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Est. April 5, 2002
March 21, 2019 - Issue 781

Cory Booker,
School Choice ‘Trojan Horse’

"In an increasingly progressive-oriented Democratic Party,
Booker is scrambling with an ‘electric slide’ dance routine
to change his political colors. But so far, it has not
resulted in his rising in the national polls,
where he hovers around three percent."

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is the 2020 Democratic ‘Trojan Horse’--a stealth candidate for conservative proponents who have spent tens of billions of dollars on initiatives to privatize public education and public services. He has been one of the more effective African Americans carrying the political water of the Cartel of corporate leaders in their attempts to dismantle the public sector during the past 30 years.

Having willingly fallen under the thrall of right-wing captains of industry and their foundations in the mid-1990s, Booker has systematically advocated for and/or carried out their agenda as Newark, New Jersey City Councilman, Mayor, and now as New Jersey’s U.S. Senator. After finishing Stanford University (B.A. in political science, 1991, M.A. in Sociology, 1992), completing a Rhodes Fellowship at the University of Oxford, where he earned an honors degree in United States history in 1994, he graduated from Yale Law School (1997).

After a series of community service efforts for low-income communities in New Haven, Connecticut and a summer internship in Newark, New Jersey’s central city, Booker continued to live there during his final year of law school. He was already serving as an underling of the conservative school choice Cartel, comprised of the Koch Bros., Eli Broad, and other corporate leaders and their right-leaning foundations.

Possessing a golden resume’ and an engaging personality, Booker was the perfect individual to spearhead the Cartel’s public school privatization and anti-union agenda. In 1998, a year after law school, he ran for a Newark City Council seat held by an unsuspecting, four-term incumbent, George Branch, who was unprepared for Booker’s fundraising tsunami that rained upon him.

The Cartel syndicate of billionaire capitalists, the Wall Street financial lobby, and run-of-the-mill multi-millionaire contributors from California to Washington State, to Kansas to North Carolina, and all states in between (and around), according to his published campaign reports, flooded Booker’s campaign coffers to excess. It was an unprecedented financial windfall for a first-time candidate for office.

After his election to Newark’s City Council, the Cartel dispatched Booker to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then recognized as the crown jewel of the school choice movement, to be further indoctrinated by Dr. Howard Fuller. Fuller was a former national and international militant black activist, Wisconsin gubernatorial cabinet member, and former Superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools (1991-95), the state’s largest school district. The Cartel had successfully petitioned to change state law since he lacked the necessary administrative credentials to serve as a school superintendent in Wisconsin.

Fuller was and remains the Cartel’s premier school choice promoter, along with his wife Dr. Deborah McGriff, former Superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools (DPS), who was ousted in the early 1990s due to her assertive efforts to turn DPS over to the privatization-focused Edison Project. After she was fired, the President of the Edison Project, Benno Schmidt, flew into Detroit the next day and appointed her an Edison Project Vice President. She and her husband continue to press the public school privatization case to their ex-superintendent colleagues, primarily in urban districts helmed by superintendents of color.

After one term on the Council, Booker ran for Mayor of Newark against another four-term incumbent, Sharpe James, who had served in city and state politics for more than thirty-five years and was one of New Jersey’s most powerful African American politicians, but also one who had refused the Cartel’s entreaties to participate in their public school privatization schemes.

Booker narrowly raised more money than James but was unable to penetrate his firm base in Newark’s African American community, the city’s largest voting bloc. With the on-the-ground campaign support of Rev. Al Sharpton and other local and national civil rights leaders, James was able to defeat Booker by four points in 2002 for his fifth four-year mayoral term.

Remaining undaunted after Booker’s first defeat, the Cartel parked him in a Newark white shoe law firm and plied him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh (like the Wise Men gave to the baby Jesus) to curry favor with low-income parents and organizations in the Newark community.

After four years of Booker’s largess—financial contributions to grassroots organizations, giving out Laptops, computers, food baskets, etc., and a behind-the-scenes deal he struck with Mayor James to drop out of the race one month before the election and for Booker to support his son, Sharpe James, Jr., in his race for Newark’s City Council—Booker roared back and won 75 percent of the vote against a candidate, State Sen. Ron Rice, who only had thirty days to put together what turned out to be a suicide run.

