Photo of Cory Booker

Remarks on Changes in the Democratic Field of Candidates and the Path to Defeating Trump in Des Moines, Iowa

December 05, 2019

Hello, hello! This is so exciting! Alright, well look, I am so thrilled to be in Iowa for what will be an incredible 12-county tour, lots of stops.

I wanted to come here first, and talk a little bit more about our campaign. We have been consistent from the very beginning about the values that we were going to stand for, the virtues that we know more in America, we think need to be heralded and hailed, and in fact, give us strength to win in difficult times. But if you don't mind, I want to take a time to first talk about a friend of mine who just suspended her campaign. I'm gonna tell you from my heart I've gotten so many calls from so many people, even family members that are supporting me, about how bothered they were by that. Kamala had this very famous quote that I've heard now even pairing it on Saturday Night Live. When she talked about that little girl is me, but I'm going to tell you, she had a campaign where little girls and boys and people all over the country looked up and saw her and said 'that could be me'.

She had this campaign that spoke to the aspirations of our country. Here is a black woman, a Asian woman who broke barriers at every point of her campaign and one in won largest state. 40 plus million people. She's lived her whole life dedicated to public service. I get to sit with her in the Judiciary Committee, I see who she is and I just want to say from my heart, it is a problem when an immensely qualified, widely supported, truly accomplished black woman running to lead the party, a party that is significantly empowered by black women voters, didn't have the resources that she needed to continue here to Iowa. What message is that sending that we heralded the most diverse field in our history. And now we're seeing people like her, dropping out of this campaign, not because Iowa voters had the voice, voters did not determine her destiny.

But I'll tell you this, voters will determine the outcome of this campaign and black women voters in particular will have a very large impact on our ability to win.

And so, I'm just going to say it plain, it is a problem that we now have a overall campaign for the 2020 presidency, that has more billionaires in it than black people.

And, I cannot tell you how much I believe in our primaries. And I've seen folks here in Iowa belie what all the predictions are and show us what real viability is.

It was this state that set a trajectory for the first black man in American history to become president. And so, and frankly somebody that was way behind Hillary Clinton right now in the polls, in that time.

People in Iowa people, in New Hampshire, people in Nevada, people in South Carolina should determine this race not how much, how many billionaires how much money is being poured in, it should be the people that are determining this race. Because right now, whether we beat Donald Trump or not is going to determine about, how much faith folks have that we are the party that elevates the truth of America, that celebrates the true diversity of America, that remembers where we come from, and how we are going to get to the mountaintop. This isn't about an individual candidate, as much as I am hurt, my family members hurt, as much as people are frustrated about Kamala's story. Kamala was never in it for herself. She knew this was a bigger story this is not about one candidate. It is about the diverse coalition that is necessary to beat Donald Trump.

Look. That is the story of how we beat bullies and bigots, and demagogues, and the powerful, the so called powerful in every generation. It's the story of America.

We weren't founded perfect. We had imperfect geniuses that put the ideas of this nation forward, but even then those founding documents, had real imperfections. Native Americans referred to as savages, women second class citizens, blacks fractions of human beings.

But the story of this country is that every generation found ways to put more indivisible into this one nation under God, to honor and respect and elevate the human dignity and the human rights, and even more so to understand that if this country was going to make it ,like that old African saying, 'if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.' If America was to go too far, we had to go together.

And so every great accomplishment we have made as a nation was not made because of ideals, simply of rugged individualism and self reliance. I love those themes but rugged individualism didn't beat the Nazis. It didn't take us to the moon. It didn't beat Jim Crow, we did those things together, diverse coalitions at every point in our history, the bigger and bolder the coalitions, the more justice, we were able to obtain the more we expanded opportunity in this country. We are the nation that even on our most trying and tragic times, we turn those tragedies into a rallying cry.

When women threw themselves out windows at the Shirtwaist Factory fire to die on the pavement below. We had Americans who knew that democracy was not a spectator sport, it was a verb, and they got up and join hands with others join in common cause and common purpose, and we changed laws protecting workers, elevated their rights. When four girls died in a bombing in Birmingham, this nation's outrage got them out working together, joining hands battling for taking down bigots and bullies and transforming laws in Washington, protecting civil rights, advancing voting rights - that is our story.

And so, you want to know what this election is about. It's about this fact that we in America share common cause and common purpose. But we have not yet been able to translate that in our politics to get the things done we all know, and it is hurting us when we see a nation that in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, in a church in South Carolina, our fellow Americans are being slaughtered, in a concert in Nevada, in a nightclub in Florida, people being gunned down, our brothers and our sisters and yet we change nothing. When our children under desks are being shot one by one from Parkland to Newtown.

