What is so maddeningly frustrating about Cory Booker’s inevitable victory in tomorrow’s election for Senate is that it was engineered by a man most Democrats in New Jersey pretend to hate: Gov. Chris Christie. Without Christie, Booker would never have faced such an extraordinarily easy path to a full, six-year Senate term following a tenure as Newark’s mayor that left the city broke, bleeding, divided, and the model for how the rich and the white can reclaim a city through gentrification based on the destruction of neighborhood public schools.
Thanks to Christie’s expensive manipulation of election laws, Booker had an easy go of it in both the Democratic primary in August 2012 and the special election in October. Booker returned the favor by tepidly campaigning for Barbara Buono. Here’s a challenge: Find a statement from Booker in 2013 in which he sharply criticized Christie while allegedly campaigning for Christie’s Democratic rival.
Booker, if he had any integrity, would have repudiated Christie’s corrupt use of election laws that cost New Jersey taxpayers $24 million. Instead, Booker accepted the gift and used that corruption as a greased express train to Washington DC as the politician most undeserving of a Senate seat in modern history.
.Just how weak a candidate Booker proved to be was shown in how close the laughable candidacy of Steve Lonegan came to defeating him for the unexpired term of the late Frank Lautenberg, Christie’s and Booker’s shared nemesis. Despite outspending Lonegan $2.5 million to $180,000, Booker won by only 10 points.
Christie also helped by politically spaying his fellow Republicans, rendering them impotent and invisible against a Democrat who might have lost against a legitimate GOP challenger. Does anyone remember the Republican governor campaigning for the Republican Senate candidate? He has traveled the country campaigning for out-of-state Republicans–has he campaigned for Bell?
But Christie wouldn’t do that–because he and Booker had been buds and bros for years and the relationship continues. Does anyone really believe that Christie–with his power in the Republican party–could not have arranged for a stronger candidate than the superannuated carpetbagger, Jeff Bell?
Sure, Christie doesn’t want another strong Republican in New Jersey–but that wasn’t his only aim. He also wanted Booker to win the senate seat.
I have no special insight as to when and how the Booker/Christie political bro-mance started, but it has been going on for years. Look how Christie–abusing his power as US Attorney for New Jersey–so weakened former Mayor Sharpe James with his leaks to media about alleged corruption and his carefully timed issue of subpoenas.
Once Christie helped make Booker mayor, show me the evidence Booker ever took on Christie. When Christie cut aid to the city and forced the layoff of hundreds of the city’s cops, where was Booker? Where was his outrage? Show me his condemnation of the governor who helped create the bloodbath that was Newark in the last years of Booker’s failed mayoralty.
I’ll tell you where Booker was–he was campaigning to expand charter schools and to bring voucher schools to New Jersey. In 2011, instead of criticizing Christie for awarding the city’s streets to gangs, Booker was telling the Legislature that privatizing public education was “the civil rights issue of our time.” And who can forget the roll-out of the anti-public school junta orchestrated by Oprah Winfrey?
Oprah, Zuckerberg, Christie and Booker–now there’s a group with a lot in common with the people of Newark. But it’s always fun to hear fairy tales about how Booker saved grandmothers and pitbulls. Kept our minds off how blood ran in the streets of the city.
After he testified in favor of the Christie/George Norcross voucher plan before a legislative commitee, I asked him why he wasn’t as passionate about crime in the streets and the firing of police officers. Booker said he was but was able to speak privately to Christie about that. He had a special relationship with the Governor.
Right. He sure did. He sure does.
I don’t know the details of who brought Booker to Newark from Harrington Park, Yale and Stanford. I don’t know who made him the Manchurian candidate who would rob New Jersey Democrats of legitimate leadership, but I have my suspicions–and they include Ray Chambers and Art Ryan, leaders of the Newark business elite who realized they could not gentrify Newark unless they destroyed the city’s neighborhood schools in favor of a privatized system of charter and voucher schools. If there is anything we know about New Jersey, it is that few white folks send their children voluntarily to school with the children of black folks. That’s why experts here in New Jersey and throughout the nation consider the state’s public school system as “apartheid”–a system where 100,000 black children go to school every day without ever seeing a white classmate.
Booker came to Newark pushing school privatization. He tried to pitch his idea to Sharpe James who laughed it–and him–off. Booker founded E3, a right-wing, pro-voucher lobbying group whose leader recently predicted Camden’s public schools would soon be eliminated. Booker took politicians and other opinion leaders on national tours of places where vouchers were tried. Then he formed formed his sinister alliance with Christie to ramp up the campaign–see Dale Russakoff’s article, “Schooled,” in The New Yorker. He helped bring Christopher Cerf to New Jersey and his old campaign worker, Cami Anderson, to the city as school superintendent to force privatization down the throats of Newark residents.
Frankly, I don’t think Christie really gives a damn about what happens to urban schools. I don’t think he has the intelligence to conceptualize any serious approach to school reform. But he knows what he doesn’t want, and he doesn’t want either to desegregate public schools or to provide the funds required by law to improve them. He wants to keep them separate and unequal to schools in white suburbs.
Booker provided Christie with an out, a fig leaf, a change of subject–let’s privatize the schools and, as an added incentive, bust the public school employee unions. And Booker is, of course, an African-American who pretends to liberal credentials, so he could pull off helping his Republican friend Christie while still not losing his base among liberal white suburbanites who will vote for him, no matter what.
I can still heart Phil Ochs singing, “Love me, Love me, love me–I’m a liberal.”
In the tortured politics of now, Booker might be a liberal, a neo-liberal like Andrew Cuomo, but he is no progressive. Little wonder he has formed his deepest Senate relationship so far with crazy Rand Paul. Booker is an anti-public school, anti-public employee union, pro-Wall Street opportunist who betrayed the people of Newark. He’s the guy who, while campaigning as a surrogate for President Barack Obama, said criticism of Mitt Romney’s use of Bain Capital to destroy the lives of workers made him want to “vomit.”
I know Booker will win tomorrow, but I do not believe he is the lesser of any evils. He and Christie have formed a partnership of evil. That partnership may some day make Christie president. But it already has weakened public schools and other neighborhood institutions in cities throughout New Jersey.
I am sick to death of those Democrats who warn of terrible consequences of voting against someone like Booker. Those terrible consequences already are happening now–and will continue to happen for however long voters are fooled into believing there really is much of a difference–aside from style and skin color–between opportunists like Christie and Booker.
It’s time to scare the Democrats straight. Maybe the party will purge its ranks of the likes of Booker, Joe DiVincenzo, George Norcross, and Steve Sweeney. They need to get the message that public institutions are not for sale to the highest bidder, whether they be public schools or campuses of Rutgers University.
Christie is telling New Jersey to sit down, shut up and vote for his bro, Cory Booker.
I say we should tell them both to sit down, shut up and get their slimy, money-stained hands off our public schools.