“Elections are determined by what happens in the grassroots,” U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey told a crowd of young African-American professionals and business entrepreneurs from the Madison area at Table Wine on Madison’s near east side on March 4. “The opposite of justice is not injustice; the opposite of justice is inaction, indifference, apathy. We are so much greater than the reality we are experiencing right now. Our nation’s history shows that there is nothing that we can’t do in the United States of America, yet the issue is not ‘can we?,’ it’s ‘Do we have the collective will?'”
Sen. Booker and Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin were in Madison on Sunday afternoon to meet and greet with young black (and a few Latino) professionals at the invitation of host committee members who organized the event including Adam Barr, a health IT professional, Alder Maurice Cheeks; Sabrina Madison, founder of the Progress Center for Black Women; Savion Castro, a research associate at One Wisconsin Now; Ali Muldrow, the director of youth programming and inclusion at GSAFE; and Walter Williams, a high school counselor in Verona.
“Many people have this misconception in this country that somehow change happens in this country because of who the president is or who the senator is or who the congressperson is,” Booker told the crowd. “Like all the great movements in this country – the abolitionist movement, the suffrage movement, the workers’ rights, the civil rights movement. All of those things happened not because a bunch of senators said, ‘We’re going to give the women the right to vote.’ Strom Thurmond didn’t sit there – the man with the longest filibuster in civil rights history – and say, “Well, I think those people should have their rights.’
“It was people because people fought for it from the grassroots up. Demanding change. Working for it; struggling for it,” he added.
Booker talked about the importance of early engagement and turnout in Wisconsin elections and said that Sen. Baldwin was the most-targeted senator in the United States.
“In fact, [shes] the most singly targeted human being running for office,” Booker said. “There is no other candidate in the entire United States of America that is having more money thrown at her than this woman right now. That should tell you something. If they’re coming after you, though, that means you are doing something positive, doing something right.”
“I am standing in front of you as a very hopeful person despite the fact that there has been incredible spending from outside Super-PACs – the Koch Brothers,” Baldwin told the crowd. “Why is there more spending in this state against me than any other state in the country? Than any of my colleagues that are running for re-election in Trump states?”
“They’re afraid,” Booker interjected.
“They have an agenda and I’m not afraid to stand up to them and to it,” Baldwin said.
“At all levels, I have seen how people can make a difference when they come together,” Baldwin added. “I know everybody in this room is committed to making a difference and paying it forward and focusing on our greatest challenges to our communities.”
Booker had been with Baldwin all weekend long, accompanying her to a new campaign office opening at 5040 W. North Ave. in Milwaukee, not far from the Sherman Park neighborhood.
“We have people who work hard in this country every single day,” Booker said. “They pull extra shifts and work overtime when they can … and they still can’t afford housing. They live in poverty. They are working harder than our parents! The number-one debt in America used to be mortgages. Now it’s student debt.
“There are so many things that are going on in America right now that don’t reflect our values,” he added. “I’m telling you all right now that this is the moment. I’ve never seen a mid-term election in the past that is this important.”
Booker said that the United States is in trouble right now. “I’ve never things like this before. There’s been about 85 terrorist attacks since 9/11, over 70 percent of them have been right-wing extremists groups and the majority of them have been white supremacists. We’re in a tough time right now,” he said. “To save the dream of our generation remember what Langston Hughes said, ‘There’s a dream in the land. With its back against the wall. To save the dream for one. It must be saved for all.’
“Let’s save that dream,” he added.