New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has a simple explanation for why he is running for president: To unite people around a common sense of purpose. Recently, the Democratic candidate for president and former mayor of Newark sat down with Blavity Politics to talk basketball, his campaign, and how he plans to address immigration, the racial wealth gap, criminal justice, and LGBTQ issues if elected.
2020 Is Larger Than Trump
Booker wants Americans to understand the 2020 election is bigger than defeating Donald Trump. “Just getting rid of Trump doesn’t bring justice to our community,” he said. He emphasized the need for larger aspirations, saying there is much work to be done nationwide to improve economic opportunity and social justice for all people.
Criminal Justice Reform
He appears passionate about criminal justice reform, which he spoke about at length. Booker has made the issue a central focus of both his career and campaign platform. Under his leadership, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill in December, The First Step Act, which aims to expand job training, early release programs, and reduce sentencing laws in an effort to overhaul mass incarceration. Under the law, more than 3,100 inmates were released from prison and the Justice Department gave $75 million to fund its implementation and oversight.
Still, Booker remains unrelenting on such issues and links mass incarceration to the racial wealth gap and declining rates of black homeownership.
“The wealth gap was created because of explicitly racist policies in our country. Redlining, mortgage discrimination … the] criminal justice system, which is not only a criminal injustice, it is an economic injustice. You have kids in prison right now for doing things two out of the last three presidents admitted to doing. When they come out, they have a lifetime sentence," Booker said. They can’t get jobs, can’t get loans from the bank. We have to start crafting policies that are racially conscious [and] try to deal with this injustice.”
Lessening the Wealth Gap
One of those policies he would like to implement is issuing a $1,000 interest-bearing savings account for every child in America, regardless of income or socioeconomic status. Every year, money would be placed into this account, which over time would not only decrease the racial wealth gap but also provide black and brown children with money to attend college, buy homes, or start businesses.
Hopeful for the Next Generation
Despite the country's challenges, Booker is confident they can be met head-on — particularly if young people step up and engage. He offered a challenge to young people to demand more.
“In every movement for social change, young people have been at the center of it,” Booker said. “We need to start demanding more because as Frederick Douglass said, ‘power concedes nothing without a demand.’”