Stopping in Madison on Thursday afternoon to campaign for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Senator Cory Booker said that unlike in his native New Jersey, the upcoming election in Wisconsin is of the utmost importance and will have a substantial effect on the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the U.S. presidency. “There’s a lot of power here in the state of Wisconsin. This is an interesting moment in Wisconsin history. I don’t think in my lifetime has there been a race that will determine so much in this state,” Booker tells Madison365. “If Russ Feingold loses, the Democrats will not take back control of the Senate and that imperils the Supreme Court because you have people like [Texas Republican Senator] Ted Cruz and others now saying, publicly, that they will keep the Supreme Court vacant. That is such an offense to the literal meaning of the Constitution. It’s really one branch of government subverting another one in dramatic fashion.”

Booker, who was once considered to be on Clinton’s short list for potential vice presidential candidates, was having lunch at Lucille Restaurant on King Street in downtown Madison and meeting with Madison leaders to talk about the importance of getting people out to vote early.

“States like New Jersey are not having the impact on this election like a battleground state like Wisconsin can and the people don’t have the power that you all have,” Booker says. “I’m just trying to get people to understand that if you have this power, you’ve got to use it. You can’t sit on the sidelines. When people stay home, they give up their power. They surrender it. Frankly, it’s an affront to our patriotic ideals. We are not a nation that makes democracy a spectator sport. We believe we’ve got to get into the game.”

Just this week, Booker has been campaigning for Democrats in Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. Earlier in the day, Booker was in Milwaukee with Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Rep. Gwen Moore, and senate candidate Russ Feingold encouraging people to vote early.

“I’ve been to Milwaukee many times since I first started politics actually,” Booker says. “I came out here to visit a friend of mine, [civil rights activist and education reform advocate] Howard Fuller, and I just love Milwaukee and Wisconsin, overall, especially with what is at stake here in this state with the election.”

Sen. Cory Booker hugs Congresswoman Gwen Moore in Milwaukee on Oct. 27.
Sen. Cory Booker hugs Congresswoman Gwen Moore in Milwaukee on Oct. 27.

Booker mentions that he has great respect for Feingold, who is hoping to reclaim the seat he held for 18 years before Republican Sen. Ron Johnson was elected in 2010.

“Russ Feingold was ringing the bell early on … he’s really been Paul Revere on the issue of money and politics and how corrupting it is,” Booker says. “You hear this from people on both sides of the aisle, but he actually rolled up his sleeves and did something about it. He actually made progress, but, unfortunately, we then had Citizens United [ruling]. So, I want him back there right away. Back to work on this issue and others.

“Russ is a guy that clearly cares about all Americans,” Booker adds. “To see him talk with people – whether you are a poor, struggling person in the rural parts of the country or an inner-city struggling single mom – he’s somebody with a lot of compassion and knows that America can’t afford to leave you on the sideline. You have to create opportunities so they can get in the game and contribute economically. So, Russ is one of those true spirits who is hungry. He’s not partisan and he’s not about what Washington sometimes gets bogged down in. He’s a guy that says, ‘We need to get things done now. There’s an urgent call for my country and I’m going to fight the good fight.’ So, I’m excited for him to come back to Washington and do like he did before … get things done.”

Feingold is running pretty close to Sen. Ron Johnson according to the most recent polls. In the presidential race, however, polls are coming back very favorable to Clinton over Trump. Clinton is leading Trump by 9 percentage points in the latest USA Today/Suffolk poll. Closer to home, she is up by 7 percent over Trump, according to a Marquette University Law School poll released earlier this month. Some people think a Clinton presidency is a lock. Booker says the worst thing people can do is to become complacent.

“I’ve seen this throughout the state where you see polls in a state and then the results come back and it’s completely the opposite,” Booker says. “So, that’s a terrible thing if you think it is decided already. The only poll that counts is the Election Day count. Nothing is certain. I’m hoping people don’t take anything for granted. You’ve got to get out there and not hope it happens, but make it happen.”

Booker is recommending to people to get out to vote early if they can. He says that it’s hard to do in his native New Jersey and that he’s impressed with Madison’s record-breaking early voter turnout so far. “Sometimes people wait until the last day and life happens. There are emergencies or you get caught up and suddenly it’s 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock and you didn’t get to vote,” Booker says. “The best way to lock in your vote is to do it now. So, we’re really trying to push as many people as possible out to really shock the nation and to show that this is a state that is voting early and breaking records doing it.”

Sen. Cory Booker takes a selfie with Madisonians at Lucille Restaurant on Oct. 26.
Sen. Cory Booker takes a selfie with Madisonians at Lucille Restaurant on Oct. 26.

Milwaukee and Madison were just a couple of stops for Booker who has been making his way across the United States to cities big and small and is learning a great deal about what Americans think are the important issues for this election.

“I’m really happy that both Republicans’ and Democrats’ decency has been offended by this [Trump] campaign. They’ve been offended by the kind of words that are coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth,” Booker says. “Many people want this election to get here quickly and get this all behind us because it’s been a tough chapter in American history. On top of everything, people want us to find a way to bring this country back together. That’s why we have to try to have courageous empathy towards one another whether you’re a Donald Trump supporter or a Hillary Clinton supporter. The truth is that we need each other so badly in this country. The more divisions we have in this country, the weaker we are … the more cracks we have. There has to be a way to put aside our egos for a second and say, ‘Hey, we’re all Americans. I know I disagree with you on some things, but let’s start talking about areas where we agree and start working there.’

“I love that spirit that I’m finding all over this country. I had people coming up to me in Milwaukee saying, ‘Please help us after the election. We need as many unifiers as possible in this country,” he adds.

But can Congress really end the eternal gridlock? Many Congressional leaders have faced significant criticism for numerous years for their inaction on issues because of infighting between the political parties.

“I’m a prisoner of hope and I have no right to think otherwise,” Booker says. “When Congress was refusing to pass Civil Rights legislation and [former South Carolins Sen.] Strom Thurmond was conducting the longest filibuster in history to stop it, it was really the compassionate actions of Americans, many of them taking to the streets to demonstrate and expose the hatred and bigotry of the time, which eventually moved the hearts and the minds and expanded the imagination of the entire country.

“I’m going to keep fighting no matter what,” Booker adds. “I believe in this country too much to give up on it and to think that it’s broken and to not try and fix it.”