Cory Booker, the 2020 race and Obama's legacy

After announcing his 2020 candidacy for president, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) spoke to reporters about a need for unity and a leader who understands patriotism.

Posted: Feb 1, 2019 8:00 PM
Updated: Feb 1, 2019 8:00 PM

Sen. Cory Booker's announcement Friday that he will run for president is not only another sign of the historic diversity of the Democratic Party as it heads into the 2020 presidential primaries. It is a demonstration of the power of former President Barack Obama's legacy in American politics.

On the night of Obama's election victory over John McCain in 2008, there were celebrations all over the country among Americans who sensed the significance of the moment. A nation born at a time of slavery had just elected an African-American to the highest position of power. Gallup reported that more than two-thirds of the country believed the election was one of the top three moments of progress for African-Americans in the past hundred years.

In Chicago, about 200,000 people crowded into Grant Park to watch Obama deliver his victory speech. Crowds gathered in the streets all over the country, and all around the world, to chant "O-Bama! O-Bama!" Oprah Winfrey, who was at the celebration in Chicago, captured the sentiment that night when she explained: "It feels like hope won. It feels like it's not just victory for ... Barack Obama. It feels like America did the right thing."

Then the cynicism set in. Democrats as well as Republicans raised questions about the meaning of Obama's historic election victory.

The euphoria that was felt all over the world that November evening has been replaced with a hard-edged skepticism, because certain events can't be forgotten -- like a series of controversial police shootings of African- American men, a racist "birther" movement that gained airtime in the national media falsely questioning Obama's legitimacy, the election of Donald Trump, as well as the horror of neo-Nazis marching down the streets of Charlottesville chanting vile anti-Semitic and racist comments.

By the time that President Trump unleashed his full-throated midterm campaign message last October that stoked nativist fears about a caravan of migrants trying to "invade" the US, Obama's presidential election seemed a world away.

But Obama's election night was in fact historic and we are starting to witness its impact on mainstream party politics. The Democratic primaries are already showing how his success transformed the political playing field.

As the nation celebrates the first day of Black History Month on Friday, it is stunning to watch the the diversity of Democrats who are running or considering running in the primaries: four women (Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard), one who is an African-American and another who is Hindu; one gay married man (South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg); the son of Taiwanese immigrants (Andrew Yang); a Latino who is the son of immigrants (Julian Castro); and now an African- American man (Cory Booker).

While there will be a number of white men in the race, the level of diversity is already remarkable by historical standards. What's more, many of these candidates, such as Sens. Booker, Harris and Warren, are considered potential front-rank contenders.

This year's presidential primaries add to the historic events in 2016 when a female candidate, Hillary Clinton -- who secured the nomination -- faced off against Bernie Sanders, a Jewish American.

The diversity of the candidates complements the new class of Democrats in Congress. Within the cohort of women entering Capitol Hill, the new members include the first Muslim women in Congress (Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar), the first Native American women elected to Congress (Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids), Massachusetts' first black congresswoman (Ayanna Pressley), and the first woman whom Iowa has sent to the House (Abby Finkenauer).

And the most prominent new member is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who comes from a Puerto Rican family and is the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress. In her first few weeks, she shook up Washington with talk of progressive taxation and a Green New Deal. Many Republicans have not liked the fact that when they criticize her, she hits back hard.

Of course, it would be naïve to think that the Democratic presidential candidates won't face enormous obstacles because of the social biases that are still deeply rooted in our country over matters such as race and gender.

Yet it would be an equally bad mistake to ignore the reality that this is not your grandfather's Democratic Party anymore. In fact, it is Obama's party.

Having diversity among our political leaders matters a great deal, because it helps to shape expectations for the next generation as to who can legitimately think they can lead this country one day. It will also produce new sensitivities in our political debates to questions that keep getting left off the agenda.

While there is still a great deal of work to be done to make progress on the policy failures that allow for social injustice and hierarchy to survive in the daily lives of Americans, it is vital to acknowledge the historic changes that we are seeing before our eyes as the 2020 election gets underway.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said that Rep. Ayanna Pressley was Massachusetts' first black member of Congress. She is Massachusetts' first black congresswoman.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61125

Reported Deaths: 1711
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5269106
DeSoto332627
Madison229756
Harrison215232
Rankin214628
Jackson199434
Jones177457
Forrest164053
Washington149232
Lauderdale132988
Lee123930
Neshoba119788
Lamar112112
Oktibbeha105435
Lowndes98932
Warren96427
Scott95517
Bolivar94832
Copiah91724
Panola91211
Sunflower90822
Lafayette88111
Holmes84747
Leflore84059
Pike83232
Grenada81320
Yazoo78611
Leake76825
Lincoln74540
Pontotoc7377
Wayne73321
Simpson71227
Monroe70250
Coahoma66310
Tate65023
Marion60118
Covington58811
Adams58425
Marshall5718
Winston57115
George5475
Union53113
Newton51611
Attala49824
Tallahatchie49310
Pearl River48536
Walthall45318
Chickasaw43819
Noxubee41910
Claiborne40013
Smith38013
Calhoun3788
Jasper3768
Clay37013
Alcorn3574
Prentiss3426
Hancock33614
Tishomingo3204
Lawrence3135
Tippah31212
Yalobusha31210
Itawamba30710
Clarke30025
Montgomery2933
Tunica2786
Humphreys27111
Carroll24511
Greene22611
Quitman2251
Kemper22315
Perry2227
Amite2105
Jefferson Davis2026
Webster19912
Jefferson1936
Wilkinson18712
Sharkey1801
Stone1523
Choctaw1274
Benton1250
Franklin1162
Issaquena211
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 90890

Reported Deaths: 1611
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson11859225
Mobile9086191
Montgomery6249143
Madison501425
Tuscaloosa397463
Baldwin321023
Shelby305032
Marshall296630
Unassigned273453
Lee250540
Morgan222315
Etowah193026
DeKalb170113
Elmore160237
Calhoun15609
Walker147063
Houston131912
Dallas128823
Russell12331
St. Clair121712
Franklin119620
Limestone119613
Cullman114111
Colbert109312
Lauderdale107112
Autauga102420
Escambia97915
Talladega91813
Jackson8283
Chambers82138
Tallapoosa81478
Dale78520
Butler75235
Blount7363
Chilton7106
Coffee7095
Covington70920
Pike6607
Barbour5635
Lowndes55224
Marion54224
Marengo52014
Clarke4869
Hale45926
Bullock43811
Perry4294
Winston42911
Wilcox4059
Monroe3914
Randolph38810
Bibb3743
Conecuh37310
Pickens3679
Sumter36118
Lawrence3100
Washington31011
Macon30913
Crenshaw2863
Choctaw27412
Henry2453
Cherokee2427
Greene24211
Geneva2320
Clay2175
Lamar1982
Fayette1745
Cleburne1211
Coosa922
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Few Clouds
85° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 88°
Columbus
Overcast
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 82°
Oxford
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 86°
Starkville
Broken Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 88°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather