The Record: Booker for Senate

Bergen County Record

Friday, October 11, 2013

"IN FRAMING a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place, oblige it to control itself." When James Madison wrote that in the Federalist Papers in 1788, he must have envisioned our current Congress; it cannot control itself.

An inability to see beyond partisan loyalties and ideologies has ground the federal government to a halt. The House of Representatives was, by design, intended to be the more raucous chamber of Congress; it has lived up to that standard. The U.S. Senate was created as the deliberative body. So now, when a Texas senator can rant for 21 hours in a stunt more fitting for reality television than in a chamber with a glorious history for oration, we demand better.

We need a pragmatic politician; someone smart, collegial, charismatic and willing to forge relationships across partisan lines. We need Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Booker's critics claim he has not turned Newark around in nearly two full terms in office. But in fairness to Booker, Newark was a massive ship heading in the wrong direction. Turning it around takes time. The same is true of the federal government.

Congress is the Titanic, steered by a small cohort of ideologues. We have seen how this movie ends. The script needs to change. And that is why Republican Steve Lonegan is the wrong choice to complete the remainder of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg's term.

Lonegan promises to go to Washington and fight against implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He said he would have voted against federal relief aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy. He does not support the bipartisan immigration plan approved by the Senate.

We would rather cast our lot with Booker, who will turn the proverbial ship slowly, rather than with Lonegan, who will speed straight into an iceberg. Lonegan's call for smaller government, less intrusive government, is enticing because our government is indeed dysfunctional and cannot be the salve to every problem in America. But the solution is to find a solution, not to rage against it. That is why Booker, not Lonegan, is so right for the Senate at this moment in time.

Booker is not easily pigeon-holed as a liberal, despite Lonegan's repeated assertion that he is. Democrat Booker supports a woman's right to choose, marriage equality and immigration reform. But he has formed a valuable relationship with Republican Governor Christie on issues on which they have found common ground – education reform and a variety of public-private partnerships that bring entrepreneurial investment into struggling urban communities.

A product of an affluent Bergen County suburb, Harrington Park, and mayor of the state's largest city, Booker knows the two sides of New Jersey. New Jerseyans – all New Jerseyans – need articulate advocates in Washington.

During this campaign, Lonegan has shown he is not just an angry guy. He has been more articulate in conveying his conservative message than he was in previous unsuccessful campaigns. But make no mistake, if elected, Lonegan would not elevate the level of discourse on Capitol Hill.

We believe in smaller government, but we refuse to accept a smaller, petty America.

Booker's rock-star status has at times blinded him from the realities of the job at hand. Social media is a valuable tool, but it cannot replace the daily grind of running a municipal government. Nor can celebrity friendships replace old-fashioned, retail politics – door-to-door handshaking and diner breakfasts. Hollywood is not within the borders of the Ironbound.

Booker's political career was made in Newark when he ran a high-profile but unsuccessful campaign against then-Mayor Sharpe James. Booker, the street fighter, has been absent these past months. That former energy must return to a Senator Booker who will be focused on the issues that matter to the people of New Jersey.

The U.S. Senate was created as a place for reasoned debate, not a place for ideologues, and not a safe harbor for those who would steer ships into icebergs.

The issues Lonegan raises about a government gone amok need to be debated, need to be discussed. But there is the other side of Lonegan. In the final Senate debate held Wednesday, he called President Obama a "tyrant." And when rebutting Booker's comment on the need for environmental regulations to make the Passaic River safe for swimmers, Lonegan said the reason people cannot swim in the Passaic is because of all the floating bodies of shooting victims from Newark. Sending Lonegan to the Senate will not increase debate or discussion, only dissension and partisanship.

Cory Booker has the skill set to be a formidable U.S. senator. He will be a legislator committed to social justice, to a strong America and, most important, to an America that is as big as James Madison and his colleagues envisioned more than 200 years ago.

The Record endorses Cory Booker for U.S. Senate.

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