Do liberals love the Manhattan
Institute? Do they favor the use of vouchers to take resources
from public schools? Are they fans of the Wal-Mart Walton family?
The answer to those questions is usually an unqualified no. Why
then do liberals adore Cory Booker?
Cory Booker made a name for himself four years ago
when he nearly defeated Sharpe James, five-term incumbent Mayor
of Newark, New Jersey. That mayoral race was not the beginning of
Booker’s foray into public life.
Cory Booker first came to public attention with a
at a Manhattan Institute luncheon in 2000. The Manhattan Institute
is a leading right wing think tank boasting conservative pundits
like William Kristol and Peggy Noonan among its Board members. It
gets huge amounts of money to spread the conservative agenda and
doesn’t give the floor to anyone who isn’t a disciple.
Booker’s maiden speech was a stale hodgepodge of bad
political theater. It began with a phony sounding story of Booker’s
grandmother dispensing sage advice as he left for Oxford. It ends
with attacks on public education itself.
“Public education is the use of public dollars to
educate our children at the schools that are best equipped to do
so – public schools, magnet schools, charter schools, Baptist schools,
Jewish schools, or other innovations in education,” Booker told
the assembled right-wingers. “That is where public dollars should
Do Booker’s liberal acolytes know that he favors public
dollars for parochial schools?
While lamenting the lack of academic achievement in
Newark, Booker called for “school choice,” a code for vouchers.
He said nothing about school funding formulas in New Jersey and
around the country that take public school funding from cities like
Newark and give them to the suburbs.
Booker has also been loathe to talk about who funds
the pro-voucher movement. His buddies aren’t very popular in places
like Newark or in the salons of the liberal glitterati.
Wal-Mart heir John Walton used his Walton Family Foundation
to channel $500,000 per year into the Newark pro-voucher movement.
Booker is a board member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options
That organization got
off the ground in 1999 with $900,000 from the Walton Family
Foundation and $2 million from the right wing Bradley Foundation.
Who knew that liberals would support a Walton/Bradley supplicant?
Booker knows they won’t, so he tones down his connections
to the right wing who put his name on the map.
knows that liberal blogs like Huffington
Post cater to very few conservatives and wouldn’t let him write
a single paragraph if he boasted of being in the thrall of Walton,
Bradley, Noonan and Kristol. He has learned to tone down his connections
to the right wing backing that put him on the map.
His supporters have done the same thing. If Booker
had to pay for the positive media attention he has received it would
have cost him millions in campaign dollars. As if he hadn’t gotten
enough of a free ride, a pro-Booker documentary about the 2002 campaign,
“Street Fight,” was nominated for an Academy Award. Thank goodness
mating penguins generated more media buzz and deprived Booker of
more free advertising.
In 2002 and again this year the media portrayed Sharpe
James as Boss Tweed reincarnated and Cory Booker as the set upon
choir boy. Booker has the credentials that impress the liberal elite,
the people who make large campaign contributions.
He is an Ivy Leaguer, a Rhodes scholar no less. “Street
Fight” and other media portrayals promote the image of the goody
two shoes set upon by the political machine. They know that telling
the truth about Booker will leave him with no political appeal whatsoever.
Marshall Curry, producer of “Street Fight,” came close to admitting
ignored the issue of vouchers in his film. His rationale for
doing so is utter nonsense. “The issue of vouchers in Newark is
much more complicated than it might appear. To have dropped it in
superficially would have left a false impression, and to have untangled
the complexities would have warranted a film in itself.” If Curry
had given viewers information about Booker’s policy stances they
would ask hard questions about him. Instead we got a lame story
about whether well-educated black people are considered authentic
by the masses.
The answer to that question is simple. It depends.
If the Ivy Leaguer in question has an ideology in keeping with the
views of most black people, he or she will get political support
and votes. Booker lost despite universally positive press and elevation
to demigod status because Newark residents didn’t buy what he sold.
If Booker weren’t a true believing conservative he
would have defeated James in 2002. Booker’s skin color, educational
achievement and suburban background wouldn’t hurt him one bit if
he reflected the political views of Newark residents. Instead he
created phony drama by moving into a housing project and claiming
to chase away drug dealers.
Fortunately for Booker, Sharpe James’ foolishness
has turned over the keys to City Hall. James seemingly ended weeks
of speculation about whether he would run when he delivered his
nominating petitions from his bicycle, while clad in a tank top.
Apparently James felt he didn’t look foolish enough.
With only six weeks to go before Election Day, James then announced
he would not run after all. Deputy Mayor Ronald Rice, a state senator,
will take Booker on instead. Thanks to James’ indecision, Rice is
at an insurmountable disadvantage compared to Booker. He does not
have his level of name recognition, his overflowing campaign war
chest, or the love of powerful opinion makers.
Unfortunately, the liberal love machine will probably
beat the Newark political machine. Newark is about to become a guinea
pig for right wing think tanks who will treat it worse than
Katrina treated New Orleans. Thanks for nothing Sharpe James. You
just may have made Cory Booker your successor.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears
weekly in BC. Ms. Kimberley is a freelance
writer living in New York City. She can be reached via e-Mail at
You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at freedomrider.blogspot.com.