When the results came in on November 7th, 2017, telling me I’d been elected to lead the City of Hoboken in New Jersey, I cannot possibly express the sense of honor I felt. Knowing I’d get the opportunity to serve the city I loved so much was an exciting and humbling experience. But as a member of the Asian American community — and the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey — I also felt a deep sense of pride.
AAPI individuals have long been underrepresented or outright ignored in our politics. What’s worse is that far too often when Asian Americans are viewed in the public square it’s when small-minded people want to stir up xenophobic, nationalist sentiment.
But then there are people like Senator Cory Booker. After 20 years of working side-by-side with Cory to level the playing field for historically underrepresented communities, I want to tell you how truly proud I am of what Senator Booker has done, not only for the AAPI community, but for American politics as a whole. And if we support him in his journey to the White House, we will be a stronger, more progressive, and more united America.
I know from personal experience that Cory values every American, regardless of whether it’s in a public or private setting. He knows that the voices of the AAPI community shouldn’t mean less, even if we’re not at the center of hot-button, news-grabbing issues dominating mainstream media.
For example, just looking at his campaign staff, you will see he truly believes that if his campaign is going to represent America, it needs to reflect the diversity of people, cultures, and ideas that make this nation great. In May, he made it a priority to meet with AAPI leaders all around the country in recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Even though the news cycles were dominated by the daily scandals coming out of the White House, he made a point of showing up for the AAPI community in America, sending us a strong message that under
his agenda, we wouldn’t be forgotten or lost in the fray.
Cory has a story similar to many of our own. His family wanted to give him the best life they could by moving to an area with good public schools. But because of the bigotry and discrimination we’re all too familiar with, he was marginalized due to the color of his skin. Through the years, Cory and I have discussed going through the public school system as minorities in America, and how it brings us together. I’m proud of Cory because rather than just complain, he did what too few of us have done. He dug in, joined together with others in marginalized communities, and hurdled over the barriers placed in front of him. And in doing so, he didn’t just prosper. He inspired others to do the same.
But Senator Booker isn’t just a unifying force for disenfranchised communities. He fights for unity throughout the Democratic Party, and in turn, throughout the nation.
Simply put, President Trump wants us divided. Our division makes it easier for him to paint the immensely complex reality of U.S. politics into reductive, “us versus them” thinking. It feeds into his tactics of alienating, scapegoating, and attacking those who have the sense and courage to disagree with him.
Cory Booker as the Democratic nominee would end this division and begin the process of healing our country. Some candidates have run to the extremes of the political spectrum, deepening the rifts between us. But Cory knows we can’t afford that kind of short-term thinking.
Every Democrat can agree that the end goal is a sensible, forward-thinking president in the White House. That’s why we need to follow Senator Booker’s lead and not give in to our baser instincts to cut down other devoted members of the party. That kind of schoolyard game only downgrades our rhetoric and plays into President Trump’s hand. It weakens our party, and if the party is weakened, America’s future is weakened.
We need Cory’s big-picture vision, not only for our sake, but for the sake of the United States’ standing on the world stage. The president of the United States has long been referred to as the “leader of the free world.” Now that might seem ironic, given the current administration’s efforts to close our borders and shut out the rest of the world.
Cory would be a President truly worthy of the title. He has always been a champion for protecting DREAMers, refugees, and immigrants with Temporary Protected Status. The moral and ideological imperatives driving Cory to restore ourselves as a beacon of freedom and democracy are both obvious and endless (if you’re not sure about that, 5 minutes talking with Cory will change your mind).
Cory knows that keeping our current immigration policies wouldn’t just be heartless. It would also be senseless. As a country, we’ve invested time, education, and public resources in immigrants like my parents who came to this country because they believed in the beauty of the American Dream, and worked hard to achieve it. They came here only want a better life, and forgetting the American Dream would mean throwing that investment away. If we’d had this kind of ethnocentric thinking in years past, Steve Jobs’ parents would have been sent away. Isaac Stern would have never saved Carnegie Hall. Cory’s leadership will bring us back to the laws and humanity that make up America’s moral fiber.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the name-calling, the finger-pointing, and most of all, the lack of progress that’s become the norm in our country’s politics. For us to move past this period of divisive brinkmanship, we need a leader who understands that nothing gets done in politics without help. We need someone who cares more about doing what’s right than trying to prove that they’re right. We need a president who will work with everyone trying to make progress a reality, regardless of where they sit in the House and Senate Chambers.
We need President Cory Booker.
Ravi Bhalla is the Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey.