Cory Booker, the 2020 race and Obama's legacy

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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: 16322

Reported Deaths: 782
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds106626
Lauderdale76068
Madison75727
Neshoba72244
Jones68632
Scott66212
Forrest59239
DeSoto5598
Leake45412
Rankin4538
Holmes44130
Copiah3254
Jackson30914
Attala30718
Yazoo2914
Newton2834
Lincoln27829
Leflore27336
Oktibbeha26714
Monroe26725
Harrison2657
Lamar2485
Lowndes2419
Wayne2353
Pearl River21231
Pike20511
Adams20216
Washington1947
Noxubee1936
Warren19110
Lee1857
Covington1772
Jasper1664
Bolivar16611
Clarke15519
Smith15311
Lafayette1504
Kemper14911
Chickasaw14014
Coahoma1284
Winston1221
Clay1184
Carroll11611
Marion1169
Claiborne1145
Lawrence1081
Simpson1040
Grenada1003
Yalobusha976
Sunflower933
Itawamba907
Hancock9012
Tate881
Union867
Montgomery861
Panola853
Marshall853
Wilkinson859
Jefferson Davis813
Tippah7611
Webster673
Calhoun674
Amite651
Walthall630
Humphreys607
Tunica563
Prentiss533
Perry513
Choctaw482
Pontotoc453
Jefferson421
Tishomingo350
Greene331
Stone320
Quitman310
Tallahatchie301
Franklin292
George281
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18554

Reported Deaths: 651
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2284118
Jefferson1884103
Montgomery182343
Tuscaloosa82216
Marshall7059
Franklin5788
Lee55834
Shelby52220
Tallapoosa43266
Butler41918
Walker3812
Elmore3729
Chambers35926
Madison3464
Morgan2981
Unassigned2972
Baldwin2929
Dallas2873
Etowah26212
Lowndes25912
DeKalb2573
Autauga2395
Coffee2391
Sumter2287
Houston2265
Bullock2156
Pike2080
Colbert1872
Hale1799
Russell1770
Barbour1771
Marengo1746
Lauderdale1692
Calhoun1653
Wilcox1547
Choctaw15310
Cullman1501
Clarke1492
St. Clair1311
Randolph1287
Marion12411
Dale1230
Pickens1215
Talladega1175
Limestone1080
Chilton1051
Greene954
Winston910
Macon874
Jackson833
Henry812
Covington811
Crenshaw783
Bibb761
Escambia753
Washington726
Blount631
Lawrence510
Monroe452
Geneva440
Perry420
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar260
Fayette160
Cleburne151
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