By Bob Gatty
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker visited the Bucksport Senior Center near Conway, SC Tuesday, Aug. 6 with a message of love and hope, contending that much more is at stake in the 2020 election than simply defeating Donald Trump.
Booker’s visit came just days after the mass shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH, which left at least 31 people dead and scores wounded, and amidst charges that President Trump’s racist actions and rhetoric contribute to such violence.
“We’ve had a dark few days in America,” Booker said before a hushed crowd that jammed the Center. But Booker urged Americans to respond to the hatred that resulted in those shootings and others, not with more hatred, but with love.
“We have to be in this moral moment a nation of activist love,” he told the more than 100 people who packed the little senior center, set amid the fields in rural South Carolina. Young, old, black, white, even little kids were held rapt by his words.
“This election is not a referendum on one man,” he said. “It’s a referendum on who we are. You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people.”
Added Booker, “This moral moment requires us to unite All America. When we come together in common cause, there is nothing we can’t do.”
On Gun Violence
As Booker took questions about drug prices, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and more, a young boy, Elijah Cummings of Columbia, who was there with his mom, was called on to ask his question.
“What are you going to do to stop school shootings?” the boy asked of the United States senator and candidate for president.
After complimenting Elijah for having the courage to articulate his question in front of the crowd and the media, Booker said he would “take the fight to the NRA,” and that dealing with gun violence would be a top priority.
“We are going to end this nightmare in this country so no child in America has to ask this question again,” he declared.
Booker briefly outlined the steps he would take as president, saying he would implement a federal gun licensing program, universal background checks, ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks. Booker’s plan also calls for closing loopholes that allow domestic abusers and people on terrorist watch lists to obtain guns, regulate gun manufacturers and remove legal obstacles that prevent victims of gun violence from seeking justice.
“Were you happy with the senator’s answer to your question,” Elijah was asked later.
“It was amazing,” he said. “Most presidential candidates wouldn’t even answer that question.”
On Drug Prices and Health Care
Senior citizens from AARP wearing red shirts that said “STOP GREED, CUT DRUG PRICES NOW” asked Booker what he intended to do to reduce prescription drug prices.
Under his watch, Booker promised, drug companies will be targeted by the Justice Department and, in effect, forced to lower prices to consumers in the U.S. “They will pay billions,” he said.
In answer to another question, Booker said he wants to implement a comprehensive plan to help the elderly who need long-term care so they can obtain financial help without having to deplete all of their financial resources, as is currently the case under Medicaid.
“That is so unjust, so wrong,” he said.
And, he said he would seek to provide resources through a tax credit for people who wish to “age at home” rather than go into a long-term care facility like a nursing home.
To stabilize Social Security, Booker called for lifting the cap on employment taxes for higher earners, which he said would both keep the program solvent and increase payments to seniors “whose checks don’t go far enough.”
Booker said he backs a Medicare for All plan, but said his first act as president would be to restore stability to the Affordable Care Act, bringing back components slashed by the Trump administration.
Then, he said, a public option for health insurance needs to be established as the first step towards Medicare for All.
Booker also was asked his position on so-called “heartbeat” anti-abortion legislation. He flatly said he supports Roe v. Wade and opposes state laws meant to undermine a woman’s right to make such choices with her doctor.
“We should be doing everything we can to reduce unwanted pregnancies in this country,” he said, adding that people who think that “stripping away women’s’ rights” are wrong, pointing out that when Colorado provided low income women access to free contraceptives there was a 40 percent reduction in abortions.
On Climate Change
Booker was asked by a Conway hurricane victim what he would do to address climate change and the attendant issues that result, such as storms with increasing intensity and frequency.
A $1 trillion investment must be made in a comprehensive plan to deal with climate-related issues, he said.
Before Booker arrived, HCDP Chair Don Kohn stressed the importance of the 2020 election, saying it is “the most consequential election of our lifetime and potentially of our nation.”
He urged everyone to get active, to register, to vote.
“This is not a time to sit idly by,” he declared. “We’ve all got to get active. This is not an election that anybody can sit out.”