in trying to get people to change their moral imagination about cities and places to turn around dramatically, turn around an area like Newark that used to not be able to get everything from institutional capital to philanthropy, we were able to change people's opinion. Not by focusing first on the media, that's not the end. The end is the people and the media will follow. I'm very excited about taking Donald Trump on one-on-one. I've taken on bullies before and beaten them. I've taken on demagoguery before and defeated it. This is a fight I'm up for, but I'll tell you what. We're not going to win this fight on Donald Trump's terms and his turf and playing into his hands by making him the subject of this conversation all the time. It's not about what we're against. We've got to get it back to what we're for.

“You and I both know that every single presidential candidate going back to before [Jimmy Carter], the people from the Democratic Party that win this far out from an election were always considered the lesser polls or longshots — Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter or even a guy named Barack Obama. We are so far out from this election and as my team told me last night, we're still introducing ourselves. We have barely over 50% name recognition. But when people get to hear my message, we tend to pop. When we came off the last debate stage was our best days of fundraising, and we saw a surge in endorsements around the country of lawmakers in early primary states. We've got the right message. We've got the right organizations, and we're going to win those early primary states and go on to win the nomination.”

On the trade war with China 

“China is not only a threat using the trade practices, the stealing of our intellectual property, and many of the other bad practices. They're not just a threat to United States. They're undermining Western Europe and Eastern Europe. They're undermining Canada and Mexico. But this president has literally said to us, 'We're going to take on China. At the same time, we're going to put tariffs on our allies as well.' So we've used a national security waiver to put tariffs on Canada. Now I know [Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] might be threatening to people like me because he's got this great hair and I'm the bald man. But the reality is Canada's not our enemy. We need to be uniting with others in common cause against China. People who have our same values and believe in the same rules. And if I'm going to take on China, I'm going to take it on with our allies who represent more than half of our global economy, and we're going to win that fight.”

 On the perception that he supports the pharmaceutical industry

“Well, I don't need to say that's not true because PolitiFact has actually taken on that exactly what you just said and called it wrong. I have never done anything to stop importations. In fact, the bill to allow safe importations into our country was actually written by me and Sen. [Bernie] Sanders together. And so we need to start separating fact from fiction. I live in an inner-city, low-income neighborhood and represented most of my career, people who are struggling. I've seen the anguish of people putting aside insulin drugs or lifesaving medication because they can't afford it. As mayor, I fought to lower prescription drug prices. I've always been in favor of not just importation, but taking a much stronger fight against the pharmaceutical industries. I'm a co-sponsor of a bill that would take away their patents if they're raising their drugs in this country higher than others.”

On the government’s role in regulating vaping 

“I think that this is yet another way the tobacco companies are coming back trying to get folks addicted. Yes, there should be regulation and accountability because we pay for it. And seeing that what happens to kids who get addicted on this and it erodes their quality of life and their life expectancy. We pay for it through medical costs, which often drive up the cost of health care in our country, Medicaid, Medicare. I believe in individual freedom, but I also believe in holding corporations accountable for their marketing, especially when you're doing it in an irresponsible, harmful fashion to people who are underage.”

On if America is ready to elect the first bachelor president since James Buchanan 

“I was about to start cracking up because I thought you're going to ask me, ‘Is America ready for the first vegan president?’ There's so many things about me that I think are unique. I was sort of bracing myself for where you were going to go. I'm in a serious relationship right now. Let's hold the jury out before you ask that question to see where Rosario and I are about a year or so from now.

“I think that America is ready for a much better president, for a president that is unifying and healing, that calls for a revival of civic grace and a more courageous empathy for each other at a time that we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of putting a person on the moon. I think America is ready for a moment where we have a president that can help us to defy gravity in this generation.”

Jill Ryan and Julia Corcoran produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Kathleen McKenna. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web. 

This segment aired on July 17, 2019.


Headshot of Jeremy Hobson

Jeremy Hobson Former Co-Host, Here & Now
Before coming to WBUR to co-host Here & Now, Jeremy Hobson hosted the Marketplace Morning Report, a daily business news program with an audience of more than six million.



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