Cory Booker Will Be A Senator, But Many On The Left Don’t Seem Thrilled About That

Surprisingly, many pundits on the left don't seem too thrilled about the idea of a Senator Cory Booker.

Cory Booker

Absent some the kind of electoral surprise that we usually don’t see in American politics, Cory Booker will win today’s Democratic Senate Primary in New Jersey quite handily. The most recent polls continued to show him with a massive lead over his three opponents, which just happen to be two sitting Congressmen and the Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, and he doesn’t seem to have been harmed at all by last minute revelations regarding his interest in a Silicon Valley start-up company. It’s also expected that he will go on to win the Special Election set for October given that polling shows him with a similarly large lead over expected Republican opponent Steve Lonegan. Barring a surprise, then, Cory Booker will soon be the second African-American to have a seat in the Senate at this time, the ninth African-American Senator overall, and only the fourth African-American to actually be elected to the Senate. At 44, he will also be one of the youngest members of the Senate and someone who is arguably just beginning a national political career that could take him just about anywhere.

Given all of that, you would expect that Progressives would be excited by Booker’s candidacy and his eventual rise to the Senate. In reality, though, the opposite seems to be the case, at least among many of the more vocal voices on the left. Instead of rallying around Booker, many of these people have taken up the banner of Congressman Frank Pallone or Congressman Rush Holt, both of whom have spent the majority of their rather unproductive campaigns going after Booker’s ties to Wall Street and the Newark business community and seeking to draw him out on issues like NSA surveillance and the War On Terror. One excellent example of the Progressive dissatisfaction with Cory Booker can be seen in a piece today by Alex Pareene in which he asserts that Booker will be an awful Senator:

He represents the interests of both Wall Street and Silicon Valley, two very prosperous industries full of incredibly arrogant rich men who believe that the world’s problems would be solved if arrogant rich men exactly like themselves were given free rein to make as much money as possible by any means necessary. They see, in Booker, a peer — a smart man with the right qualifications and the correct worldview. Booker and his crowd believe that the charity of the benevolent elite — people who know they are rich because of their innate skill, their brilliance, their work ethic, everything besides fundamentally inequitable distribution of resources and opportunities for economic advancement — is the only acceptable and effective means of addressing the needs of the lower orders.


In many ways, Booker is perfectly suited for the United States Senate. He won’t be expected to accomplish anything. He will have so many more opportunities to spend time with even more rich people with elite backgrounds and worldviews similar to his. He will have much more access to television studios and Sunday shows and cable news cameras.

He will, in short, be the worst kind of senator. The kind that has no power and no real desire to exercise power on behalf of the people the senator ostensibly represents, but the kind that always expresses opinions on television about whatever national issues people on television care about that day. He will be on Morning Joe and Meet the Press constantly. He has even already said that he might consider Rand Paul and Ted Cruz as models for how a freshman senator might make “big marks.” Not “big marks” in the sense of any sort of lasting legislative legacy, because Ted Cruz does not care about legislation or policy, but “big marks” in terms of media attention and stunts designed to appeal to a core of supporters who prefer their senators brash and loud. Another one of those senators will not help anything.

I’ve seen Pareene’s sentiments echoed by other pundits on the left, but what’s interesting is that their sentiments don’t seem to be shared by the voters. Pallone and Holt have both emphasized Booker’s ties to Wall Street during the campaign, but it’s made no real impact on his numbers or theirs. In fact, the polling in the final weeks before today’s election seems to be little changed from what it was when Booker first entered the race in the wake of Frank Lautenberg’s death in June. To no small degree, of course, this is due in large part to the aura of celebrity that has enveloped Booker over the past few years, an aura that he has clearly helped to cultivate. At the same time, I would suggest that it also means that there’s something of a disconnect between these Progressive pundits and the voting public. Much like pundits on the right have their ideal candidates, writers such as Pareene do as well, and Booker quite obviously doesn’t fit into that definition. Perhaps it’s because he hasn’t said the magic words on NSA surveillance or some other issue. Perhaps it’s because they just feel that he’s become too full of himself. Perhaps it’s just because there was never really any suspense in this election and they needed something right about. Whatever the reason, the animus toward Booker on the left has been more than a little surprising especially considering that he is going to be a reliable Democratic vote for as long as he’s in the Senate. Given that it’s New Jersey and Booker is relatively young, could be quite a long time.

FILED UNDER: 2013 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    I speak for myself only. I’d rather have Booker (who seems to be polling as a certain victor) than the others for whom there is less certainty. I’m guessing that those ‘progressives’ who want Pallone or Holt will probably be pleased that Booker is in the Senate, rather than just about any Republican. I doubt that these “progressives” will sit it out in a display of petulance (principle, whatever).

