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Full transcript: U.S. Senator Cory Booker on Recode Decode

“You cannot call for change in the world if you are not embodying the change you want to see.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Holds Hearing  On Ongoing Six-Year Syrian War Justin Sullivan / Getty

On this episode of Recode Decode, host Kara Swisher handed the mic over to Recode Senior Policy and Politics Editor Tony Romm for a wide-ranging chat with Senator Cory Booker, D-NJ. The two covered the intersection of politics and technology with a particular focus on how tech and its leaders can help bring the country into the future. Booker talked at length about health care, citizen engagement and whether tech companies are getting too big, too powerful and too rich.

You can read some of the highlights from the interview at that link, or listen to it in the audio player below. We’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn or Stitcher.


Kara Swisher: Recode Radio presents Recode Decode, coming to you from the Vox Media Podcast Network. Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. You may know me as the least corrupt person ever to come out of New Jersey but in my spare time I talk tech. You are listening to Recode Decode, a podcast by tech and media’s key players, big ideas and how they are changing the world we live in. You can find more episodes of Recode Decode anywhere you listen to podcasts. We’re on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher, SoundCloud and more, or just visit recode.net/podcasts for more.

Today we have a special episode for you. Recode Senior Policy and Politics Editor Tony Romm spoke with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker recently in Washington, D.C. They talked about the future of the Democratic Party, how he is looking at the tech industry and whether the U.S. Senate is broken beyond repair. Take it away, Tony.

Tony Romm: All right, thanks Kara. I’m sitting here with Senator Cory Booker, Democratic senator from New Jersey. Senator, how are you?

Cory Booker: I’m great, Tony, thank you very much for having me.

Yeah, it’s disgusting outside, that’s mostly why we’re in here. It’s like the sweltering awful I-feel-like-I’m-standing-next-to-a-truck-exhaust-pipe kind of D.C. day.

Summer in Washington.

Yeah, I know. I’m getting out of the swamp. We’ll drain the swamp with me, I believe. We’re here to talk about lots of stuff — technology, national politics, things of that sort — but I’d be remiss not to start today by asking you about health care. We’re sitting down on Wednesday, July 19th, and the important privacy area is that everything seems to be changing just by the minute. Literally, as we sat down here, we got a score suggesting potentially millions of Americans could lose health insurance if Republicans proceed with their plans.

What just changed in the last few weeks since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that you guys were sticking around in August? Give us a recap of the last seven days. Where do we stand?

I mean, sincerely, it’s been one of those things where you have multiple shifts during one day, but what we know right now is that the Republican senators went up to the White House to have another Republican-only meeting. This whole process has been opaque, it has been not transparent, it’s not open and engaged. For all those people who think that Obamacare was shoved through, the reality is there were hundreds of bipartisan meetings and hearings. The people that were summoned at the White House or the meetings that were had with Obama then were actually Republicans. He actually held the meeting on C-SPAN where he engaged in discussions/debate.

It was a debate, it was a huge debate.

Yes, with them over health care. It was the most accessible process, hearings were; doctors and nurses, health-care professionals, activists, organizations like the American Cancer Center all were participating in the shaping and the crafting of this bill. Actually, dozens of Republican amendments to the bill were allowed, so Republicans actually shaped the bill even though they didn’t vote it.

This process is 100 percent different; it’s being done behind closed doors, the bills are being shaped. Mitch McConnell seems to be throwing continuous things against the wall to see if he can get the votes he needs to get elements of Obamacare repealed or the whole thing repealed. That’s really where we are right now, is CBO just said, “Hey, you repeal this bill, 30-plus million people are going to lose health insurance in the United States of America.” He is saying, “Well, we’re going to repeal and replace it,” but it’s really kind of shoving the American people off a cliff and yelling at them on their way down, “Hey, we’re going to get you a parachute, don’t worry about it before you hit the ground.”

That plan you are talking about, that would essentially repeal but give them a two-year window to think about what exactly would come next. What does that actually mean, though, in practice? What would that mean for Americans if they proceeded in that manner?

Well, I think that literally the cliff analogy is right, is that Americans would be in free fall hoping that the government would figure something out. This is a process that gives me no confidence in the way that they’ve been conducting themselves so far. The president hasn’t been leading for all of this bluster saying, “Only I can fix it. I’ll give you health care that’s terrific.” He actually hasn’t been leading on this. He’s given a paltry effort, giving this to Paul Ryan, giving this to Mitch McConnell, not really leading on what his vision for health care is.

What’s come out of those Republican processes has been bills that will savage the gains that were made under the Affordable Care Act. Whether it’s over 10 million people that gained health care through Medicaid expansion, whether it’s people that gained health insurance because suddenly they weren’t constricted by their preexisting conditions. So many of those gains were being eradicated with Republican after Republican plan that even Donald Trump sitting on the sidelines just yelling and screaming from the sidelines even he said was just mean.

This was earlier in the process when the House had passed its bill after they had celebrated at the White House, then he said, “This thing is a little mean.”

Mean. I think what people need to understand — especially your listeners who ... I think folks who listen to you are all about American competitiveness, about technology, about innovation, about staying ahead. We’re behind the rest of the industrialized world when it comes to just the basics.

No. 1, I know friends of mine who wouldn’t leave the companies they were with, something called job lock, because they said, “I can’t go and start some kind of innovation, start a company, because I won’t be able to afford my health insurance or my preexisting condition will bar me.” Folks were actually able to get into the … Obamacare gave people a chance to get out there and be innovators.

Some people said, “Look, I’m trapped in this environment where if I lose my health insurance I will go bankrupt because I can’t afford my medical bills.” Well, personal bankruptcy in this country has gone significantly down, down 50 percent, so you look at just like trying to foster human potential. In fact, the most important thing we know ... science tells us that the most important part of brain development is from the prenatal days until the first year. Well, half of our children coming into this in this world in America get preventative care, get prenatal care through the Affordable Care Act, through the expansion of Medicaid.

If we are trying to develop the most valuable natural resource on the planet earth — which is not cobalt or gas or oil, it is the genius in a global knowledge-base economy, it’s the genius of our population. Providing basic health care is a right, saying, “America, we are going to have what Donald Trump said, the best health care, most affordable, most accessible quality health care for everyone.” That is really the goal.

Sure. Let’s zoom out and talk a little bit about the current political moments. There have been lots of very interesting moments in American political history where folks have been opposed — to the president, to Congress, to parties, things of the sort. Talk about the resistance, this anti-Trump resistance that’s emerged not just in D.C. but around the country, and put it in the context of U.S. political history. Is this a truly unique moment or are folks more woke, so to speak, to some of the things happening in politics now?

Look, there are lots of things that the president is proposing in his budget that are astonishing to Americans of all different ilks. When you have a budget that slashes everything from investing in dealing with pandemics worldwide all the way to after-school programming or public education. There are things that are happening with civil rights and voting rights and worker’s rights all around this country. Environmental justice issues — I can go through all the issues that I think people are talking openly and I’ve seen tens of thousands of people descending on Washington, Republican offices taken over because of the oncoming of Trump.

This is the larger historical context one I’m in; I’m sorry, if my party, if my side of the aisle is defining themselves in this historic moment only about what they are against then we’re missing, I think, the lesson. Trump is a symptom of a deeper problem and he was able to capitalize on our failure to address the reality in our country that was there under President Obama as well as trends that are happening in this nation. Where we — you and I are roughly probably the same generation, you are a little younger than I am — we are going to be the first generation of Americans to stop a tradition of generally every generation doing better than the one before.

Wages have been stagnating, you see people making immense unimaginable wealth while others are seeing every part of their cost of living go up and up and up. For a guy that lives in an inner-city community, when you come to people who are poor, it was worthy of us marching in the streets and screaming and yelling before we even had President Obama. Unconscionable things that too many Americans in my opinion are silent upon.

I just pushed a piece of legislation about women in prison. Most Americans have no idea that one out of every three imprisoned women on the planet Earth are in the United States, and that was before Donald Trump was president. Let’s talk about those women; one out of three women on the planet Earth that are in prison are in the United States, they are overwhelming disproportionally — even more so than men — non-violent offenders. Their rates of incarceration are going up 50 percent faster than men but they are overwhelmingly victims; 77 percent victims of partner violence, 86 percent of them are survivors of sexual trauma. Then we put them into prisons that are byzantine in terms of their cruelty of what happens.

Pregnant women shackled, shoved into solitary confinement. Most of these women are mothers of children under 18 years old, and instead of understanding the social science that shows in every way we should be trying to keep those bonds between mother and children, because many of these women are going to be there for months or a few years. They are going to come back out, those children have traumatically higher rates of being eventually incarcerated themselves. We put up barriers between them and communicating with their kids, everything from charging them so that to get adequate sanitary products where they have to make terrible decisions between calling their parents.

I give you all this to say how can we be comfortable in the United States of America where things I’ve seen in just the last month traveling around our country, going through Alabama and seeing communities that have toxic waste dumped and these are particularly African American communities. There are so many issues that are salting the ideals of this country, so I’m happy people are getting woke suddenly and engaged. The only thing necessary for evil to be triumphant is for good people to do nothing, and for us who luxuriate in this democracy and have the power to say four words, “I am an American.”

We are benefiting from struggle and sacrifice and protest of people that came generations before; they gave us rights we take for granted. From worker’s rights to civil rights, but somehow our generation, we have voting rights, voting levels are going down.

All of this predates Trump.

That’s what I’m saying.

I guess my question to you is, are you just not seeing this current anti-Trump resistance evolving into something that’s willing to talk about these issues — whether it’s women in prison, whether it’s access to polls and the ability to vote, whether it’s climate change and so forth. Has this resistance just not matured to the point where it’s focused on those long-term ills?

No, I sat down with incredible women in my state on Monday right before I came back to D.C., in Newark, and I was so ... they got me so pumped because they are coming off the sidelines and they are leading and they are all challenging the Democratic Party. I’m not criticizing that, I think that it is maturing and we’ll see in this next election.

I always tell people over and over again — and Obama did it too, my favorite speeches he gave in his last year was to Howard University where he said, “Look you guys, millennials are so progressive, even Republican millennials are progressively moving from marriage equality to climate change.” He said, “You don’t have to occupy anything, guys, just vote.” If millennials voted not at like in the 20 percent tiles in midterm elections but at 40s, it would change Congress overnight.

Same thing with New Jersey. In 2008 we had record turnouts in elections all over New Jersey. In 2009 we had record low turnouts and Chris Christie was elected barely because Democrats didn’t show up then; he cuts Planned Parenthood funding, he cuts the earned income tax credit which made working poor people have to pay more. Everybody kept saying to me, “Why is the Republicans doing this to me?” I’m like, “The Republicans didn’t do this to us, we did it to ourselves.”

Because you didn’t turn out.

Because we didn’t turn out, and that’s what people have to understand. King said it eloquently in a generation before us that, “What you will have to repent for in this day and age is not the vitriolic words and violent actions of the bad people alone, but the appalling silence and inaction of the good people.” This is one of those moments where maybe our generation is finally waking up and saying, “If we are not engaged this is what we are going to get.”

It just feels to me, though, that it’s very far from that. The folks get very, very angry when Trump tweets something negative about a cable show host or about a sitting member of Congress. There is a lot of outrage but then no one has really figured out — whether it’s in Congress or elsewhere — how to harness that in a meaningful way to get policy things done or to get folks to the polls. It still seems like there is a gap between that resistance.

Well, if you are looking at just electoral response, I mean, from the congressional special elections we’ve seen before, we’ve seen miraculous stuff. Everybody is bemoaning the fact that we lost in Ossoff. I look at that fact we …

That’s in Georgia, the Georgia special elections.

I’m sorry, I should be more specific for those people who are not as political junkies like you and me.

We just live this stuff.

To have a 20-point swing from just seven months before that election is a pretty remarkable swing, and then you think to yourself, “God, if this was replicated, 20-point swings in every one of these races, there are 70 Republican seats that are more Democrat than that seat.” That would mean we would sweep so many more seats and take back control of Congress. I don’t want to diminish the activism that is going on right now that is extraordinary and nor do I want to tell you that there has been measurable changes in Congress, let’s begin with this Congress.

