Cory Booker and the Politics Of Egomania


These days, Newark Mayor Cory Booker seems to be doing just about everything except running Newark.

Booker has enjoyed a meteoric rise within the Democratic Party, but it has nothing to do with his performance as the chief executive of New Jersey's largest city. Instead, Booker's political capital has been accumulated almost entirely thanks to his uncannily shameless penchant for self-aggrandizing public relations gimmicks. If liberals really believe that Booker should play an integral role in the Democratic Party for years to come, then it's clear they're missing one glaring flaw: Cory Booker is all about Cory Booker. 

Since becoming mayor, he has been a frequent guest on talk shows, written a book, started his own news website, starred in a documentary series on the Sundance Channel, and gave a rousing address at the Democratic National Convention.

Unsurprisingly, Newark's mayor was not actually in Newark for a whopping 21.7% of the days between January 2011 and July 2012, according to the Star-Ledger.

Booker also has the annoying habit of transforming others' distress into fuel for his personal marketing machine. After a snowstorm struck the city in December 2010, he answered some pleas from residents who were snowed in. In a few cases, Booker himself helped shovel people out, and he was eager to tweet his good deeds to the world.

Of course, as the New York Times pointed out, Newark "streets remained impassable for days because the city had no contract for snow removal."

That's because Booker sells the sizzle, not the steak. 

In April 2012, Booker rescued his neighbor's daughter from a burning house. Heroic as this was, he undermined his brave act by immodestly holding a 20-minute press conference about it.

And once again as the Times observed, Booker's theatrics served to obscure an inconvenient reality: the city "had eliminated three fire companies after the mayor’s plan to plug a budget hole failed."

In December 2012, Booker used the scourge of poverty as a launching pad for yet another publicity stunt in which he took a "food stamp challenge," attempting to live off $30 worth of food each week in accordance with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. However, SNAP is meant to supplement a recipient's food budget — not comprise it entirely. Nonetheless, Booker tweeted his week-long "ordeal" the whole time, ostensibly in order to raise poverty awareness.

Less than two weeks later, Booker ludicrously penned an op-ed for the Star-Ledger in which he announced, "I will explore the possibility of running for The United States Senate in 2014."

Not many politicians write a full op-ed explaining that they are merely exploring the idea of running for an office, but Booker is no ordinary politician. Making matters even stranger is that the senate seat Booker is talking about is currently held by Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat. Last week, Booker filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to run for the seat.  

By now, Booker's barely-restrained egomania should be apparent even to casual observers of his mayorship, and this trait lends itself to taking certain liberties that can cause serious trouble for politicians. Given the city of Newark's dire financial situation and atrocious poverty rates, it needs a full-time mayor — not a celebrity interested in building his own brand.

Booker clearly plans on having a lengthy political career. However, Democrats should be wary of investing heavily in him, because although Cory Booker is capable of defeating Republicans, he's also capable of defeating himself.