Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has issued a “prove I matter to you” ultimatum to Democratic donors as his flailing presidential campaign sputters into autumn. “Here’s the bottom line: Cory 2020 needs to raise an additional $1.7 million by September 30 to be in a position to build the organization necessary to continue competing for the nomination,” the campaign revealed in a publicly released memo on Sept. 21. “Without a fundraising surge to close out this quarter, we do not see a legitimate long-term path forward.”
Insipid Is Not Indispensable
It’s an unusual gambit for a candidate who has never given voters a coherent explanation of what unique qualities he brings to the table. Along with now-departed rival Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Booker has distinguished himself more for his eagerness to out-pander competitors on leftist social justice talking points than for pushing significant issues to the forefront of national conversation.
Booker’s embarrassing turn as a coyote escorting migrants over the US southern border in July told Americans all they needed to know about a campaign that has been short on substance and lacking enough style to resonate with Democrat voters. Relishing the progressive game show that is the Dem primary process in 2020, the Booker campaign has failed to convincingly display a weighty side to its candidate that would induce voters to take him seriously. Booker, languishing in the low single digits in national polls, even trails top-tier contenders in his home state of New Jersey. A Sept. 19 Monmouth University poll of prospective Garden State Dem voters had Joe Biden at 26% support, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at 20%, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at 18%, and Booker well back at a paltry 9% on his own turf.
“If you simply think Cory has an important voice and message that more voters should hear,” you must donate to the campaign by Sept. 30, the campaign memo implores. It’s pretty hard to convince voters that you are an essential voice when you are serving up nothing but pap. Yet this is just what the senator continues to do even after publicly releasing his dire warning. Here’s Booker on Sept. 22 tweeting out a video clip of himself speaking in Iowa and giving a cheerleading performance full of vacuous platitudes:
It's time for us as Democrats to remember who we are. pic.twitter.com/RZ7hQNSrDb
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) September 22, 2019
“We’re the party of we, not the party of me,” the cringeworthy clip begins. It doesn’t get any deeper after that. “The truth of America is that we’re not here because of rugged individualism and self-reliance. We’re here because of each other. We didn’t get to the moon because of rugged individualism. We didn’t build the Underground Railroad because of rugged individualism. We didn’t beat the Nazis because of individuals.”
Unfocused and On His Way Out
No matter where one stands politically, how does this add anything to determining a major-party nominee for president? Dems expressing a desire to see the straggling Booker fight on have been just as empty in their reasoning. “I think that it would be a travesty not to have him in the race,” Dem strategist Minyon Moore told NBC News. “We need him in the race. His race is one factor, but his voice is another factor.” He’s black, therefore he’s an important candidate? What a weak argument to make on behalf of a man who has served in the U.S. Senate for six years.
Like that of fellow struggling candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Booker’s biggest moment on the Democratic debate stage so far did not see him champion bold or intriguing policy. Instead, it came when he chose to lecture front-runner Biden about his alleged racism 40-plus years ago. Biden was targeted merely for saying he was able to work with segregationist senators in the 1970s to get things done. “I was raised to speak truth to power,” Booker later asserted about his useless confrontation with the former vice president, as if he had addressed a matter of deep-seated concern to Americans in their everyday lives.
“This isn’t an end-of-quarter stunt or another one of those memos from a campaign trying to spin the press,” the Booker campaign appeal reads. “This is a real, unvarnished look under the hood of our operation at a level of transparency unprecedented in modern presidential campaigns.”
Of course, this is a stunt. Or just more empty posturing. For that is all Booker has offered throughout his aimless run. It’s difficult to see how Democrats not openly aligned with him can believe Booker remaining in the race will elevate the party’s primary process moving forward. Banal bromides and safe avowals of canned identity politics tropes are hardly in short supply in this weak field. Booker is fading away, whether or not he gets his temporary financial booster shot.