image of the perfect progressive was shattered.
It’s the nature of the American political system. We conflate democracy with capitalism, intelligence with wealth, and success with winning, and thus create a political class obsessed with raising money and winning elections. And who has the most money to donate to a political campaign out of pocket? Those who deal in money for a living. It isn’t abstract math or much of a secret.
Booker wasn’t off message, he was just telling the truth about where the money comes from. That’s disappointing if you’ve bought into the mythology of him as a new breed of politician, but what politician can survive without the support of monied interests under the current system? Yet, we want to believe that there is “the one,” much the same way so-called centrists fetishize Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City or progressives attached their hopes to Obama in ‘08, who can fix what ails us. We’re still looking for Mr. Smith to go to Washington and deliver the epic speech on the Senate floor that melts the cold hearts, rights the wrongs, and rescues our politics from itself. The problem with searching for a single messianic figure to swoop in save the day is it underestimates the extent of the destruction. If it were possible to send Mr. (or Mrs.) Smith to the capital and rectify our government, surely it would have been done by now. But we continue to prop up a system that would never allow for someone of such ideological purity to gain any true influence. I don’t buy the line of thinking that both parties are exactly the same, but there are only two major political parties and both of them rely on the spoils of capitalism to operate. That’s just the way it is.
Booker shouldn’t have had to backtrack because in that moment he was being honest. This won’t hurt his political future and won’t be a setback for the Obama campaign. It will largely be forgotten by the time the election actually takes place five-and-a-half months from now. But for the time being Booker will no longer be looked upon as Superman, but as a politician seeking to win elections. Exactly what he has been all along.
Mychal Denzel Smith is a writer, social commentator and mental health advocate. Visit his official website or follow him on Twitter.