I talk frequently with students about the nature of political ambition, starting with the ambiguity of ambition itself. Ambition is necessary, in public as in private life, but sometimes ambition can be ugly to see and distorting to the soul. Just think of how people sometimes use the term “ambition” negatively or sarcastically: “My goodness, he is certainly ambitious!”
This is preface for taking in the sad decline of New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. Booker was, by most accounts, a sensible mayor of Newark. You may also recall that back in 2012 he departed the liberal reservation by defending Mitt Romney against the Obama campaign’s attacks on Romney’s business career, calling those attacks “nauseating.” (He got taken to the leftist woodshed for a whipping for that tergiversation.) And I once saw him up close and in person with a small group of business leaders where he talked sense about the debilitating role the teachers’ unions play in public education, and several other issues.
But now it appears ambition has taken hold of Booker’s soul, and it is sad to see, though completely understandable. By now it has sunk in to Democrats that the only way to make their identity politics coalition work in a presidential election is to have a minority on the ticket. And since Obama is gone, Booker sees his opening for 2020. Hence his decision to make an unprecedented attack on a fellow senator (Jeff Sessions) nominated to the cabinet, which was unhinged in its content and thereby completely ineffective—it may have even backfired. And he thinks he’ll get to the Democratic nomination with this (only 2 minutes long, but it seems much longer):
It would be a chore to go through his claims one-by-one to point out which are stupid and which I am certain he doesn’t believe. The point is: the 2020 campaign has already begun, and Booker is out of the gate first in the Democrats’ debasement sweepstakes.