Cory Booker Takes a Veiled Jab at Bernie Sanders on Prisons

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/kars4kids/6545513401/in/photolist-aYpt6k-dAA8f9-6cbt4R-dAujHr-dAuD2F-dAA7Gj-d6fpuN-dAuE9D-dAuDyD-dAA8MG-dAupC4-dAuk1a-dAuoPx-dAzRHN-dAzSiJ-dAukBz-dAzQQq-dAukhR-dAunWv-dAzTaj-dAupne-dAzRnU-dBGsCe-aYptZ8-aYpsdk-6cfohj-9CTfet-ypYVcS-yrnc3W-ypYQ3d-xvh5bA-xvhfkJ-yaFv8G-xvq66V-yrna4W-yaFCUo-yrnctA-yaMMCc-yaMAjv-yaMNJv-ypYVHG-yaGwd3-yrnhMG-yaGLkm-yrn3WW-xvq8kz-ypYZLb-yaFBg3-d9DEtw-d9DFHu">Kars 4 Kids</a>/Flickr

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Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, the only black Democrat in the Senate, took a subtle jab at Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Thursday for ignoring issues affecting African Americans in his own state of Vermont.

Campaigning for Hillary Clinton at a black church in Florence, South Carolina, on Thursday, Booker fired up the crowd with invocations of past violence against African Americas—from “gas and billy clubs” on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, to the martyred teenager Emmett Till—while framing Clinton as the only candidate in the race voters could trust to fix the criminal justice system. “If you don’t mind all this talk in this campaign about race, I want to get real with y’all for a minute,” Booker said. His support for Clinton, he explained to the church audience, was because “she was here when it wasn’t election time. I’m here because she was supporting criminal justice reform before it was [popular] to talk about it on the campaign trail.”

In case the contrast he was trying to draw wasn’t clear, Booker got more specific. “This is not just a South Carolina issue,” he said. “I don’t care what state you come from. Heck, Vermont! People told me, ‘Cory, they don’t have black people in Vermont.’ I’m sorry to tell you this, there are 50 states; we got black people in every state! That’s true!”

He continued, “And the problems of racial disparity did not begin in this campaign. They go deep in every state. Vermont has 1 percent African Americans. But their prison population is 11 percent black! You want to speak about injustice—I see campaigns and candidates running all over this country. Don’t you come to my communities, talk about how much you care, talk your passion for criminal justice, and then I don’t hear from you after an election. And I didn’t hear from you before the election!”

Clinton has focused on winning black voters in counties where she lost big to Barack Obama (including Florence County, where Obama beat her by 42 points), emphasizing Sanders’ votes against gun control measures and her friendship with a group of African American women who lost their children to gun violence or in police custody. But her aggressive push on criminal justice is in part defensive; she’s been criticized on the left for supporting, among other things, welfare reform and the 1994 crime bill. At a fundraiser in Charleston on Wednesday night, she was confronted by a young black woman about comments she’d made as First Lady in support of the crime bill, alleging that “super-predators” were threatening urban communities. Clinton said on Thursday, “I shouldn’t have used those words.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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