With Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders holding a lead against Hillary Clinton among likely voters in the polls, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) came to Racine to energize Clinton’s local campaign workers.

Ahead of the primary election on Tuesday, Booker, who spoke at Wilson’s Coffee & Tea on Thursday, told Clinton supporters that they needed to evangelize Clinton’s commitment of investing in people.

“This country was built on that goodness, those acts of kindness… building and weaving that fabric, that garment of who we are. And so here we are at another crossroads in history, and this is a doozie. We are now seeing clear choices about who we are going to be as a country,” Booker said.

Booker pointed to how the Republican candidates support rolling back the Affordable Care Act, repealing voting rights, cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, and curtailing worker’s rights. He also highlighted how the United States is no longer the top in the nation for the quality of its infrastructure, education, and the number of college graduates.

“We were the country to be born poor in because the social mobility index — the ability to get out of poverty — was the country to do it in and you could do it (get out of poverty), but now my generation has taken our inheritance and trashed it,” Booker said.

Booker reaffirmed Clinton’s commitment to having universal preschool, increasing the minimum wage, offering paid family leave, and investing in infrastructure to bolster economic growth.

“We seem to be caught up in this system where we pay more as taxpayers on the back-end of these problems than invest on the front end,” he said.

An example, Booker pointed out, is the U.S. criminal justice system where the number of prisons have increased significantly between 1995 and 2006 and the prison population since 1980 has increased 500 percent. Wisconsin is the highest in the nation in the percentage of black men it incarcerated. But the Racine County Alcohol and Drug Treatment Court has been a bright spot in how to fix part of the problem.

“There are now more people incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses — for things that the last two presidents admitted to doing — than all of the people in jail in 1975,” Booker said. “And then when we put them in prison, we put them into a system that is unjust.”

Clinton has called to end mass incarceration, give body cameras to police officers, reform mandatory minimum sentencing, beef up police training programs, and help those getting out of prison through reintegration programs.

“We understand that doing the moral thing is also the fiscally conservative thing,” Booker said.

In closing, Booker reminded the group that elections have consequences, including the state and local elections.

“I don’t respond to the nonsense — when I hear more vitriol over there — I turn up my rhetoric of love. When I see more darkness over there, I try to turn up more light, but what you focus on you give energy to. I’m not focused on them, I’m focused on why more of us aren’t getting engaged.”

Racine resident Betty Brenneman said she needed to hear Booker’s message.

“It was just what I needed to hear to get energized because I was getting burned out listening to all of the attention being paid to the Republican comedy tour,” she said.

Racine Unified School Board member Michael Frontier also said that Booker’s message resonated with him because it focused on what Democrats could do to “love” the country.

“We have a huge population here who has not finished high school,” Frontier said. “Our unemployment rate is still very high, but we have a growing graduation rate, our crime rate is going down. But a lot of people don’t realize that Racine is on the rise. The baby is ugly, but we’re embracing it and we’re loving it.”

 

 

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.