To his supporters, Sen. Cory Booker is literally Superman, while to his detractors he’s a pseudo-progressive deeply in the pocket of the financial interests who’s more interested in raking in cash in speaking fees than passing laws.
Regardless of what you personally think of his character, he’s clearly popular (he won his election to the Senate by an 11-point margin over Republic challenger Jeff Bell in 2014) and has recently been floated as a possible vice-presidential pick for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Booker, 47, has been described as “fiscally conservative yet socially progressive” although that description is a little dubious — he’s still a Democrat, not a libertarian. His “conservative” nature comes out in his support of private equity. And yet, while he was mayor of Newark, he raised taxes — something a traditional fiscal conservative would loath to do.
And while many progressives are still rooting for a Clinton-Warren ticket, Booker’s record makes a strong case for him to be the VP nominee.
- On crime and the war on drugs: Booker has long been an advocate for a reformed drug policy – even before the 2011 report that declared the war on drugs a failure. In 2009, he advocated for community courts to be used in drug sentencing to keep low-level offenders out of prisons: “In the community court, instead of fines many people can't pay or short jail terms that do them no good, quality-of-life offenders will be sentenced to visible community service throughout the city and referred to drug treatment, job training, adult education, counseling and other services.”
- Lives to understand his poorest constituents: When Booker moved to Newark in 1998, he purposefully settled into Brick City, a crime-ridden project housing where he lived until 2006. By then, he was mayor, but he chose to move to another neighborhood still in a “bad” part of town. In December of 2012, he attempted to live off of New Jersey’s food stamp program for a week. Critics dubbed it an attempt for publicity, since the program is meant to supplement food and not provide everything, but Booker noted that whatever it was intended to be, many are forced to survive solely off of it.
- Environment: He’s been a vegetarian since 1992, and made the transition in 2014 to full-time vegan to reduce his carbon footprint. He advocated to get others to join him in his initial monthlong vegan experiment, but told the Philadelphia Inquirer: “I don't want to judge other people for their decisions. I'm a vegan who drives an SUV, for crying out loud.”
- On Women's Rights: Booker introduced a bill in May that would require pharmacies to not misrepresent emergency contraceptives (like Plan B, which many have called an abortifacient), have them in stock, and if a woman requests them, actually sell it to her. He also co-sponsored a bill that would make it illegal for states to put limits on abortion such as medically unnecessary tests (ultrasounds) or requiring women to get counseling or enforcing waiting periods.