One of my earliest political memories as a child growing up in Georgia was hearing former Governor Ellis Arnall describe his gubernatorial comeback bid in 1966 as “the Love Campaign.” It didn’t work out too well for the candidate with a well-established cross-racial appeal at a critical moment in the civil-rights era. He lost a Democratic runoff to famed ax-handle-wielding segregationist Lester Maddox, who was more into sputtering rage than love (the third-place finisher was a fellow named Jimmy Carter, who would win four years later).
So I’m naturally skeptical about the political power of love, aside from feeling a bit less irenic myself after two and a half years of Donald Trump as president.
But for what it’s worth, 2020 candidate Marianne Williamson now has the Love Campaign model to herself, since Cory Booker, who originally competed with her for that role, appears to have lost that loving feeling, reports Politico:
Cory Booker’s campaign of love and unity has him sitting at 2 percent in the polls. So now he’s giving tough love a try.
The New Jersey Democrat entered the presidential race promising to bridge the country’s divides and elevate its political discourse after two years of Donald Trump. But after polling in the low-single digits for months, stuck in a crowded second tier of Democratic hopefuls, Booker is starting to change his M.O.
As Hannah Gold recently noted, Booker showed an unusual burst of anger toward the president recently:
Most recently, Booker told NBC’s Seth Meyers on Monday that he sometimes feels like “punching” President Trump, but that Democrats can’t win by “fighting him on his tactics.” Booker added, “My testosterone sometimes makes me want to feel like punching” the president, but, again, he puts party first. The Hill reports that Booker also referred to Trump as a “physically weak specimen,” pointing out that a punch would “be bad for the elderly, out of shape man that he is.”
Yikes. That doesn’t sound like Booker is contemplating a love tap. But it’s not just Trump who is arousing the New Jersey senator’s combative side. He’s gone after Joe Biden with a rhetorical claw hammer this week:
He followed up Tuesday morning with a dig at Biden after he released his criminal justice plan, which notably reversed his past support for the death penalty. “It’s not enough to tell us what you’re going to do for our communities, show us what you’ve done for the last 40 years,” Booker wrote on Twitter. “You created this system. We’ll dismantle it…..”
Within a few hours, the campaign erased any doubt about the intended target. “Joe Biden had more than 40 years to get this right,” Booker said in a statement. “The proud architect of a failed system is not the right person to fix it.”
There’s lots of speculation that Booker is taking a page from the playbook of Kamala Harris, his rival for the affections of the African-American voters they both need to pull away from Biden. Harris’s direct challenge to Biden’s civil-rights record in the first set of Democratic candidate debates not only elevated her to the top tier of candidates, but left Booker gasping for political air.
At next week’s second round of debates in Detroit, Booker will share a stage with Harris and Biden. He really needs to take a bite out of both of them to protect the viability of his campaign and make himself the It Candidate for a while. Until such time as that happens, there won’t be much love lost between Booker and those who block his path to the presidency.