  2. C. Clavin says:

    So he’s kicking butt amongst…I would presume, Progressives in NJ…but you find two people I’ve never heard of and a third tier pundit to justify;

    “…Many On The Left Don’t Seem Thrilled About That…”

    1: consisting of or amounting to a large but indefinite number
    2: being one of a large but indefinite number

  3. Moosebreath says:

    “Perhaps it’s because he hasn’t said the magic words on NSA surveillance or some other issue. Perhaps it’s because they just feel that he’s become too full of himself….Whatever the reason, the animus toward Booker on the left has been more than a little surprising especially considering that he is going to be a reliable Democratic vote for as long as he’s in the Senate.”

    Proving that Doug has no clue how progressives think, even when they spell out exactly their issues with him. Booker will likely be a reliable Democratic vote on many, but not all issues. And the ones he will not be a reliable vote on are the ones which deal with economic inequality. But that’s OK, as it’s only the people who sit in drum circles who care about them, right Doug?


    “I doubt that these “progressives” will sit it out in a display of petulance (principle, whatever).”

    Undoubtedly. Booker is so far better than Lonegan that progressives will support him in the general.

  4. Anderson says:

    The best is the enemy of the good, as usual. A candidate agreeable to these people could hand the GOP a win. We Dems will be lucky to hang onto the Senate in 2014 as it stands. Why add trouble?

  5. Gromitt Gunn says:

    The same relatively small but loud group of leftists that starting shouting “Obama is worse than Bush – he sold us out!” at 12:01am on January 21, 2009, are going to also consider Booker to be a failure before he starts, no matter what he does. For reference, see Jane Hamsher, the entire front page at Talk Left, and our commentor “edmondo.”

  6. humanoid.panda says:

    Not a big fan of Booker or his style, but I think his ambition will drive him leftward in the Senate. Currently, there is no appetite in the Democratic party for Lieberman/Baucus style ‘moderates,’ and Booker who I am pretty confident wants to run for president in 2020 or 2024, surely knows that.

  7. Ben Wolf says:

    Booker is in the pocket of some of the biggest crooks on Wall Street, is a Michelle Rhee crony and is tight with PrayForNewark, a sewer of old-school Rick Perry-type Christian dominionists who just happen to be a driving force behind the death penalty for gays in Uganda. He’s also on great terms with every sleaze-bag conservative think tank in the country, because he gives them speaches where he waxes on about the need for entitlement reform and free markets. Oh yeah, lots of right-libertarian Cato thpes think he’s great too.

    So we have a guy who takes cash from financial criminals, doesn’t like gays, wants more deregulation and thinks America has too strong safety net. He’s better than a Republican how?

  8. David M says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Democratic control over the Senate isn’t nothing. Even assuming his voting pattern would be similar to a random NJ Republican, the Senate is a lot different he’s one of the more conservative members of the majority rather than one of the more liberal members of the majority.

  9. wr says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: There are plenty of Dems who are nervous about Booker who aren’t Jane Hamsher types. (Edmondo is only a disappointed Democrat when he remembers he’s supposed to be pretending to be one — most of the time he’s a straightforward rightwing Republican.)

    I think it dates back to the 2012 campaign when Obama’s team was criticizing Bain’s vulture capitalism and Booker rushed in to stand with Romney, taking the Wall Street line that whatever was good for a corporation was good for America.

    Since then there’s been a lot of attention paid to his pro-Wall Street philosophy, and now to some financial transactions that look dubious.

    I don’t really have a strong opinion here. People I respect come down on both sides, and since I live a long way from New Jersey I don’t need to take the time to involve myself. But I do know that the great fear about Booker is that he will be the new Joe Lieberman — someone who votes with the Democrats on every issue except the ones that really matter and whose main focus in the Senate will be getting people to fawn over him.

  10. Matt Bernius says:

    One question that I wish there was polling on, is whether the average voter believes that Booker is in the pocket of Wall Street. To be clear, I’m not interested in whether the average voter thinks that is a good thing, but rather simply if they see Booker as aligned with Wall Street.

    One of the things that’s clear from Obama’s election in 2008 is that many rank-and-file voters (not to mention some of the less thoughtful pundits) projected their own progressivism on Obama (whose record has always been more or less center-left).

    I wonder to what degree a similar case might be going on in Jersey. Is it that primary voters know that Booker is attached to Wall Street and want him anyway, or have they convinced themselves that he’s independent of the Street.

  11. Tyrell says:

    We get it now – he is not a puppet stooge that can be controlled, programmed, and manipulated by the typical leftists that have been running most of the Democratic party since the ’70’s. He thinks and speaks for himself. Sounds like the type of person both parties could use.

