Skip to comments.How will Mayor Booker fit in as Sen. Booker? Read more at
Posted on 10/17/2013 10:52:04 AM PDT by Phillyred
WASHINGTON - Will Cory Booker be another Ted Cruz? The next Hillary Clinton?
Or something entirely different?
After winning a Senate seat Wednesday, will Booker, a rising political star, follow Clinton's example and try to blend in to the slow-moving Senate, sticking with the tradition of freshmen quietly earning their place? Or will he join the ranks of lawmakers who use the Senate as a platform to build their profiles and shape the national debate, seniority be damned?
"He is somebody who does like to make a splash, but I would hope that he would be a little more cautious in introducing himself in the Senate," said Ross Baker, a Rutgers political scientist who has closely observed the Senate.
Booker will enter the chamber with assets few new senators enjoy: a national following, star-studded support, and a talent for theatrics. He's a dynamic figure with 1.4 million Twitter followers, cross-cultural appeal and is more well-known than most of his new peers.
But after pitching himself as a single-handed force for change, Booker is joining an institution that over recent weeks has been a picture of snarled dysfunction.
It's also a body where newcomers are told to wait their turn, and where arcane rules, winding processes and unending roadblocks often chafe ex-mayors, governors and business leaders who are used to setting their own agenda - perhaps helping to explain why only nine of the 100 current senators have been mayors.
Citing the most recent conflagration, Gov. Christie told the Inquirer last week, "if I was in the Senate right now, I'd kill myself."
And in 2010 Booker himself said that serving in the Senate would mean "discussing rules of procedure until I'm nauseous."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), a former mayor, said, "it's very, very different, and it takes a lot of adjustment."
Senate freshmen are expected to been seen and not heard. They are tasked with presiding over Senate sessions, serving shifts as functionaries as they watch others orate on the Senate floor.
New Jersey's senior senator, Robert Menendez, was the third-ranking Democrat in the chamber when he moved to the Senate, but he recalled old lions such as Sen. Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.) urging him to "take your time, listen a lot, get a lay of the land . . . and evolve over time."
Quiet patience, however, has never been Booker's style, and there is a new breed of senators who have bucked tradition.
In August Booker boasted to NBC News about "finding unique ways for bringing people together and disrupting broken systems, disrupting status quo."
He cited Cruz and fellow freshman Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.), as well as liberal champion Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), as examples of rising senators whose bold styles he admired.
(Though Booker has vowed to be outspoken for compromise and attacked Cruz's confrontational approach.)
Cruz and Paul are the most prominent examples of young senators who have defied the old order and used the Senate as a platform to advance their visions to a national audience using bold stands, theatrics, a devoted following and the help of social media. Both, like Booker, are seen as harboring national ambitions.
"A senator like Ted Cruz 60 or 70 years ago would have been almost unimaginable," Baker said. "Now you have a much greater diversity of styles."
Booker could be a starry counterweight on the left - and huge fund-raiser for his party - much as liberals hope Warren can be.
The upstart methods, though, bring their own drawbacks. Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), famously referred to the Senate's new wave as "wacko birds."
Cruz has inspired conservatives but drawn the wrath of many of colleagues, including Republicans, who complain that his tactics have raised his profile but hurt the party.
Booker already ruffled feathers by openly coveting the seat held by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg before the incumbent had announced his plans.
And lawmakers know who is willing to do the real, gritty work of legislating and who is mainly concerned with publicity, said Richard Arenberg, a top Senate aide for more than 30 years.
"The coin of the realm in the Senate is still your personal reputation," Arenberg said. "There's only 100 senators, and they all interact with one another, and if you're going to be effective, you're going to have to earn that respect."
Previous senators who have entered with their own national profile, such as Clinton and Minnesota Democrat Al Franken were lauded for quietly playing their roles in the Senate, going to work without coveting fanfare.
Franken, a former Saturday Night Live star, refuses to give interviews to national media outlets.
"He was very conscious of that danger of kind of getting the showboat label," Arenberg said.
Booker on Thursday, his first day as senator-elect, appeared on two morning news shows in the New York-North Jersey market and on MSNBC's Morning Joe before holding a Newark groundbreaking with Christie, in his capacity as mayor.
He was careful on MSNBC, though, to call himself "a junior senator from New Jersey."
For mayors, the patience expected - and even required given the Senate's balky pace - is often stifling.
