Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What kind of Democrat is Cory Booker? Not a reliably progressive one

Newark Mayor Cory Booker was just been nominated by New Jersey primary voters as the Democratic candidate for the US Senate. Given some of the information that has been highlighted in news reports recently, this is not good news. It's a real boost for the corporate Dem wing of the the Party. And also for the Christian Right, Pentecostal branch.

The level of Booker's commitment to corporate interests is shown by his involvement of a startup company, Waywire, a major purpose of which seems to be to provide money to Booker in the form of dubious "investments." Eric Lach reports (What Will Happen To Cory Booker’s Ridiculous Tech Start-Up If He’s Elected? TPM 08/13/2013):

"If I become a United States Senator, I will step off the board, put my holdings in a public trust," Booker told NBC News in an interview on Monday, in response to a question about whether his involvement in a struggling video curation website was "cashing in on your public office."

Booker’s role in the website, called Waywire, was spotlighted in a New York Times front-page story last week. Set up in March 2012 by Booker and two tech world players, Waywire touts itself as a place to "discover the best video from across the web via the sources you choose and trust." Thanks to Booker, the company received early investments from Oprah Winfrey, Google’s Eric Schmidt, and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman. Andrew Zucker, the 15-year-old son of CNN President Jeff Zucker, was named to the company’s advisory board and given stock options. (The younger Zucker resigned from Waywire after the Times story came out.) Booker told the Times it had not been difficult to raise $1.75 million in seed money for the company "because of the power of the idea."
The Times article to which he refers is by David Halbfinger at al, Tech Magnates Bet on Booker and His Future 08/06/2013. For more on that, see: Brett Logiurato, Cory Booker Slams Obama Campaign For Attacking Romney On Bain Capital Business Insider 05/20/2012; John Israel, Bain and Financial Industry Gave Over $565,000 To Newark Mayor Cory Booker For 2002 Campaign Think Progress 05/21/2012.

Cenk Uygur and The Young Turks have been on Booker's case for a while, e.g., Wall Street Funds Cory Booker 05/22/2012:

That video mentions his criticizing the Obama campaign for raising Bain Capital's misdeeds as an issue against Mitt Romney.

Sam Seder also weighs in, Cory Booker's Role Models: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul 08/13/2013:

Just as sobering are Booker's ties to Pentecostal Christian Dominionists. Susie Madrak explains in Anybody But Cory Booker C&L 08/12/2013:

Cory Booker is very, very tight with the religious right wing -- but he's also very careful about what he says, since he hopes to run for president one day and cultivates strong LGBT support. The problem is, he hangs with the Dominionists. Is this a case of "I'll work with anybody who wants to help my city", or is there something more?

He's very religious himself. So where are the lines he won't cross? Is it okay for Democrats to validate and support any parts of the right-wing agenda that's politically convenient?
The able folks at Talk to Action add to Madrak's explanation: Frederick Clarkson, Cory Booker: Stealth Religious Right Democrat for U.S. Senate? 08/12/2013; Rachel Tabachnick, NAR Apostles Claim Partnership Role in the Mythical 'Transformation' of Cory Booker's Newark 08/12/2013; Rachel Tabachnick, Pastor at Cory Booker's Church Calls for Return to Time When Only Christians Could Vote in Newark 08/13/2013. Tabachnick writes in the latter:

Is Cory Booker's church fair game for discussion in an election? When the senior pastor endorses Booker in a video released by his senate campaign, I would say yes. David Jefferson, Jr., senior pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark, endorsed Cory Booker's candidacy in a video released by his senate campaign in early August as part of the "Voices for Cory" series. The evangelistic outreach pastor at Metropolitan Baptist is Apostle Bernard Wilks, who has led and organized municipal events, and is head of Transformation Newark. Wilks has called for the return of the city to Puritan Newark's guidelines allowing only "Christian believers" to vote or hold leadership roles in the city. The significance of this is not just it's shock value, but in understanding the symbiosis of the school privatization and extreme "free marketers" funding Booker, and the Religious Right leaders who redirect the frustration and anger of those most impacted by our current economic structure.
The NAR is the New Apostolic Reformation, which I would describe as a "stealth denomination," a group whose influence crosses more formal denominations and nominally independent Pentecostal churches and is led by minister who call themselves Apostles and who have a distinctly authoritarian and theocratic bent.

Sarah Palin identified with the NAR. And the movement were enthusiastic backers of Rick Perry's ill-starred Presidential candidacy.

In her earlier post linked above, Tabachnnick writes:

Cory Booker's meteoric rise has been mentored and financed by a who's-who of GOP funders and "free market" think tanks. He has been embraced as a spokesperson and served on the boards of the core organizations promoting "private school choice," but marketed to the public as school reform. At the grass roots level, as with so many issues, it's the Religious Right that does the heavy lifting on promoting school privatization as the salvation of poor, urban children. Where there are hubs of school privatization activism, there also hubs of modern-day apostles working to infiltrate Hispanic and African American churches. Because of the recognition of the GOP's abysmal record with minority populations, the Religious Right outreach to minority populations is becoming increasingly party-independent, and focused on cultivating ideologically-aligned political leaders in both major parties.

[T]he New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) [is, a movement that is sweeping the globe and rebuilding the American Religious Right. The network of modern-day apostles is at the cutting edge of anti-gay and anti-reproductive rights activism around the world, but mask these efforts in claims of racial reconciliation, charitable activities, and "transformation" of communities.
And she offers an important cautionary note for Democrats:

The part they don't usually include on their websites? That Dominionists believe it's perfectly okay to "lie for the Lord." If by lying, you can win high political office with the larger agenda of winning the world for Jesus, Jesus would be okay with that! They actually intend to rule the world.

So here's the question: Does Cory Booker simply cultivate useful relationships with a lot of un-American, unsavory, pro-corporatist, right-wing religious extremists -- or is he one of them? I can't read his mind, but I've had enough of giving so-called Democrats the benefit of the doubt on this stuff. At the very least, he provides credibility to the rest of their agenda. (And, as the nuns always told us, "Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas.")

Progressives keep getting caught in this image snare. Hey, he "seems cool!" He's on Twitter! He's a vegetarian! He shovels the walk for old ladies! He says he's for gay issues, how right-wing could he be? Too right wing for this particular progressive, as it turns out.

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