The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
New Jersey Fields a Politician of the Future?

Fresh ideas may be coming to the Democratic Party from the unlikeliest of places: Newark, New Jersey. The NYT profiles Newark’s Democratic mayor Cory Booker, whom the piece calls a “politician of the future.” Booker is running for the Senate, and his campaign has already started to make waves for its futuristic tenor. Much of this seems like style rather than substance. His frequent use of twitter and embrace of “new-age spirituality” are both highlighted in the piece.

But there are some ways that Booker’s career offers real promise for the future. The profile highlights the fact that while Booker is as ideological on social issues as your standard Democrat, he’s much more pragmatic on fiscal issues. In particular, he’s open to building an economy that can thrive on the disruptive technologies coming soon to a Walmart near you:

Many in government have been wary of services like Airbnb, which, in allowing people to earn money renting out rooms, diverts funds from tax-paying, unionized, regulated hotels — as do similar services in transportation, finance and other spheres. But Mr. Booker believes such services give the less fortunate the chance to make ends meet without waiting for the return of union jobs that may never come back.

“It’s actually helping all of us to enter a world of entrepreneurial interaction in a way that is so democratic,” he said.

The mayor’s enthusiasm is not only a challenge to the regulatory state that his party has long championed. It also agitates against the conventional wisdom prevalent on the left that the poor need more protection from capitalism — and not, as Mr. Booker suggests, more access to capitalism.

VM thinks both parties in the US are heading for profound transformation as the blue model fades and the leading ideas of 20th century politics shrink in the rear view window. Finding a way to harness and encourage the kind of technology discussed above is one of the central tasks facing the US in coming decades, and both parties new fresh ideas and fresh faces to tackle this challenge.

Cory Booker is one example of where Democrats may be headed. The profile says he belongs to the “Googly-Facebookish wing of the party.” As the Big Data revolution starts transforming US life, the split within the Democratic Party over how to address the changes will widen even further. On the one side, you’ll have forward-looking thinks like Booker who can help Democrats move past the desiccated blue model. On the other, you’ll have retrograde forces fighting to keep the old blue privileges and rents in place. Let’s hope, for the health of the Democratic party and the nation as a whole, the Bookerites can take the field.

[Picture of Cory Booker Courtesy of Wikipedia]

Published on March 23, 2013 1:28 pm