Booker, in Newark, cast himself as a man of action.
Snow blocking your street? He'll be there with a shovel. Trash not picked up? Text him the location. He might even pull you from a fire (as he did one neighbor caught in a burning building).
There are no such thrills in the world's greatest deliberative body, where the emphasis is on deliberative.
Ask Menendez. He has spent years working on immigration reform, seeing a deal come apart in 2007, and plugging away until a bipartisan plan finally cleared the Senate earlier this year. In an interview, he wistfully noted that with the House vote in question, he's still only halfway to success.
Or ask Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), who reached across the aisle for the kind of bipartisan deal Booker has said he favors - trying to compromise on background checks for gun purchases. Toomey even got a majority, 54 Senators, to back him. But because of filibuster threats, he needed 60.
Booker, on MSNBC, said the "fatigue and frustration" with the Senate's battles "creates a great climate for change."
But for mayors and governors used to making decisions and quickly following through, the procedures can be a shock.
"Being mayor, you keep your own schedule. Here you can't," said Feinstein, former mayor of San Francisco.
It can take days just to reach a vote, and a single senator can use procedural rules to slow any progress.
"It's not that I decide on a course of action or an idea and I can just have people execute it for me," said Menendez, a longtime legislator who was also mayor of Union City, N.J. "That's the shocker."
Lautenberg and another recent New Jersey senator, Jon Corzine, both felt constrained after leaving high-powered business jobs for the legislative body, Baker said.
Lautenberg adjusted and came to love his job as a nuts-and-bolts workhorse. Corzine fled for the governor's mansion before finishing his first term.
Ex-mayors, though, said they also have advantages. From working in cities, they said mayors have a better sense of the ground-level impacts of decisions made in the Capitol.
"The real life - not as much ideology," Feinstein said.
Many mayors say it gives them more of a sense of pragmatism.
Booker promised a similar sensibility, calling himself "a scrapper" and promising an "entrepreneurial" sensibility.
"I look forward to bringing that kind of mayoral attitude toward Washington," he said on MSNBC. "I didn't have the luxury in many ways of fighting right or left or asking people if they're Republicans or Democrats, I just wanted to move forward."
In the Senate, lawmakers also can specialize in certain issues, zooming in on their priorities while others to take the lead on other topics.
"When you're the mayor, everything that happens in your city from garbage to the sewer system to the police department to the budget to snow removal, they're all yours," Menendez said. "In the Senate, he's going to be able to choose the things that he thinks are important to the people of New Jersey and that he's passionate about."
More business at DC nudie bars, less at Newark, NJ nudie bars...
I give him 12 months before he implodes
Maybe he and JJ JR will share a padded cell
Is this the Booker from Kelly’s Heros ?
At least he doesn’t have to pretend to live in the shithole city he pretended to be mayor of.
Fat scumbag Christie did nothing to campaign for Lonegan. Only when the Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin showed up did the 30 point lead collapse to single digits.
Christie only campaigns for Democrats. Has Ann Coulter endorsed him yet?
I expect him to make it maybe 18 months before he’s indicted for something.
Is he a new Senator from New York? That’s where he lives, doesn’t he?
Just think of all the card games with Barry and Reggie Love and that Senate bathhouse!
Well... based on some persistent rumors, he might “fit in” as the first known “Barney Frank” of the Senate.
The man who brought us “The Newark Miracle” is now a senator! You go, New Jersey!
Before Booker became mayor, Newark was a craphole with an international airport.
With Booker at the helm, Newark became a craphole with an international airport AND a hockey arena!
I can’t wait to see what he brings to the senate!
He’ll fit in like a maggot on a corpse.
He won his seat in a special election by a narrow margin and when real working people can focus on the race when the seat is up, Booker will lose his seat.
may raise the IQ of the black caucasian caucus to double digits.
With his help the Democrats can turn the US into a craphole just like Newark.
The man is a Democrat.
Why does this article ask stupid questions. He will do what the rest of them do. Enjoy the perks of office and raise his hand when Harry Reid tells him to.
How about the next Deval Patrick?
He’s replacing a corpse. Not much of a change.
How will Sen. Booker fit into the DC culture? One term in office and 20 years in prison. It’s called a “twofer”.
He won’t have much time to adjust to the job before he wins the 2016 Presidential election, proving that Americans are indeed the fool me twice, er, three times types.
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