  12. Rich H says:

    “Booker and his crowd believe that the charity of the benevolent elite — people who know they are rich because of their innate skill, their brilliance, their work ethic, everything besides fundamentally inequitable distribution of resources and opportunities for economic advancement”

    Ah…they are angry because Booker isn’t a Marxist. How can we get the gulags we need if we keep electing the Cory Booker’s of the world?

  13. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @wr: I will also admit that I’ve got enough to worry about as a Texan who would be considered a Lib-Dem in the UK and an establishment liberal in New England, and is therefore regarded as a socialist commie anti-colonialist Marxist in my adopted home state, to have spent an inordinate amount of time on Booker. So I am unaware of some of the issues both you and Ben Wolf refer to. Perhaps I spoke too soon.

  14. David M says:

    @Rich H:

    “charity of the benevolent elite” Seems to be a pretty large policy failure if that is a thing that exists.

  15. Jib says:

    Its about Wall Street. The most dramatic shift in politics in the last 6 years or so is the move against unregulated finance. It is both on the left and right. Spend any time talking to tea party people and what a lot of them say was the very beginning of the tea party for them was not Santello’s rant but when Bush bailed out Wall Street.

    However, the more established the pol and the pundit, the more blind they are to this. Economics was suppose to be off the table. Every ‘reasonable’ person, left or right agreed, deregulated finance was to make us all rich while be fight over abortion or gay marriage.

    But we are going to fight over economics. More and more.

    Booker will be fine. He is young, he will shift with the votes. And honestly, given how many people living in NJ work in finance, how can he be that tough on Wall Street? A NJ Senator will treat Wall Street the way a Kentucky Senator treats coal miners. The Senators from NY, NJ, Conn will always be a problem when it comes to Wall Street. On the other issues he will be fine.

  16. C. Clavin says:

    @ Tyrell…

    “…typical leftists that have been running most of the Democratic party since the ’70′s…”

    A curious statement…give me some names.
    Today’s Democratic Party is nothing like the Democratic Party of the 70’s.
    The Democrats were radical in the 70’s…but they took their drubbing and re-made themselves into today’s party….the more conservative fo the two major parties.
    The Democrats of the 70’s would never dominate in Foreign Affairs like they do today. Nor in fiscal conservatism.
    Republicans have taken their drubbing…but don’t seem interested in re-making themselves at all. They just keep doubling-down on the crazy.
    It’s obvious from your statement that you don’t follow current affairs or politics in general.

  17. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Jib: The final paragraph of you post was the smartest thing said in this whole exchange.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    He’s better than a Republican how?

    Because if we don’t hold the Senate Elizabeth Warren is a minority party back-bencher.

  19. humanoid.panda says:

    @Jib: Absolutely, 100% right. I would also add that a lot of the grovelling to Wall Street/Sillicon Valley Booker did, distasteful as it might look to liberals (myself included) is something that a mayor of an impoverished city located next door to New York simply must do. Yes, replacing public money with private philanthropy sucks, but when the federal government and the feds are on an austerity kick, should the mayor hold out for an aid that will probably never come, or go to where the money is?

  20. humanoid.panda says:

    @Ben Wolf: Look, i understand the concern about his Wall Street ties/regulation politics, but the accusation about him disliking gays is just out of left field. Booker is a strong supporter of gay marriage, and i doubt anyone gives a speeches like this if one is a closet bigot . You could of course argue that his support for gay marriage is a simple pander for donors, but then how do you know that his grovelling to donors is not a pander either?

  21. wr says:

    @Jib: “A NJ Senator will treat Wall Street the way a Kentucky Senator treats coal miners. ”

    Umm, no. A NJ Senator will treat Wall Street the way a Kentucky Senator treats coal mine owners.

    There’s something of a difference in the treatment….

  22. CB says:


    Dude, the whole issue is that he IS a puppet and a stooge (albeit far and away better than Lonegan…)

    Also, in what universe has the left been ascendant since the 70’s??

  23. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: Oh, yeah, I don’t think there’s anyone on the left who doesn’t think Booker would be better than any Republican.

    It’s just that NJ is a pretty reliably Blue state, despite their bizarre proclivities for moderate Republican governors, and there are a couple of really solid libs running who’d probably be shoo-ins in the general if they could get past Booker in the primary.

    If Booker was in North Carolina or West Virginia or Montana I doubt you’d hear a Dem saying a word against him.

  24. Jib says:

    @wr: Granted but not as much as you think. There are times when the interest of the workers and the owners are aligned. If we reduce the amount of coal we mine because of global warming that will hurt the owners and the miners.