The first thing the Republican Party tried to do in the House out of the blocks was get rid of the independent ethics oversight and boom! What happened? They met the outrage of the people. I can go all the way from there to Jeff Sessions recusing himself. Did he recuse himself because I ...

Related to the Russian investigation.

Related to the Russian investigation. Did he recuse himself because I was screaming in the Senate? No. Did he recuse himself because popular opinion and protest was demanding it? Yes, he did.

You think that actually has real impact to the ...

Whoa, you think the health-care bill — trust me, there were New Jersey Congresspeople, when they saw the outrage coming forward they did not vote for that bill that was coming out of the House. It is making a difference, people expressing their voices. By the way, it’s even more powerful when they don’t do it in a partisan way, if they show up to a Republican House member and say, “I’m a Democrat,” no. If they say, “This is a moral outrage, it is anti-American, it’s against our common values,” that is powerful.

I tell people all the time that one of the most down moments of my life was when I watched and my state sits, has the Statue of Liberty’s back. I mean, these ideals — give me your tired, your poor, your hungry, the wretched refuse from your teeming shores. It was like ... it put me — my staff knows this — in a funk when that was suddenly what he was pushing, this travel ban, this Muslim ban that he was doing.

The president’s immigration order this first and second version, I guess.

Yes. Well, he keeps facing defeat, including one in the Supreme Court this week, but his original just anti-American ban on people because of their religion — and he was even saying it and he is, “We’re going to ban Muslims.” Then what did I see, one of my lowest moments — because you are not defined in life by what happens to you, you are defined by how you react to it. I rush out to Dallas airport to try to talk to customs and border patrol with a federal court order to allow people who are being detained to have lawyers. Finish ...

People were at airports around the country, they were having a hard time getting in, figuring out what the actual situation was.

Exactly, and federal courts — remember, three branches of government — who had a constitutional crisis, I think, between the federal government, excuse me, between the executive branch being ordered by the judicial branch in the case in Virginia to allow people to have representation. I left this dinner in Washington, run to the airport, tried to intervene. The article one branch of government the legislator than I am to try to get them to do, to obey the judicial branch, and I’m so caught up in that negotiation. Then I walk out and what do I see, one of the best moments of America that I witnessed, that is what America looks like. That that airport was packed with people cheering Muslims coming off of ...

I saw guys with kippahs, yarmulkes on, cheering Muslims, not even necessarily American citizens, coming out of the gate all chanting and cheering the truth of who America is, the values we project to the world, what has made us a great country. In this moment in the darkness that, in the shadow that I think is so many of the policies that are being projected — whether it’s ripping health care away from children, whether it’s rolling back voting rights. That doesn’t define this country. It’s what we do right now in this time that is what I want to see projecting. It’s not a Democratic value, no.

It sounds like you think the resistance is meaningful, it’s powerful, it’s lasting, potentially it can get stuff done. I think there are a lot of folks, though, who think the resistance should be Democrats calling for the president’s impeachment.

Again, I want to see Donald Trump gone as bad as anyone. I have been a vociferous critic of his from the moment that he was a candidate and came down those escalators and started attacking people based upon their national origin or their race. There needs to be a process that I believe ... that’s investigating him for, as the Constitution lays out — and people should read their Constitution about what it means to be impeached, what can you be impeached for, the kind of high crimes and what the process of impeachment is.

That’s why I recorded very passionate videos about getting a special prosecutor, because if this president broke laws I believe that he should be impeached and that process I feel really good about right now. I want to tell you from my experiences with the two presidents that in my lifetime — well, one not in my lifetime, Nixon, and then you saw, obviously, Clinton who was impeached.

There is a [process] spelled out in our Constitution that is a House process. The House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans, so as we saw with Nixon, this is going to be a long tough process. What I’m doing is trying to make sure that process is moving forward in terms of the investigations and calling for them, but I also want to put my energy right now on defending fellow Americans that are now suffering.

Not just because of things Trump is doing. That’s why I spent so much time going to North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, all over my state of New Jersey, because there is so much injustice happening right now that we need to be there for each other and fighting against injustices. That’s why I’ve been in prisons, that’s why I’ve been in hospitals, that’s why I’ve been in public education visiting schools because there are vulnerable people right now under threat from this administration and threat from conditions that existed before this administration that is my focus.

We’re a long way away from impeachment.

If he broke laws ...

“If” being the word there, it seems.

It is an “if” word, but look, what I saw this week, these last 14 days, it’s like beyond my imagination that Donald Trump’s son can get a letter from someone clearly saying, “The Russian government wants to help you defeat Hillary Clinton,” plain English. I know Republicans who I respect, Democrats, everybody I’ve talked to on both sides of the aisle in those private moments you often have in the Senate, says, “Are you kidding me? That would have gone right to the FBI at a bounce. That a foreign government is trying to come in here and affect our election.”

What did Donald Trump Jr do along with Paul Manafort, along with Jared Kushner who is now in the White House, what did they do? Did they do the right thing, the American thing, the patriotic thing, and turn that over? No. They said they were happy about this and they went to this meeting. For those people who think that collusion is not going on, these folks said they would be happy to collude with a foreign power. We are definitely in an area that to me there is smoke about what this administration might have been involved with.

Smoke but not fire, it seems like.

Well, again, these are illegal, I was supposed to say. I’m an attorney, I went to Yale Law School and I passed the bar, but I’m definitely not a practicing attorney.

That makes two of us, I’m not practicing too.

There are legal standards here that have to be met. I have people in the Senate Intelligence Committee that are doing good work here, Mark Warner. I told him recently he is the right guy at the right time in history and in the right place as the ranking member or vice chair of that committee. There is Mueller, who I support.

Special prosecutor.

Special prosecutor. Forgive me, I’m giving the political junkie shorthand. All of this is going on, and that process is going to have to happen and I think that the press ... First of all, God bless the free press. As much as they’ve taken attacks — some of them literal, like Montana body slams — but God bless our free press because they have been breaking stories. Flynn, Michael Flynn, former national security advisor, may still be there right now if it wasn’t for information that the free press in the United States of America enshrined in our Constitution if they did not expose that.

