On Friday, I sat down with Sen. Cory Booker for 90 minutes. It was, simultaneously, one of the most inspiring and maddening interviews I’ve done with a presidential candidate. Inspiring because there is a moral radicalism and spiritual generosity to Booker’s politics that set him apart from other politicians. Maddening because when Booker turns his politics outward, they lose clarity. He shies away from drawing bright lines, his answers double back to blur out potential offense. In showing his love, he muddles his message.
On Monday, Booker dropped out of the race after failing to qualify for the next Democratic debate. “I got in this race to win, and I’ve always said I wouldn’t continue if there was no longer a path to victory,” he said.
There is a moral radicalism to the way Cory Booker lives out his politics. He lived for years in a housing project. He leads hunger strikes. He challenges political machines. He’s a vegan. He has a more ambitious policy vision than is often discussed, but beneath that is a far more radical ethical vision than he gets credit for.
The problem is that while he’s comfortable saying what that ethical vision demands of him, he’s very uncomfortable saying what it demands of the rest of us. In this conversation, I wanted Booker to risk my discomfort. And in his answers, I think you can hear both the remarkable promise of Booker’s politics and some of the challenges that have held back his campaign.
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