And yet in our politics, we can't manifest the common purpose where 90% of Americans agree on the common sense things that would make us safer.

We know our history. We are not a strong nation when leaders slice us and divide us and pit us against each other. This election is about something deeper than any individual candidate. it's about how we can inspire the diverse coalitions we need to exercise, we need to inspire. We need to achieve the best of who we are on our history by forging into the future with a confidence and a strength that can only come from each other.

This is the cause of our country now being torn apart, not even just by partisanship, but by a tribalism that has American hating American so much that we can't even sit down at the Thanksgiving table anymore, without seeing arguments break out. Where we somehow miss that we still have things that bind us together as Americans, it's been the story in every generation the glorious story of America. Those weavers in our society that wake people up and say you may look different, you may pray different, you may come from a different geography, but we are Americans - united we stand, divided we fall. And now this nation, this planet needs that spirit in our country.

Look, I have heard this all my life. Because my very existence on this stage. My very, my very presence in this race is owed to this tradition. I had parents that would never let me get too big for my britches. My dad would see me this beautiful home in suburban New Jersey and say 'Boy don't you dare walk around this house like you hit a triple. You were born on third base. You were born on third based young man, all the blessings you enjoy were paid for by the struggles of folk and it wasn't just black folk.' I literally got to buy, my parents got to buy the house we lived in in New Jersey because activists came to their aid.

When real estate agents were turning them away at house after house that they would look at in suburban towns with some of the best public schools in our state, they were frustrated. And what they found were fellow Americans, a black activists who just had her 93rd birthday, and a whole bunch of white lawyers and white neighbors who all came together in a new coalition in that community to say, 'Enough of this we are going to fight.'

And they joined together and through a big sting operation, I call it a conspiracy of love, they had a white couple poses my parents in order to get a bid on the house and get those contracts preparing. And so you have to understand my parents grounded me in what is the best of American traditions, they weren't they weren't impressed. I went to Stanford got my master's there to Oxford Rhodes scholar, came back to Yale Law School, and my father, this poor boy from North Carolina would complain right now if I called him pour, 'tell the truth Boy. Tell them I was just po, 'po' I couldn't afford the other two letters.'

Looked at his son, and say 'boy you got more degrees in the month of July, but you ain't hot' Life isn't about the degrees you get, it's about the service you give.

I grew up in a household that I know you were your parents may not have said the words but they explain to you what patriotism is. It's not a flag pin to wear, it's not simply a salute or a song. Americans understand that patriotism is about that service. It's about service to others. It's about service to the cause of our country.

Patriotism is love of country. You cannot love your country, unless you love your fellow country men and women.

And love is not sentimentality don't get it wrong. Love is not Kumbaya, Love is not weak, love is also a verb like democracy, it demands sacrifice and service and struggle. It understands that we're all in this together, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It knows, it knows that in America, there is not a black destiny, a white destiny, or rural destiny and a suburban destiny, there is one American destiny. We are one body politic and a cancer in any part of this country's a threat to the whole body.

It's why folks that were, prayed different than my family and and look different in my family got on buses to do Freedom Rides. It's why when the planet was threatened by totalitarianism and we charge beaches from Normandy to Iwo Jima folks didn't stop person asked what party they belong to. It's why at Seneca Falls, there weren't just women in the cause of suffrage is why in the abolitionist movement blacks and whites joined together to build out the best infrastructure project this nation has ever seen, the Underground Railroad.

That is the commitment our country meets, that is the love and I'm running for that purpose, not for any individual one of us, because this must be the season where we again recognize the peril in our nation stems from the divisions, our enemies know this. They know this. They know this.

Just look at 2016 election. When our platforms, our social media platforms were being used by foreign nations to try to divide this country against itself, stir up hate. That's how we lost the last election, our coalitions were divided, our enthusiasm diluted by lies.

We have repair work to do. We have healing to do. And let me tell you, when I was a young man coming out of law school with parents who told him, 'you need to serve your country,' I moved to the Central Ward in Newark, New Jersey, the neighborhood I live in now, and I'm proud of my neighborhood. We don't confuse wealth with worth.