    And when we reduce the amount of capital wasted in Wall Street, it will hurt both the rich traders and the regular 9 to 5 that work in and around finance. The rest of us will be better off in both cases but the regular joes with jobs tied to the local big biz are going to take a hit.

  25. wr says:

    @Jib: “There are times when the interest of the workers and the owners are aligned”

    And there are many more times when they are not: safety regulations, mine inspections, labor laws, medical insurance.

    It’s like saying that the interests of the chairman of Goldman Sachs are aligned with those of the people who clean his office because if the company goes out of business they’ll both lose their jobs. Technically true, but this has essentially nothing to do with reality…

  26. mantis says:

    Whatever the reason, the animus toward Booker on the left has been more than a little surprising especially considering that he is going to be a reliable Democratic vote for as long as he’s in the Senate.

    So would a more progressive Senator who is not only interested in celebrity. But Dems will hold their nose for Booker.

  27. Ben Wolf says:

    The above link is a good summary of whom Booker has chosen to cozy up with, very closely. Under no circumstances could I ever be supportive of a man who has allied with the American version of the Taliban and I cannot see how he could ever be expected to act in a manner consistent with liberal values. The only question (to me) is whether he works with such people because he sees them as useful to his career or whether he works with them because he’s a closet believer.

  28. David M says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    I think you’re bordering on tinfoil hat territory there, especially given his recent support for gay marriage.

  29. Jib says:

    @wr: With Wall Street, we are not talking about re-arranging who gets the biggest slice of the pie. We are talking about reducing finance from the current 30% of GDP back to the 10% of GDP it was during the great post-WWII economic boom. We are talking about a fundamental restructuring of an industry, of returning finance to its rightful place as a well regulated, mildly profitable and boring utility.

    That will liberate an enormous amount of capital for the rest of the economy (20% of GDP or $3 trillion) which if it ends up with the 80% and not the 1% (BIG IF) will do much to restart demand. But dont kid yourself, it will cost some people their jobs and a lot of those jobs will be lost in the greater NY area.

  30. wr says:

    @Jib: I agree with you — and so do many Democrats… which is why they are nervous about Booker, who shows no inclination to reduce the role of finance in our economy. The fear is he turns out to be another corporate whore like Harold Ford, Jr or ol’ Weepy Joe.

  31. Tillman says:

    Say what you will about Booker being a sleazy operative with the donor classes (and what politician isn’t?), but the main reason I don’t entirely trust him – and I consider myself more centrist than liberal, if that informs your judgment – is because every personal save he’s gone on (such as playing the firefighter) has seemed to me like a calculated (if rash) move to advance his “brand.”

    In all somberness, I consider the guy dangerous. He’s crafting an image of a statesman willing to do next to anything to serve his constituents, up to and including bodily harm. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but…really? Have we become that ridiculous that politicians, in order to seem sincere and good, have to start serving their constituents in very literal ways?

  32. Andre Kenji says:

    @Tillman: Paul Mulshine, the Conservative Columnist of the Star-Ledger, nailed it:

    “I doubt he has, however. The knock on Booker is not that he’s too focused on Newark. It’s that he’s out of touch with Newark.

    The post might have been funny if the map included Silicon Valley and Wall Street. But Newark? As the saying goes, all politics is local. “

  33. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Tillman: There comes a point when we have to reward behavior we like in politicians to get more of it and encourage others to follow. In Bookers case, it appears that he’s at least willing to walk a mile in other people’s shoes. Sincere or not, its worthy of rewarding him with postive results to, at the very least, encourage copycats who actually may be sincere or at least become sincere along the way. If Bookers actions are met with contempt without a real reason to be contemptous…what reason would any other politician have for using Bookers approach to holding office as a model?

  34. Rob in CT says:

    The Senators from NY, NJ, Conn will always be a problem when it comes to Wall Street

    Likely true, sadly. I’ve held my nose before. I do what I can in the primary to signal I don’t want a Wall St. doormat, and then pick the LOTE in the election. This ends up being the Dem, usually by a mile.

  35. stonetools says:

    In the end, the Democrats and the Republicans are at war. When you are on a war footing, you go with the allies and the candidates you have, not the liberal purists you wish you had . Corey Booker will end up being a reliable center-left Democratic Senator in a situation where every Democratic Senatorial vote counts. That’s all that matters.

    Also too, “Your Mumia Sweatshirt Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.”

  36. Nikki says:

    Booker hired Jeff Zucker’s 14 year old son to sit on the board of Booker’s startup. Kid quit just last week. He is scum. He’s still better than the Republican.