Cory Booker’s recent appearance in the New York Times is perhaps the most high-profile critique of the much-adored mayor of Newark, and the young politician has responded to the criticism levied at him by the paper in an email.
Cory Booker is perhaps the first of his sort in American politics, a convergence of the promise of social media, a man who seizes many opportunities to harness his personal social capital to create awareness and affect change. Booker has developed a heavy fanbase even outside Newark, and few politicians at his level can claim such a large reach among not only constituents but followers in other jurisdictions as well.
So when the New York Times took aim at Booker’s celebrity, it was an uncommon blow to a mayor most outside Newark hail as tireless and dedicated. The thrust of the piece is perhaps best summed up by Newark Assemblyman Albert Coutinho, also a Democrat.
Citing some “frustration and disappointment” in Booker’s constituency, Coutinho said in part:
“In fairness, he has had some tremendous success as a result of those travels, but the reality is, a city needs its mayor, needs to see its mayor on a regular basis. It makes people feel that the issues that are important to them are important enough for their mayor to come spend time with them … While he genuinely does care for the citizens of Newark, a lot of people here feel that he’s been looking beyond Newark for a long time.”
Part of the frustration seems — at least to those of us who are firmly part of a digitally-entrenched generation — to be a dissonance between young and old. (The piece ends on a criticism that Booker is more present “on Twitter” than at a town hall meeting, neglecting to consider that Twitter is more accessible to people across the board than a single, static meeting at a single, static location.)
And overall, Booker bristled at the characterization of him, one that extrapolated motives from a what constituents and the writer assume to be Booker’s reasoning for governing in the manner he chooses.
In an email to theHuffington Post, Booker counters:
“In my entire career, I have never seen an article so factually wrong and so willfully willing to exclude facts to attack my work and the progress of our city … And the article’s appearance on the front page made it all the more difficult to swallow.”
Ultimately, time will tell if Cory Booker is viewed as a trailblazer or borderline dilettante based on his use of social media to connect over traditional formats. But from a new media perspective, it seems the Newark mayor’s biggest crime is being ahead of his time — and hopefully government will catch up with him rather than forcing him to fall back for appearances’ sake.