Immediately upon taking office, he dismantled a majority-minority public-sector union that had served as his get-out-the-vote field operation in his mayoral campaign, championed school choice, and appointed few Newark residents and people of color to positions in his cabinet. In addition, he attempted to sell the city’s prized asset, its watershed, to the private sector which would have placed his low-income, majority black and brown constituents at the mercy of a private corporation with the power to increase their water rates at a whim. After a series of raucous meetings, Booker’s watershed sell-off proposal was finally defeated by the Newark City Council.

Booker’s final coup de grace against former Mayor James was to collaborate with the federal government and New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie to have James indicted and put in jail for two years. Furthermore, James was barred from participation in any political activity for several years after his release as a way to curb the influence of his voter turnout machine in Essex County, home of Newark. Some political insiders said this was done to protect Booker form political payback.

Seven years after being elected Newark’s Mayor and before he was enveloped in the lead water crisis that overwhelmed the Newark Public Schools, Booker had moved on to run for the U.S. Senate in a Democratic primary race that he won handily. He then faced off against Republican Steve Lonegan, who was also a supplicant of the Cartel and the Koch Bros., and defeated him by 10 points.

The Koch Bros. had appointed Lonegan as the State Director of the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity, one of the hundreds of political advocacy groups they fully fund with units in all 50 states. Previously, Lonegan was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor of New Jersey in 2005 and 2009. Thus, the Cartel and the Koch Bros. had two horses in a one horse race, one from each party, making it impossible for them to lose. Both would carry out their privatization plans, and Booker had prevailed.

He continued to be a reliable privatization activist and anti-union promoter, working with Betsy DeVos, one of the foremost benefactors of voucher and charter schools, prior to her appointment as Trump’s Secretary of Education, and others after his election to the U.S. Senate. Even the First Step criminal justice reform legislation, for which he has received significant credit, was initially developed by the Koch Bros. and conservative Republicans. Moreover, a Koch Bros. consultant began meeting with Obama’s key advisor, Valerie Jarrett, shortly after his 2012 reelection.

It was only during the 2016 presidential campaign when the progressive elements of the Democratic Party began gaining traction that Booker began to embrace teachers and public-sector unions after his prior all-out assault on them. At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, he gave a rousing pro-African American speech in an effort to endear himself to the national black community. He had started this initiative earlier hoping that Hillary Clinton would choose him as her Vice Presidential running mate.

But she had already determined that Booker did not have any substantial connection to the national black community. And she had watched him politically stab President Obama in the back on national TV when he attacked Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign against private equity and Bain Capital on national TV. He was supposedly functioning as an Obama surrogate when the race with Romney was close. The Cartel and Booker’s other billionaire patrons were ecstatic! He had double-crossed the Democratic standard bearer in prime time.

This is one of the reasons they are giving him a wide berth as he crafts his 2020 campaign strategy. They know that Booker ultimately is their guy and will deliver for them if he is elected President, though they doubt he has much of a chance at this point. Currently, many teachers, groups who embrace the public sector, and local, state, and national unions are beginning to show some trepidation about his candidacy, knowing that they cannot replace Trump with a Democratic clone if they are to survive and prosper.

So the question remains: who is Sen. Cory Booker, and what does he stand for? He has been, and is, for school choice, privatization of the public sector, anti-union, and an aggressive proponent for LGBTQ rights (a good ting); while Mayor, he flew the LGBTQ flag over the dome of his mayoral office to demonstrate his commitment to their cause. Booker is also for ‘trickle down economics’ and ‘a rising tide lifts all votes’ policy to address the social and economic problems of the African American community rather than any specifically targeted programs as he has articulated on the Breakfast Club, a radio show targeted at the black community.

In recent months, Booker has worked to update his single status by now making public that he has a ‘boo’, the actress Rosario Dawson. This is the first time it has ever been reported that he has admitted having a girlfriend during his 20 years in elective office. However, over the years, Booker escorted Oprah’s pal and CBS news anchor, Gayle King, to several high profile social events. Recognizing that the public is unlikely to elect an unmarried person to the highest office in the land, he is checking all the boxes. Even Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana and the only declared gay candidate in the race, has publicly acknowledged his husband.

In an increasingly progressive-oriented Democratic Party, Booker is scrambling with an ‘electric slide’ dance routine to change his political colors. But so far, it has not resulted in his rising in the national polls, where he hovers around three percent. As the print and broadcast media dig further into his political record, he is likely to be more clearly revealed for what he has been and is—‘A Trojan Horse’ for the disassembling of public sector unions, the destruction of the K-12 public education teaching profession, and the overall public sector.

Next, we peel back the cover on Beto.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 




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