Like Barack Obama, Booker embodies a promise kept, a deferred dream finally come true, living proof that the stain of slavery, our original national sin, might yet be lifted from our collective soul. Booker knows this, too — he has shown up in Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, and elsewhere as Obama’s surrogate during primary season — and he is fully capable of embroidering the cloth of Dr. King’s soaring rhetoric with his own echoic stitch.
In truth, Cory Booker is eager to do so. And when he proclaims, “We need a prophetic leader — somebody who can raise us above our baser angels and show that truly we are all tied in a common garment of destiny,” he’s speaking not only of Obama but also of himself, of King, of Gandhi — Booker’s a huge Gandhi fan.
But unlike Obama, whose knitted brow, faraway eyes, and dry, bony passivity rub thinner day by day, Booker fairly bursts with adolescent energy, fueled by his athlete’s physique and streams of caffeine and testosterone. To a Goldman Sachs guy, and to Marc Ecko, he’s not merely the longed-for fruit of the seeds of racial equality, he also is the captain of the varsity team, Henry V leading the charge, and Will fucking Smith, all formed into one hearty, brainy, humble stud. To many Newarkers, however, Booker is none of the above — he’s a creature they’ve never seen before, and they can’t quite believe he’s real.
. . .
“Oh, I’ve been working on Cory, the phenomenon,” [Rutgers-Newark history professor Clement Price] chuckles. “What is a black guy at the end of the day? We haven’t seen a lot of people like Booker in the post-civil-rights era; we actually saw more of them in the segregated era, when black people created an extraordinary hierarchy of well-educated, well-spoken, and noble men and women.
“In the post-civil-rights-movement era, we see them and they suddenly don’t strike us as being authentically black — because they can move very, very easily within the white world. One of the things that I think gets Cory into trouble is the extent to which he’s beloved in the white community. I saw him speak at Newark’s last synagogue. When he spoke Hebrew, the Jewish women on the first two pews, I thought they were having an orgasm. He’s good. He’s good.["]