My parents were proud of me they said 'you've gone to some of the front lines of the fight for the promise of America,' and yeah, there was violence and poverty and hurting and schools are not equipped to serve the genius of my children but I tell you, when I first got there, I have to say I might have had a little bit of that Yale Law School swagger and too high on myself, but I did the right thing I got a job as a lawyer for for tenants. People fought for my housing rights, grew up in the house I grew up and I joined the fight on the front lines to fight for other people's housing rights but, you know, God has a way that when you land in in an unfamiliar territory when you land in, in a challenge, I believe that faith is that when you come to the end of all the light you know and you're about to step into the darkness faith is knowing, one or two things is gonna happen if you're going to find solid ground underneath you or the universe will send you people who teach you how to fly.

And so, a man who gave my life, my career flight was a man named Frank Hutchins. Now, this was an elderly man in my neighborhood, who was a renowned tenant activist he lived the longest rent strike in the 70s and his first lesson to me is the lesson that's at the core of this campaign, at the core of what I believe is the fight for America. You know, I had this tenant meeting but we were going to I was just going to collect firsthand testimony to put in a complaint to go against this horrible slumlord, who would run buildings into a ground people were suffering in those buildings we get into that basement of fellow Americans and I'm writing, as people come up to the mic one after the other to talk in their moment before figures of seeming authority to talk about what's going on, the tenant president was there, Frank Hutchins was there I was, others were there. But the meeting went on and on, but I'll never forget watching Frank, every person that came up to that microphone, he looked at them as if they were the first person of the night speaking.

Well, the meeting went further than I needed and hours later we leave and I made maybe a bit of an obnoxious comment to Frank about how long the meeting was. And, and, and Frank turns to me gentility and kindness, and just says to me, 'you don't understand that powerful wealthy slumlord, these buildings that seriously need repair, if we are going to win. First thing we have to do is repair community, repair the bonds that exist between folks. Because every one of those people came up there, deserves to be seen, deserves to be heard they need to be included in this coalition, the strength of this community will determine the success of our cause.'

And I'll tell you this man who saw everyone. The folks people will overlook, the folks who are going through tough times, he saw them as equals, he saw their divinity, he saw that his destiny and the destiny of the whole was determined on how well we pulled each other together and are there for each other.

So, let me tell you right now. We are a nation that is in urgent need of this spirit of America. I know that what you're hearing on the news, what people want to focus in on this election, are not these values, and these virtues.

I hear people all the time say to me 'your, your spirit of love and calling for a revival of civic grace, calling for more courageous empathy, how is that going to take on the fight against Donald Trump?' And I, I get confused by the question I said, 'what is empathy and compassion and love it, how are they in any way. Contrary to fighting the good fight. In fact, they are the necessary ingredients we need to win the fight.'

The stronger the coalition, the stronger the coalition, the more great the victory. The more inclusive the coalition, the greater the victory. The more energy and the enthusiasm we have from our core, the more we win. I tell you right now, you want to bring a fight, you bring people together. You see this law all over our planet, you see it in nature, it's not the queen bee, it's the swarm.

And I'll tell you, Democrats. Now more than ever. We need leaders that are authentically connected to the struggle of people, because we need to understand that there is a struggle in this country for the soul of a nation, that's being corrupted again by the powerful, by the greedy by bullies and bigots and demagogues and they are no way representative of who we are.

We need each other, it's not a time to vilify individuals or entire sectors of our country, we need each other. This is the call to the fight, to the real fights or repair our communities, to reestablish our bonds to reaffirm our common cause.

And again, I know this is not what the pundits and the polls and the Twitter one liners are focusing on but I have found in Iowa, that this is the spirit of this state. It's why you elected the last Democratic president. Because, you all made it plain and I'm going to make it plain right now. Democrats, we are not gonna win this election by talking about what we're against, we need to start talking about what we're for.

And, let me tell you, I know he didn't get the majority but he got 60 million votes. And if you think America is going to stand up against climate change, stand up against the global challenges we're facing with one party? I'm not in this fight for the simple short term goal of beating Republicans. Yeah, I want to beat Donald Trump, I want to put Mitch McConnell on the backbench Don't get me wrong.

We're gonna win Senate seats from Iowa to South Carolina. Because when we fight to get we fight together stand together we win, but let us fight the right way. We didn't beat Bull Connor because we brought bigger dogs and bigger fire hoses. We fought the right way. It was a call to decency that took down McCarthy.

And so democrats we have to understand that the short term goal of beating Republicans is not what we're called to in this moment simply, we are called to unite Americans again in common cause and common person.