They are under massive attack and assault in a Russian-style way which, the Russians, what they are doing in Eastern Europe is trying to get people and countries to stop believing in truth and information and undermining those critical institutions in their democracy. That’s what’s happening from the White House attacking the press in a way that I have never seen in my lifetime. God bless the press for being indefatigable in trying to pursue the truth as well.

I want to switch to technology and take a break in a second, but before I do I want to follow up on your comment about the press just now. Are you worried about an incident in the United States targeting the press?

Absolutely. I’m worried about ... we already saw a Republican congressman and many others get shot in an awful moment where partisanship and hate has been whipped up.

It’s the attack on Congressman Scalise and some of the others from the baseball game.

We’ve seen attacks on the press, the one specific body-slamming threat, the kind of vile stuff from threats of rape and violence against the press that I’ve talked to people in the press that they are receiving right now. If we condemn that stuff, this is my call to everybody who is angry about this or even the stuff that is the bile that Trump tweets. My call to everybody: We cannot become what we’re trying to fight against. This happened to me at, I’m a big animal activist just for humane treatment of animals and I’m at a big event where people are talking about compassion and somebody comes up to me and shows me a tweet they sent to Paul Ryan that was so mean and so vicious.

I don’t understand. Darkness, as King said, can’t drive out darkness. Only light can do that; hate can’t drive out hate. If there is anything in this time where you see an increased amount of hatred, an increased amount of viciousness, you cannot call for change in the world if you are not embodying the change you want to see. This is a time more than ever that you can be tough and you can be greedy. If Gandhi can move an empire out of India but do it being centered in love. If Mandela, imprisoned by his oppressors, can still beat them and kill apartheid but doing it with love. If John Lewis, the greatest man serving in Congress, in my opinion, can face billy clubs and teargas in violence but still do it his most powerful weapon is goodness, decency, humility and love.

Now more than ever all of us on Twitter, if you are tweeting the same kind of vicious stuff back at Republicans, at Donald Trump, you are part of the problem. We have to elevate the conversation in this country; we have to show our dignity. You cannot be back in the kind of darkness that’s rising in this country or more people feel license to hate that often manifests in violence. You cannot do that unless you are fighting it with weapons of light, with lessons of goodness, lessons of mercy, lessons of decency.

On that note, we’re going to come back with more and we’re going to talk more about that stuff and some technology. First let me kick it back to Kara Swisher who has a word from our sponsor.

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All right, thanks, Kara. We’re back. I’m still sitting here with Senator Booker, who has not run for the exit at this point.

Now, is Tony your real name or is it Anthony?

You can’t turn the tables on me like that.

I just want to know because I am Cory Anthony Booker. I want know if we’ve ...

Are you? All right, I will admit for the first time that Anthony is in fact my real name.

I felt a bond with you.

My mother will be very happy if she figures out how to load the Recode website and click on the podcast. She would be very excited. Speaking of technology, let’s talk a little bit about it.

Yes.

I noticed one of your tweets this week — I’m pretty sure it was this week — where someone had asked about the Amazon and Whole Foods merger. Amazon is going to spend somewhere close to $14 billion to buy up this grocery chain. I’ll ask you about the deal in a second, but I guess the question I had is what are your feelings about the tech industry in general: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, these are huge companies. Do you think that they are too big and that the U.S. government has the tools at its disposal to regulate them in the first place?

First of all, yes, and this consolidation that’s happening all over our country I think is not a positive trend.

Tech is too big in your mind?

Well, I think these mergers, we need to begin to look at because all the analysis — I have seen one from Bloomberg, Princeton University did one — the understandable forces in the economy work if there is less competition then prices tend to go up. If there is less competition, worker’s salaries — you are not competing for workers — tend to go down. Whether it’s your customer or a worker, I think that these are the trends in America that are working against the things that make us most frustrated, which is the cost of living keeps going up but our salaries do not. I do believe that we have been too lax in this country as we approve all of these mergers to the detriment of our society as a whole.

I still have that tweet in my mind. People were asking me about it but I still felt the need to defend my local Whole Foods, because Whole Foods has made ... I worked for years to battle the food desert in Newark, New Jersey and did it with all kinds of creative means from literally urban farming, acres of farms, to having supermarkets move in, whatever. We have a crisis in our country right now that you are seeing these savage trends that often are coming about by a short-termism.

We’ve seen companies, the majority of their — in fact, one study between 2002-2013 looking at the S&P 500 saw that the top companies, over 80 percent of their earnings were not being invested back in their companies, they were being used for dividends and they were being used for stock buybacks.

We’re getting back to this point, and those elevate your stock prices and give executives, the elites, great bonuses and great wealth, but they are hurting long-term economic growth. If you are not investing in your people in fact you are finding the most creative means to suppress labor. One of the other things that’s happening is this fissured workplace. If you used to be a security person and companies evolved in a factory and for Ford you were working for Ford while now companies are outsourcing all of that.

The airline industry has some of the dirtiest hands in this, where people who deliver food to airlines, who clean the planes, clean your planes which is critical work. They are now being done by contract workers where it’s a race to the bottom between those competing companies that are bidding for those contracts. How they get the lowest bid is to suppress people’s workers, suppress worker’s wages. As a result of that, what happens? I see this in Newark where I live. Friends of mine who work for companies, people I know who work for companies that clean airlines, who work in the airports, full-time jobs they work. They pick up extra shifts where they can get it but they still live below the poverty line.

Consolidation is not doing a good thing, as it seems in your mind, the tech industry is probably responsible for some of that. On the Amazon-Whole Foods deal in particular, though, are you concerned there are lots of groceries stocks taking a big hit afterwards, lots of companies that seemed a little bit fearful about Amazon’s expanding footprint? How do you actually feel about this deal?

Yeah, look, for congressional Black Caucus, I just signed onto a letter today directing it towards the Attorney General, which I have a lot of skepticism about his willingness to do anything about it but saying basically, “Look, we are having a hard enough time to get supermarkets to move into our urban communities; to give people choice, to give people price competitiveness so that actually they are paying for affordable groceries.” I worry about grocery consolidation, I worry about the jobs that many of these grocery stores create so I am skeptical of this particular merger, highly skeptical of it.

