Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story, which was based on reporting from The Guardian, stated that Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) blamed low African-American voter turnout for Donald Trump’s presidency. This post has been updated to note that Booker was referring to low overall voter turnout in the 2009 gubernatorial race that propelled Chris Christie into the national spotlight.
Speaking on a panel during the National Action Network Convention this past weekend, Cory Booker, one of only two African-American Democrats in the Senate, blamed overall low voter turnout for Republican victories.
“We did it to ourselves,” the New Jersey senator told African-American political and community leaders at the New York City gathering organized by civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Booker noted the difference between voting for the first black president in 2008 and the gubernatorial race in New Jersey in 2009.
In 2008 when I went to vote for president I got to my polling place, voting for Barack Obama, there was a line around the polling place. I went up to go vote, and I’m telling you all, you all know this, I love people here. I’ve met you from Florida, North Carolina, these genteel communities. I was mayor at the time. You probably treat your elected officials with civility and grace. But in Newark [New Jersey] we keep it real. And I walk up to the end of the line and that woman on the end of the line looks at me and sees me and she says, “Don’t you think you’re cutting in this line now. I don’t care who you are. You ain’t special. You’re waiting like the rest of us.” And I’m the mayor of the city. I’ve got police officers next to me. I look at this woman and I say, “Yes, ma’am.” I waited for hours.
Now one year later, I go to vote in New Jersey’s gubernatorial election . We have an incumbent Democrat and a challenging Republican you all never heard of called Chris Christie. Nobody shows up to the polls. Nobody shows up. And the Republican narrowly wins. And then he cuts the Earned Income Tax Credit, he pulls us out of greenhouse gas agreements. And everybody wants to wonder, “Why are the Republicans doing this to us? Why are the Republicans doing this to us?” We did it to ourselves.
According to The Guardian, Booker noted the historically low turnout of voters as a key factor contributing to Republican victories.
Booker was joined on the panel by fellow Sens. Kamala Harris of California, the only other African-American Democrat in the Senate; Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who challenged Hillary Clinton in 2016; Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; and Kirsten Gillibrand from New York, The Guardian reports.
After Gillibrand noted that Donald Trump “is what the darkness looks like. He is what the darkness sounds like,” Booker interjected to note that we shouldn’t use the president’s divisive speech to divide us.
“I am tired of people allowing someone who preaches hate to turn us into haters, someone who spews darkness to make us go dark, someone who’s trying to divide to make us attack other people,” he said.
Umm, Booker, the fight is forward, and you better start using the language of hate or else it’s going to get really hard to hear you. Maybe the other panelists should be snowball-fighting with the enemy.
Others on the panel weren’t so adamant about admonishing those who’ve been attacked. Harris noted that the Trump administration was unraveling the progress made on civil rights, saying, “The pendulum is swinging backward.”
Warren declared that racial bias made it much harder for African Americans to get mortgages than whites.
Sanders described Trump as “perhaps the worst president in the history of our country,” one who sought to divide people through color, country of origin, religion or sexual orientation, The Guardian reports.
Addressing the elephant in the room—that Sanders, Warren, Booker and Harris are considering running for president in 2020—Sharpton called all the senators “presidential candidates,” adding: “None of them have announced. They’re on what we call a temperature tour. They’re trying to test the temperature to see if they should announce,” according to The Guardian.