Sen. Cory Booker grew up just outside of Newark, NJ and was born in Washington, D.C. He’s a city boy, born and bred. In fact, I haven’t seen anything to suggest he’s really spent a lot of time outside of the city or suburbs. Sure, he represents an entire state, but that doesn’t actually mean he understands much about rural America.
Yet he recently spoke about the urban-rural divide in the United States and also about his stance on gun control.
The thing is, he doesn’t really seem to get that for many in rural America, his gun control position is all the evidence they need that he doesn’t know anything about them.
“If I’m President of the United States, I’m bringing a fight to this issue like the [National Rifle Association] or the corporate gun lobby have never seen before,” Booker says. “What I know is that there is so much more agreement on this issue than disagreement. Over 90 percent of gun owners believe that we should have universal background checks. Over 80 percent of Americans believe that we should have gun licensing. There are things we could do if we have a president that is going to make this a major priority of their administration… This is a mission for me.”
For Booker, that may be a message that resonates in Southern Nevada, home of the worst mass shooting in modern American history. However, in rural parts of the state where some counties have declared themselves 2nd Amendment Sanctuaries — an attempt to buck a universal background check law passed by lawmakers earlier this year — that message may not work for traditionally conservative voters. He says that’s partly because leaders have not done enough to work with rural voters.
“The challenge we have right now in this country is I just do not think rural communities have had the right vision in a president,” Booker says. “The things that are going on in rural America [are] not fait accompli, the decline in population you see from so many rural counties. What we need to do is start to have a vision and see the worth of all of our communities, and begin to actually have a plan. I think we need, for example, infrastructure. We need a rule Marshall Project to make sure we are focusing on everything from health care delivery all the way to critical infrastructure like broadband access.”
Booker speaks as if he thinks he understands the rural voters.
The truth is, regardless of what he offers the rural parts of the country–be it infrastructure, subsidies, or pots of gold for every man, woman, and child–he’s never going to win them over. Broadband access won’t do them a damn bit of good when they’re forced to wait 45 minutes for the one deputy working in the middle of the night to make it across the whole county while some punk is trying to kick the door in. Health care delivery is all fine and good unless the reason you need it is because your daughter was raped and you were powerless to do anything about it.
The rural-urban divide exists not because of a lack of certain features but because legions of his fellow Democrats have demonized rural voters for years simply because they have different priorities when it comes to political candidates.
If Booker really gives a damn about rural voters–no, I know he doesn’t, but roll with me here–if he really wants to understand them, then he needs to sit down with some of them who don’t support him and listen to what the problems are.
I don’t think he’s got the stones to actually do it, though.
He can talk about working with rural voters, but let’s also remember that his party has spent the last few years demonizing those same voters as backward, racist hicks. He’s vowing to inhibit their right to keep and bear arms, an issue that’s near and dear to rural voters’ hearts. That’s not exactly the way to win elections. If he wants to undermine that narrative, he’s got to start with himself. That would mean, though, knocking off the gun control push.
Again, I don’t think he’s got the stones for it.