I believe this consolidation — as well as other consolidations — we should be holding a far higher bar than we are as we approve this, and we are seeing it in the cable industry. We are seeing it in, I mean every vertical I can think of you are seeing massive consolidation, which I do not think always works in the best interest of workers and consumers. In fact, all the evidence that I’ve looked at so far has shown quite the opposite, that net it has been to the detriment of consumers and to the detriment of workers.

Do you think that the U.S. government — regardless of who happens to be in office, Democrat or Republican — do you think that the government has the tools particularly with respect to the tech and telecom sector to really be that watchdog on antitrust? This has come up a whole lot recently. The Federal Trade Commission and the Justice department both have big roles in this space. Do they have the tools and expertise to do it?

I believe they have the tools but their interpretations of the power that we have that we are not using under Republican administrations ... Maybe the best example I can give was from a hearing I had today with the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission. I went after one of the folks who was involved when the FCC said, “We do not have the right to deal with intrastate communications,” and specifically I was looking at the cost of prison phone calls, which is usury rates for people trying to call their families.

I got very angry because their conclusion was that they don’t have that power. Now I read the same legislation as they do, the same enabling legislation, and it’s clear on the face that we do. There is a different philosophy of corporate power that is driving particularly the Republican Party right now where you see years of collective wisdom and experiences in this country that said that competition is good and you cannot let more and more powerful companies, aggregating more and more political power — because remember, since Citizens United these corporations are pouring an unimaginable amounts of sums of money — dark money, often — into the political process.

These larger oligarchies that are being created are becoming more and more dangerous to the public good, in my opinion, because the political power that they are gaining as well as the market power that they are gaining — and we come from a great tradition, from the trust busting and the history of that. In fact, if you compare us to other countries and what’s allowed, we are really slacking in terms of asserting consumer protection, asserting consumers rights, asserting the rights of workers. I think that this is one of the major causes of one of the most pernicious, nefarious aspects of our society right now, which is the incredible wealth disparities that we have in our country.

You aren’t particularly confident in FCC chairman Ajit Pai, who was at the hearing today, or FTC acting chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen and others. It seems like you don’t think that they are willing to go the distance on this stuff.

I would say more passionately that “not particularly confident” is the low end.

How passionate would you be for it?

I think these are extremely dangerous people in positions right now that are going to do nothing but inflame the economic injustices that we are already seeing in our country. Giving more power to corporate consolidation — to corporations as a whole — and less power to Americans, and we will be losing what I believe are so much of ... These are anti-democratic forces that are being unleashed in our country that are undermining the power and the strength of citizenship of individuals as corporations in our country are gaining more and more power.

Now again, you have to understand, I am a guy that believes in the power businesses have. I was a mayor of a city and worked so hard to get our first new hotels built in 40 years, to help manufacturers in my city, to help ... In fact, we brought back business economic expansion in my city in 60 years. I worked hard to get the port competitive. I believe that market forces are really important to drive wealth creation, not for the few but for the many, to drive middle-class growth. I believe in all these things.

The problem we have right now in America — and people need to understand this — is it is a perversion of the free market where corporate villainy is reigning. I can give you examples from my city of corporate villainy in the fact that the Passaic River was stolen from generations because corporations took shortcuts of pouring their chemicals and their toxins into that river.

Does Silicon Valley recognize that? Do you think those, the tech CEOs folks out in Silicon Valley, recognize that some folks perceive them to be these corporate villains? Do they have an understanding of their responsibility and their image in the work that they are doing and the effects that they have?

I know a lot of CEOs, obviously, from the CEOs in Newark. I have seen how CEOs can be such great American citizens, not to mention corporate citizens, but we’ve got to start having a conversation in this country like what, how are we going to measure the success of the tech sector? Is it by its ability to create a small handful of billionaires or the ability for us to create? To pro-democracy forces, empowering individuals, improving quality of life, improving financial security, expanding opportunity. The kind of things that we want largely for democracy. And I think this is a discussion, a lively discussion we should be having not just with the tech sector but with all sectors.

When I was seeing what ... How can we as Americans who want to support innovation even just see the decisions that are being made in Washington that undermine the right kind of tech expansion? The things where in the new energy sector, so there is a lot of conversations that I want to try to be a part of forcing, and let’s just deal with the tech sector on just issues of diversity. It’s astonishing to me that all the data that I look at — in fact Kleiner Perkins looked at it, or not Kleiner Perkins but a New York-based firm that looked at the tech companies that they were giving money to and they found that women-run companies were performing better. Women founders were doing better.

Well why do women only receive about 10 percent of VC investments? African Americans, there are incredible African American innovators but they get 1 percent of VC investments. We are seeing a startling lack of diversity, which actually hurts this country in the long run, and we also know tons of data and research shows the more diverse a company is, the more successful it is. There are a lot of conversations we have to start having in an honest, candid way because the trends that are happening — the digitalized economy, the technological transformations. Donald Trump was talking about Mexicans stealing American jobs, well, the microchip was the source of lots of jobs disappearing far more than any overseas outsourcing.

If we are not talking about what the new economy is going to look like and how that’s going to hurt many Americans, unless we get ahead of these trends with our imagination. I’m one of these people that loves the innovations, the democratizing aspects of the tech industry, but I do believe that larger consolidations when Google and Facebook control about 85, 80 percent of the advertising, and that’s rippling throughout our society — has a permanent effect on the credibility of news all the way to its effect of smaller innovators are trying to get into the space.

There is so much of this conversation that we should be having because 20 years from now, if we do nothing we are going to have a more stratified society, we are going to have more suppression of wages, we are going to have the destruction of what makes America great: This idea that we all can have a shot to be in the middle class.

I want to tease out a lot of those pieces, but your presentation of Silicon Valley is so interesting because you point out diversity issues, there are issues around gender. There are lots of allegations of sexual assault that’s been rippling throughout the venture capital community for the better part of the past couple of weeks. We have tech companies getting larger, we have lots of billionaires who maybe don’t understand the impact of what they are doing.

It sounds to me like the Wild West, but as a reporter it’s always felt that the only way that might change is if government drops their hammer in some of these areas, but I also don’t know how exactly it would drop the hammer.

