"We need a revival of civic grace," says the New Jersey senator. "What we should be doing in this world is trying to live up to our highest values."
Senator Cory Booker sat down with People en Español’s digital executive editor Shirley Velasquez this week and opened up about running for president. “We have one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president,” said the New Jersey senator, advocating for unity within the Democratic party. “We need that strength to beat Donald Trump.” He also said he wouldn’t criticize Trump supporters. “I’m never going to excuse or equivocate in discussing what I consider his moral vandalism, but I’m not going to denigrate his supporters. I’m not going to demean them. Tens of millions of people voted for him, and if we get to the White House with a more divided America than we had even before, it’s going to make it harder for us to claim the larger victories that this country needs.”
Booker added that he doesn’t support people chanting “lock him up” at the president during public gatherings. “It’s what dictators say about their opponents: ‘Lock them up.’ I can’t engage in that behavior that I found unacceptable. In Congress right now we are going through impeachment proceedings in the House. There is due process for things like that — that’s what I have to stand for.” Respect, love and kindness are building blocks of his campaign. “Love says we are all in this together,” he says. “Love is what it takes to make this nation great.”
He says that what taught him his virtues, besides his family and faith, was living in Newark, New Jersey, and seeing how people struggled with difficult circumstances but still showed decency and love. “We need a revival of civic grace,” he says. He is also an advocate for sustainability and the kind treatment of animals and the environment. “We can all work together to grow our consciousness,” he says. “What we should be doing in this world is trying to live up to our highest values.”
Booker argues that we need to focus on ending gun violence, reforming health care, and dealing with the “powerful threats of climate change.” He also says he wants to have better rules “governing the privacy of users” on social media platforms. He showed his discontent with media channels like Fox News, where pundits equate immigrants with rapists and gang members. “[Immigration is] the life block of our country. Our country depends on this,” he emphasizes. “DREAMers add billions of dollars to our economy.”
Booker says Trump is using his social media platforms to “demean, degrade and divide” and “darken this country.” He describes himself as a would-be “modern president” who would use his social media to encourage his followers. “I believe energy matters,” he says. “I believe spirit matters.”
The senator also argued that Trump is “isolating America” with his foreign policy. “We need to rejoin our international community,” he adds. “This is a president that doesn’t understand that we are deeply invested in the Northern Triangle countries, deeply invested in a democratic response to Venezuela. We have work to do to make sure that democracies are elevated, and not to pull away from these countries.”
He recalled years ago sitting on a plane and feeling a bit anxious when he saw that a single mom with two young kids sat beside him. He says everyone on the plane was looking at her as if it was her fault that her baby was crying, and he ended up feeling compassion for her and entertaining the kids, playing tic-tac-toe with the little ones so the mom could have some peace and watch a movie. Years later, she wrote him a letter saying she thanked God for allowing her to sit next to him on that flight. The mom owned a factory in Newark and ended up being a donor to his political campaign. “The biggest thing you can do on any day is always a small act of kindness, decency or love,” he concludes.