And so, look, when I'm in basements in Waterloo or living rooms and Burlingham, when I meet with black farmers in South Carolina and white farmers here in Iowa, when I hear from small business owners in our cities, entrepreneurs in our suburbs, and those who dream of starting businesses. When I talk to a woman who gave me a picture in New Hampshire, a young man died from an opioid overdose. When I talk to a struggling couple in this country, in this state that wants to wake up this nation. But the crisis of inadequate mental health care in this nation. When I talked to a guy in Newark, who's come home from prison for a nonviolent drug offense, doing things that the last three presidents admitted to doing. Taken away from his family and wants to know where are the ideals of justice. Can't find a job, can't find a place to live.

When I hear children stand up, children stand up in town halls that say to me, that they are afraid to go to school, when I have a teacher in Pennsylvania break down in tears, that when the drill came at this moment in America where we have more shelter in place drills than fire drills, she barricaded the wall, turned over desk and her children looked like they were being traumatized by that fear. This is the voices of America that if Frank Hutchins was still alive, he would say 'we need to see each other. We need to see each other.'

We need to tell the truth, not in songs and pledges, but tell our truth and reality. Because we cannot be the home of the brave, if our veterans come home and are disproportionately homeless. We cannot be a nation of liberty and justice for all, if we are a nation where, as Bryan Stevenson says, treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent.

These are truths, these are virtues, these are values that I have discovered all over this nation running for president. When people pat me on the back and tell me 'don't change your message Cory Booker,' because we are a party of aspiration. We are a party of inspiration. We're a party that wants to beat Donald Trump with urgency and need but we know beating Donald Trump is the floor, it is not the ceiling, it gets us, it gets us out of the valley, it does not get us to the mountaintop.

I am here as a leader in America to call us again to the mountaintop. Now, I want you to know that we have a nation right now that has an election to decide, and Iowa, do not let anybody else decide it for you.

I love the fact that 10 years ago, people might want to criticize this caucus process, but 10 years ago, you took a chance on a guy with a funny name. But you did that, not because of one individual. You knew this was about something bigger than any individual American.

Our past is about bigger than any one American story, our accomplishments were achieved not because of people that might be on our coins or of holidays named after them, our accomplishments have always come from the grassroots up. They've always come because of the activism and the engagement of those people who helped my family move in to a house we grew up in.

You all in this state have shown that we are strongest when progressive Democrats, modern Democrats, urban, suburban, rural, when we as Democrats, come together, not tearing each other down, but lifting all of us up. You know that we are best when we are that party that calls this nation again to the mountaintop, that heralds to the days where King pointed to that mountaintop, where Kennedy pointed to the moon, where Harvey Milk stood up in San Francisco and called us to a greater love, where Susan B. Anthony stood up and reminded us that it was we the people, not just we the male citizens that founded this nation. You all in Iowa, who your history is on leading on issues of LGBT rights, leading on women's suffrage, leading on integration and how do I know that, because I'm here because of that, Iowa spirit.

When my grandmother's grandmother was suffering crisis in Alabama. She took, as a single woman, her nine children to a town here in Iowa called Buxton. My roots, deep in the state, come from a town where black folk and white folk didn't see their differences, they saw their common cause immigrants and migrants from the south knew that the one way to succeed was not by defining themselves against each other but by joining together, and they went into coal mines, black and white a town well ahead of its time. And they carved from the earth, humble people hard working people carved from the earth, their American dream. They rose up from those minds fueling, a region with their hard work and labor.

That spirit isn't dead in America. In fact, this is the moment where we need in this country, a revival. And so I'm going to tell you. I'm here to ask for your support. Let me be more blunt. I'm asking you when your caller ID is showing that some pollsters calling you, pick up the phone and answer, please Choose me, choose us choose virtue and values, choose, choose love.

I'm asking you to choose it. Not just by answering the phone and answering some questions the pollsters I'm asking you to choose it by understanding when you hear people say this the most important election election of our lifetime, turn around and tell them, 'then act like it.'

Democracy is not a spectator sport. Democracy is a full participation endeavor that every generation must earn through their work through their sweat and if you believe in me, if you believe in this vision. If you believe that we are a nation must come together and stand together, if you believe that we need a candidate that can authentically connect to the fullness of our coalition. If you believe that that Obama coalition that won in '08 and won in 2012 with record turnouts that helped us to turn a senate and turn a house, if you believe that that's what we need again, then don't just support me, volunteer, don't just volunteer, contribute.