I want to tell you, on the flip side, the government is doing a lot of the things to stifle urgently needed innovation, so whether it’s ... Like I took on the FAA because I said to them, “If you guys were around during the time of Orville and Wilbur Wright, we wouldn’t have gotten off the ground.” What they were doing to squelch UAV drone innovations literary was moving to places like France which were years ahead of us and creating a regulatory environment where that innovation can thrive.

Nuclear innovation, next-generation nuclear doesn’t have the risk of meltdowns, it actually eats the spent fuel rods that we are having troubles now trying to figure out where we are going to store and we are going to be using them for energy, but we don’t have a regulatory environment where that kind of innovation can thrive. We do a lot of things in America that undermine the kind of innovation that we want to see happening.

I just want to take a sober, balanced view of this — and again, what I was talking about the first section of the show, what are the value statements that we should be putting forward that we could all agree on that should frame what we are doing? Some of them were as basic as if you are an American and you work, you should not be poor. I mean let’s just start with simple value statements and then project those value statements through what’s happening to our society with a digitized economy.

Why? If the future of work is people doing things like TaskRabbit and Lyft, if that’s the future of work, well, we are in trouble unless we get the government to begin to create a framework where people in those environments can survive. The future of work is a fissured workplace and people are outsourcing this, outsourcing that, there has got to be some rules that are going to protect that.

What I’m trying to say is that we need a framework based upon our values, because right now what I see happening is violation of values that — I don’t care what your political party is — a violation of values that are common to our country.

If we’re dealing with technology and innovations, that I totally understand, but how do you correct the ills of Silicon Valley? The social ills that you pointed out — diversity being chief among them — how does government play a role in this long-running conversation at a time when companies like Apple and Facebook and Google are making only marginal changes to the composition of their workforce?

Yeah, and look, I don’t want to say that every fix is a government fix.

Fair.

I think that often government, every time they see our problem they are the hammer and everything is a nail. We have a societal problem with seeing each other with value and dignity and understand that we need each other, that we are all in this. That just because you are a different race or a different religion, we are the great human experiment; we are a profoundly diverse nation. We are the first country, the oldest constitutional democracy, that said, “We are not going to be about a theocracy, a common religion, we are not going to be a common race or national origin. We are going to be about a common set of values and ideals.” And Silicon Valley right now is not reflecting those ideals of diversity and they are hurting themselves and they are hurting this country.

That’s a problem. That’s a pipeline problem that is reflected in our education system in this country which the fact that we haven’t figured this out on K-12 education when we have the capacity to do it and we’ve made this nation the place as devaluing and at a time that other countries as blowing past us in their public education systems. You see that, based upon the zip code you are born in, it’s the kind of education you are going to get, from the pipeline issues all the way going up to universities all the way into the employment market.

We need to be talking about diversity not as some kind of like charity towards people that are diverse, but something that is urgently needed for the strength of the whole. Silicon Valley, the VC world is a appallingly lacking of diversity and they should be moving with a more aggressive action towards addressing these issues.

To circle this back to where we started — which is the size and the power and the rich of Silicon Valley — one of the things you had said is that the U.S. had kind of fallen behind other countries. Other governments have taken a closer look at the tech industry. I have to ask about Google, which is facing a record-breaking fine in the European Union after the way it handled search and advertising — and some of its other business which also happen to be under continued investigation in the EU. Did the EU get it right? Is that an example of the United States having an opportunity to do something, to go after a company, to police its actions, that didn’t do what it should have done?

I guess this goes back to what we said before, we have regulatory agencies that just aren’t doing their jobs. You see this with big banks, you see this with the entire crisis we just came through. What’s amazing to me is that we haven’t learned the lessons and we are not protecting consumers.

Should the U.S. government take a look at Google?

I think that the U.S. government absolutely should take a look at Google.

On grounds for an antitrust case?

I think the U.S. government should be far more active in antitrust actions, because where they have taken actions it’s often created collateral benefits to society. Microsoft taking action, Bell Labs, the Bell company taking actions, have all resulted in ...

These are major U.S. antitrust case.

Major antitrust cases that now are looked at years later and seen the many benefits to consumers and to innovation that comes from a lot of these actions that they’ve taken.

There are benefits to be had if the U.S. government were to be more critical, have more scrutiny of a company like Google.

100 percent.

Moving past that to my least-favorite debate, which is net neutrality because I have covered this issue for the million years that I have been on this beat. It’s been a pretty momentous week in that fight just given the fact that comments were due to the FCC as the chairman there, Ajit Pai, looks to roll back some of the rules put in place under the Obama administration. For those who don’t follow the ins and outs of this wonky debate, there are basically rules that force internet providers to treat all web traffic equally.

You are obviously a big fan of net neutrality, you’ve talked about it in public in the past, but I guess the question is why should other people care? I think this is the challenge as a reporter is I have to explain this to people. Explain to people, why should we care about an issue like net neutrality at a time when there are things like health care taking up a great deal of bandwidth Washington.

Is the only reason why this is your least-favorite subject because you’ve been covering it so long?

It won’t stop, it literally won’t stop. I’m convinced that like when the nuclear war ends everything it will be like cockroaches and net neutrality left, that’s going to be it. I am going to be gone but the debate will keep going.

Well again, you do not want to have, I told you that I’d bring, I feel like I’m bringing you back through your torture, back to your pain. The internet is transforming society in ways that we don’t even fully grasp yet but to have the internet that the same forces we’re talking about as earlier forces of — power, wealth consolidation, corporate control. To have them having a free rein over what happens on the internet is going to stifle innovation, it’s going to create unfair competition, it’s going to undermine your ability to have what I love, just the freedom to be able to explore, freedom to access information.

All these things are now being threatened because you could have large cable companies, for example, determining what information you get from whom, at what quality. That’s crazy to me, to surrender to large corporate interests control of the internet when it should be open, free and fair.

My jokes aside, the reason this is going back and forth is because a Democratic FCC chairman will put out a plan, the companies will sue it, the rules get knocked down. The party control of the FCC changes, so as I take a look at some of the comments at Comcast and AT&T and Google and others had filed, the one thing that they all seem to agree on was the need for legislation.

