On road to 2020: Booker brings revival to Beaufort

6 mins read

By Mike McCombs

When Cory Booker walked out onto the isolated square stage Friday, April 26, on the floor of the gymnasium at Whale Branch Middle School, it didn’t take long to figure out this political rally was quite different from the last one here, held just a week before in the same building.

A room away, the previous Friday, fellow Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts had shown a keen grasp of the issues and a sharp intellect. She was smart, likable and seemed to have answers the partisan crowd liked.

A week later, surrounded on three sides by occupied folding chairs and on a fourth by fans in the bleachers, Booker, the senator from New Jersey and 2020 Democratic candidate for President of the United States, gave many similar answers, policy-wise, to the more than 200 in attendance. 

Politically, Booker’s positions weren’t all that far from Warren’s. But there, the similarities ended.

From the first moments, Booker’s event was not so much a political rally as it was a revival of sorts.

There was neither the tent nor the fire and brimstone of a Baptist preacher. 

Instead the theme that flowed through Booker’s two-hour talk was love.
“I think people on both sides of the aisle know we need a revival. A revival of civic grace, a revival of a deeper empathy for each other, a revival that doesn’t have us hating each other just because we vote differently,” Booker said. “We need to get back to the sense of a common cause, of a common purpose, because we definitely have a common pain. So for me a lot of the focus of this campaign, the reason why I wanted to run is because I felt like this was the spirit our country most needed.”

Booker said a country can only be judged by how it treats it’s most vulnerable citizens, and on that note, America has lost its way.

He cited the justice system’s tilt toward those with money and its bias against the poor, black, brown and mentally ill. He also cited the nation’s treatment of women.

He supports a single-payer health care plan. But before such a plan could work, he said, we first have to defend the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicare.

“I believe health care in America is a right,” Booker said. 

Booker said he would lower prescription drug costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices.

Teege Culp of St. Helena Island was impressed with the whole package.

“The whole thing struck me. I liked his upfront honesty,” Culp said. “I liked the fact that I didn’t see a lot of narcissism coming out of him. That was refreshing. I like his ideas. I liked what he had to say.

Climate change, healthcare, poverty, race. That’s where it is.”

Booker pushed for more affordable housing, a theme for him since he was mayor of Newark, N.J. In his first term there, he doubled the rate of affordable housing construction while cutting the city’s deficit in half.

Charlene Piantanida is a retired police office from New Jersey. She lives in Bluffton, now.

“I know Senator Booker’s record in Newark better than a lot of people. If he can do for this country what he did for that city, we’ll be so much better off,” Piantanida said. “By the time he left that city, he had changed things so much. He had really progressive ideas and found a way to pay for them.”

Booker wants to ban the Federal government from asking about felony convictions on job applications, protect Planned Parenthood and address student loan debt. 

And he wants to ease the middle class tax burden by rolling back the “toxic” Trump tax cuts.

Booker got emotional when asked about gun control and mass shootings.

“I am tired of going to funerals that are such a peversion of nature where parents are burying their children,” Booker said. “Faith without works is dead. Don’t come to me with your thoughts and prayers.”

But no matter the issue, Booker kept coming back to love and values and unity.

“It can’t be about one guy and one office,” he said. “It has to be about us and what our values are.”

And he said he refuses to fight fire with fire.

“I believe I can be the president of the United States. I have to believe that or I wouldn’t be here,” Booker said. “But I also believe on this journey, I can do a lot of good. I can affect the national conversation and get this race not to be so negative and so divisive. It’s about small things and trying to raise us back to being a country that does mighty things and accomplishes it by bringing people together.”

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