Do everything you can because this is an election that when we go into the ultimate fight against Donald Trump the showdown to choose not which party wins, but which spirit wins, to choose if we will be a nation that yet again reelects, someone who demeans and divides and degrades, to choose if we are going to reject that and embrace again, a nation that inspires, that aspires, that unites for the fight that we really have, which is not against each other. We should fight for each other.

And so, I want to end with Frank. I get a lot of faith partners these days, joining with me for fasting, joining with me for praying, that's what that's a core of my being, I have to tell you. Now don't get me wrong, I'm one of these people would much rather hang out with a nice atheist than a mean Christian any day of the week.

Folks often forget that the first part of faith has got to be humility before God's creations and not to assume you have all the answers, but the center of my faith is this ideal radical love. And it's taken me a long time in my life, to, to learn lessons and I'm still learning about what radical love really looks like. But, God, I try to do my best every day in the country that I do love, to prove worthy of the blessings that I've gotten. Every one of us sitting here. We all drink deeply from wells of freedom, liberty, and opportunity, we did not dig.

Every one of us here owes a debt, and we don't pay it off by just going about our day luxuriating in the blessings of this democracy, we go about it by returning to the cause of our country and Frank was a guy that understood this and he was one of those people that says 'I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, I don't want to leave anything for my casket.'

And it was 10 years ago that he did die. And in my last moments with him, when I walked into his room and I closed it and get going blind. But I announced myself I said 'Frank, It's Cory.' And his response to me a man who he told me he could barely speak, but he forces out the words 'I see you'. I walked over to his bed, I'm Mayor of the City of Newark, I sat down in his bed and I didn't talk about polling, I didn't talk about politics. I talked about love with him.

I talked about a man who saw in me things I didn't see in myself, who pushed me to run for city council in one of our poorest, lowest income places in America, who implored me never forget the people that first took a risk on you, stay rooted in communities and struggle.

His life, to me, was about taking risks for causes greater than yourself and I told him, and repeated to him, the lessons that he gave me. I told him that I wouldn't be where I was if he didn't see things in me, that I didn't see myself, I reminded him that I wouldn't have been elected if he didn't go door to door through projects and low income housing and put his reputation, alongside mine and said 'you can trust this young man.'

But then it was time to go, I was mayor of the city, I was busy and had to run and I kissed him, for my last time. And I said to Frank, 'I love you.' and, and he said, getting up forces out those last words he forces out the words and he says, 'I love you.'

Frank would soon die and we, we did a lot of honor and we named this street after him and celebrating him after his death, but I know that's not what Frank was in it for. It wasn't about celebrity for him, it was about significance. It wasn't about popularity for him, it was about purpose staying true to his life purpose, a purpose of love. For Frank was not about how many people show up for you when you're dead, It's about how many people you show up for every day while you're alive.

He's a man that taught me that as you run about going after your biggest causes, don't look over anybody, don't look down on anyone, unless you're reaching down to help them up. He taught me that the biggest thing you can do in any day will often be a small act of kindness, decency and grace. He taught me that you may hear the loudest voices yelling and screaming, but understand that those aren't the people that unite.

Listen to the still, small voices, listen to those who are denied voice. Let me find you with those people. Well, today I want to tell you, America, we need everyone. I want to tell you right now, the challenge before us is to win an election, but it is more than that, it is to unite a country.

I want to tell you the values and the virtues that we're summed up by a dying man's last words compel me every day, 'I see you, I love you. I see you, I love you.'

America, this election is not just about one man in one office. Yeah, it's a referendum on him but even more so more powerfully and purposefully, it's a referendum on who we are and who we must be to each other.

And so, you've got a lot of choices in this election, but I am asking you to choose love. I am asking you to choose unity. I am asking you to choose America, because we are a nation that declared at our founding that if we were going to make it, when we declared independence, we ended that declaration with a declaration of interdependence, we said to make it in our nation we must mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor. I'm telling you right now sacred honor is not weak, love is not feeble and unity will always be our strength.

My name is Cory Booker. I am running for president of the United States. And I want to put an emphasis. I am running because of that word, 'united.' Let's come together, stand together, win an election together, and ultimately unite this nation, so that the campaign of our country, that has seen low places and hard places, but that's the truth of this nation, through our continued campaign. That the hope, and the love and the glory of our nation, that truth goes marching on for many generations to come. God bless you and thank you.

Cory Booker, Remarks on Changes in the Democratic Field of Candidates and the Path to Defeating Trump in Des Moines, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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