Yes, because we are trying to govern the internet with rules that were created before, with rules that were out before the internet was even imagined.

I’m a big pessimist and I don’t see any sign that Capitol Hill is moving anywhere close to legislation. Lots of folks are making noise about it, while at the same time saber-rattling around this issue. Am I wrong to be cynical about this sort of thing?

No, you are absolutely right to be skeptical. And to the frustration of even a lot of these large corporations, because they know that, well, there is a Republican president right now so they are going to try to get rid of net neutrality. If there is a Democratic president then suddenly those corporations are going to have to stop their practices because they are going to appoint a new FCC chair that has a very different vision.

They are wanting there to be very fair rules, but just as a guy right now who has listened to Donald Trump who is the president, has the power of the pen, I don’t want to go to work on legislation that he is not going to approve because he has a very different philosophy than I do. I think we should have net neutrality; he is saying let corporations be able to do the kind of things of throttling, blocking, all the kind of things that we who believe in net neutrality are fighting against.

What should you expect then? The FCC under Pai has the votes — that’s a Republican-led agency — just scrap these rules and to potentially put nothing in place. That was one of the ideas floated in his proposed order, that there wouldn’t be rules at the FCC to govern net neutrality.

He keeps talking about the soft touch and so on and so forth.

Yeah, so with that point then if Congress isn’t likely to do something on this in the next couple of months — it sounds that way from what you are saying — and the FCC, it’s in a place where it’s looking to rule back those rules and can easily do so. Are consumers in trouble? Could we find ourselves in a world in which we have years of no protections in the books of this sort?

Years meaning like the remainder of this presidency, which I hope is not that long, definitely not a two-term president. Look, I think that we are in a bad space right now and a lot of people — and this gets me in so many areas, from the department of education to department of justice. Most people just don’t understand the regulatory power that a president has and many people voted for Donald Trump or didn’t vote because they just didn’t like the two choices, they just did not understand the consequences for having someone like that in office.

This is one of those consequences: We are going to have a lot of uncertainty. Businesses don’t like uncertainty, nor should they, and this is going to be a time of uncertainty until ... Most people think that government moves quickly. It doesn’t. I mean, even if you think of something as basic as civil rights legislation, it took decades of fighting, multiple failures of bills, to finally get some of the basic protections that you and I enjoy. This is going to be a long process but I tell you what speeds it up is what we’ve already seen, record numbers of people filing public comments.

The big protest just a week ago.

Yeah, so when it goes back to the first framing of this podcast: When people are engaged on an issue Congress tends to move a lot quicker. That’s why it’s very important for all of us to be engaged and aware, to be active citizens, not thinking democracy is a spectator sport. That we’ve got to engage and we’ve got to let our voices be heard.

We are going to look to the future in just a second but it’s time for our second break, so let me kick it back to Kara for another word from our sponsors.

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We are back. I’m sitting here with Senator Booker, Democratic senator from New Jersey, and I want to turn our attention now to the future of both technology and U.S. politics. Just a few days ago, Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, paid a little visit to the NGA meeting, sat down with a bunch of governors to talk about things like AI, and he basically warned about robot overlords and existential risks to human kind.

It was a very, very dire warning from a man who knows technology quite well. What’s your take on this? Is he on the more alarmist side of the spectrum here or do you think that there are some serious concerns around AI that government has to get its hands around?

I think that my bigger concern right now is that when it comes to AI, blockchain — I can go through the kind of innovations that are going on right now in this space. My biggest concern right now is we have an anti-science president and he is creating a space for the Chinese and the Russians and the Koreans and others who are doubling down their investments in sciences and research and innovation.

His budget, just to be clear, cut or proposed to cut lots of funding for the U.S. science agencies.

Everything from the National Institutes of Health to the National Science Foundation. He has even appointed people to some of the heads of major science innovation, this is disastrous. I mean, the technologies, innovations and jobs that are being created by a lot of things we’ve talked about right now are governing innovation — from touchscreens to GPS to the batteries on the phones we have — are all coming from collective investments we’ve all made in science, technology and innovation.

My bigger concern is that the fields of battle of the future — the Russians are showing this, they can’t beat us right now tank for tank, aircraft carrier for aircraft carrier. Where they are doubling down on is things like the cyber warfare and trying to engage in things that AI would give you a tremendous advantage in doing. I worry that we have an anti-science president who is not valuing this space, and if you just look at the percentage of our GDP that we’re investing in science compared to our competitors, we are going down and they are going up.

I understand Elon Musk — a lot of respect for him as an incredible idea innovator and love some of his infrastructure and transportation ideas, but right now the fire I’m trying to light under people is that we are as a country going from the innovation nation because we value the sciences, we created regulatory environments where innovators could thrive. That we’re creating now an environment that is turning around, turning our back on science, turning our back on technology, turning our back on innovation and allowing our competitors to catch up and threaten our globally dominant place in the sciences and innovation exportation.

Even beyond spending on science and research, the effects of AI seem to be pretty pronounced. I think there was one study by PWC that said four in 10 American jobs would be affected by things like automation probably around 2030 or so. It’s kind of a shorter-term horizon than most people think. Are you worried about these issues around the future of work? What to do about training these individuals who may be displaced as a result of that?

Right before I came here I had a meeting, a gathering of me and some other thought leaders about the future of work. I’m one of those people that wants us to get ahead of this terrible trends that are threatening folks. I get very upset unless we help to foster innovation. It’s why bipartisan nuclear innovation, that’s why drone legislation. That’s why on driverless cars I was pushing to create sandboxes where we can innovate on this stuff.

I’m also one of those people that says, “Hey, when we get driverless cars it’s going to put hundreds and thousands of people out of the work that they are in right now. We need to start doing something about that.” I’m excited about the future, excited about technology, I’m excited about innovation, but my concern again — as someone who lives in a community that has already been crashed by some of these trends in terms of the injustices in the criminal justice system, the injustices of bigoted housing policy, all the kinds of things that are inhibiting economic growth in many communities — that these trends are just getting worse for struggling communities.

Would you ...

