A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for In Our Words on Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey, who I have always thought was a real class act, something that is hard to find amongst American politicians today. I still do think that, despite his statements on Bain Capital, but the mystique of him, and indeed of most American politicians, has been swept away for me; a downgrading from Superman to Clark Kent, if you will. So, imagine my surprise when, at work the day the piece went up, I began receiving direct messages on Twitter from the Mayor, who responded thusly. This is completely unedited, compiled from 20+ messages.
“Read your piece. I am indeed just Clark Kent. I in artfully tried to express my disdain for negative politics and it came out horribly. But I hope you watched the whole MTP episode or my appearance later that week, my appearance on Rachel Maddow where I made the exact same points that you did. Indeed, when Romney claims to be a job creator that record deserves to be examined. And I said, it is absurd to equate some of the scurrilous even bigoted attacks on Obama with the negative add that MTP showed. So, in my yet another of 100s of public appearances I screwed up. . . as I said in my Leno appearance this week, I tried to strike out against polarizing/combustable politics and ended up being quite combustable myself. So, I am Clark (actually he is kind of heroic himself I loved the movie where he lost his powers but was still brave, courageous and heroic so perhaps I am not even Clark Kent). But that all said, I reject your conclusions about dash for cash wall street buying politicians. As even my own cynical state newspaper pointed out, my fundraising base is wide and diverse. From unions to wall street, from lawyers to non profit leaders. I’ve taken stands against a tax code that is imbalanced, loop holes that even my hedge fund friends can’t defend like carried interest. I’ve never made my political decisions based on campaign contributions. In fact, I’ve tested the theory that if I boldly & authentically pursue my ideals then more people would believe in me and I could raise more money. As soon as I began to compromise then I would lose not only my appeal but I’d lose myself. So when I speak out against broad brushed attacks on private equity, I do it because I see what the access to capital can do to help communities like mine. We are going through our biggest economic development period with over a billion dollars worth of new job creating projects – some of those made possible by those so called “scurrilous” wall street types. This doesn’t mean that they are all good or bad, it doesn’t mean that they there isn’t a need for more reform in that sector, and it doesn’t mean that we seriously need to address the culture of capitalism, consumerism, and greed in our country. What it means is that I believe we need a much less polarizing andmuch more nuanced way of discussing our problems. That simplistic broad brushed attacks don’t solve our problems. That unless we can find ways of bringing people together to discuss our complicated problems we may never solve them. So, I stand by my expressions from my heart. I didn’t do a good enough job expressing them with my head. But I did show clearly in the totality of MTP that I support my president I support him because he’s that kind of leader, I support him because he is a uniter, because he has the best vision for bringing our nationforward, because his ideas, plans, and record speak to great hope for America. And finally, I support him because while I am not Supermanor even a good Clark Kent . . . Obama is and will be in his 2nd term a pretty heroic President. So Up, Up and Away America – together our best days are ahead of us, I still believe our nation can and will soar.”
Frankly, particularly after my recent experience with comment sections on FreethoughtBlogs, this is about as superb a response as I could ever have hoped for. Mayor Booker picked up on the points I made, namely that my faith had been shaken in him, and addressed them in full.
I suppose, after this, I would change my message to be not so much one of disdain for him, which I believe may have been the unfortunate tone of my first article, but one of mild disappointment not so much in him but in how deeply flawed the system we live in today is. As Mayor Booker notes, however evil the company behind it, having access to capital in developing communities is an essential aspect to the current regeneration of many American cities, including Newark, and frankly, even my deeply cynical self finds it hard to argue with what Booker has done for that city, corporate money backing him or otherwise. Sure, I’d rather that money was available from less awful sources, or that our federal government would actually care about domestic issues like infrastructure and regeneration rather than building bigger bombs for more sophisticated robots to drop on innocent people in Pakistan, but the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t.
Given that issue, of the military-industrial complex’s chokehold on America, I don’t know if I share Mayor Booker’s faith in President Obama, but he has managed to dissipate some of my doom and gloom attitude. I think, with this response, Mayor Booker proved that he knows what’s up, but at the same time, he seems to have managed to avoid the trap door of corruption and awfulness that awaits most optimistic, change-minded politicians.
Turns out, Clark Kent’s pretty all right after all.