Hold on, let me just make this point. So in the abstract I still remember having conversations with my dad about this new thing called an ATM and how that was going to put tellers out of jobs. Well actually it hasn’t, there are more [bank] tellers now. We can’t necessarily predict the future of this but I know that there are things we should be doing right now that we’re just not doing.

When I brought all the manufacturers in my city together they didn’t think, I was wondering whether they are going to complain to me I was a mayor and they didn’t complain to me about Obamacare or taxes. Their first complaint to me was that they could not find machinists, advanced manufacturers. There are millions of jobs right now in America that are not being filled because we haven’t created the right linkages between our education system and jobs that are actually there. In fact we make people feel bad, we have folks looking down on you, “You don’t have a college education.” Well dear God, in American society why are we putting that …

I joke all the time that I’ve got degrees, my father used to tease me, he goes, “Boy, you got more degrees than the month of July but you are not hot,” so I got degrees of history, sociology, political science. What I’m qualified to do in the 21st century technology economy maybe be United States senator. The real jobs that are out there you don’t need a college education for … Germany understands that with a large percentage of their population in apprenticeship programs that lead to middle-class jobs.

Do your colleagues understand that though? Like in conversations I have with number of Congresspeople in the Trump administration, maybe some even folks in the Obama administration too, it doesn’t seem like they fully embraced or understood AI and some of these changes in the economy that are coming.

People don’t, we are not ahead of this trend, we are getting crashed by it. So far the first piece of legislation I did, the No. 1 by far is a piece of legislation ... Republican from South Carolina, Tim Scott was about apprentice programs because educationally we are being left behind. We are not preparing the incredible minds of the future in our country for the jobs that actually exist. Until we start getting that incongruency solved and start celebrating people that if you don’t have a college degree, that’s not what I want to celebrate. You have the skills and training necessary to live your American dream and that’s not what we are doing right now.

I love this podcast because we are only touching on the top of a lot of these issues but these are the issues that are going to shape our society, whether it’s corporate consolidation, the bit economy, the gig economy, the fissured workplace, technological transience like ATMs versus tellers. All these things are not trends of the future, they are happening right now and they are causing amazing discontent and insecurity on our society, in our communities, because we are not equipping ourselves to deal with these trends and to get ahead of them.

I believe in business, I don’t believe businesses should outsource their costs and internalize their profits but I believe in businesses. I don’t believe businesses should over-consolidate to the detriment of consumers and workers but I believe in business, I believe in innovation. That’s the kind of country we’ve been. By the way, for decades, when my parent’s generation expanded the middle class, the right thing happened. Wealth was created, people got rich, but not in the ways that are happening right now where you see all the benefits accruing to elites and the detriments — whether it’s environmental poisoning or wages being driven down, all of these things. We are moving in the wrong direction as a country and that’s problematic.

We are talking about the future of technology but let’s also talk about your future for a second. In the language of D.C. political types, I must ask what are you thinking about 2020?

My eyesight is great and I see clearly.

Are you exploring anything in 2020?

Look. I am not exploring anything. I’m up for re-election in 2020 in the United States Senate.

Are you thinking about the White House?

Right now I think about it every day because the guy who is there ...

Are you thinking about inhabiting the White House yourself?

Most people asking if I’m running for president, I tell them I’m running from this president and trying to make changes. Look, why did I get into politics in the first place? I was a young kid coming out of Yale Law School, moved into a tough, tough, neighborhood. Eventually moved into the projects, lived there for eight years and it was my community.

A bunch of tenant organizers told me that we got to change City Hall, that’s the beginning of my political career, and what motivates me every day is the communities that are being left behind. What worries me is that with all the benefits — and I’m so proud of the things from education, in Newark we were ranked the No. 1 city in America for beat-the-odds schools, high poverty, high performance.

I’m so proud of so many accomplishments in Newark, but let me tell you this, one of the most painful conversations I ever had was right after the murder of yet another African American teen. By the way, the shooting I mentioned that happened in Congress, to a Congressperson, horrible. I’m so happy that CNN covered it round the clock, but about 10 days before that there was a shooting across the street from where I live. We have children being murdered at outrageous rates right now and I still remember my dad, who was born poor, he used to joke with me, “Don’t tell people I was born poor son, tell them I was just po, P-O. I couldn’t afford the other two letters.”

This guy was born like the majority of kids in my city and cities across New Jersey. He was born poor to a single mom, born minority black in a segregated environment, New Jersey I think we are the fifth-most segregated state for African Americans, fourth-most segregated for Latinos. Back in my father’s day with de jure segregation, now it’s de facto. The boy said profoundly, the true tragedy of man, I say men and women. He said, “We know so little of each other because we create separations and we still are enforcing invisibility to people who are struggling, black or white.”

This is what my dad said to me, one of those painful conversations, my father who died six days before I was elected to the Senate. He looked at me and he said, “Boy, Cory, I worry that a child born in my circumstances — poor black to a single mom in a segregated environment — I worry that it would be better for that child to have been born in 1936 to make it than born today.”

Now, I’m a data guy. When I was a mayor I used to say, “In God we trust but everybody else bring me data.” I wanted to make decisions based on my bottom line as mayor of Newark, which was what was this going to do to empower people in my community? So I looked at the data.

Well, is my dad right? Would it have been better to be born in 1936 under those circumstances from now? Well, in some ways he is wrong but in a lot of ways he is right. One out of three black kids born today, unless we change something, is going to go to prison because of our hyper mass incarceration that we would rather incarcerate than empower. The leading cause of death for young black men in my dad’s age was not murder like it is now. I can go through the data and it is a shame on society, a shame on this country that we haven’t yet understood ways to develop that natural resource, the genius of our young people. That’s what motivates me every single day.

One of the things that I want to do in Congress now that the state of New Jersey is giving me this chance is one of those people who want to talk about things that don’t pull really well, but dear God more people should be talking about them. Look at the injustices within our food system. How can we be a nation that subsidizes the very things that one or other agency of our government tells us to eat less off? You could literally walk into a bodega in Camden and get a Twinkie product cheaper than an apple because of our twisted subsidies that are driven by the power of corporate agriculture.

How can we have right now for all those bacon lovers? You go down to North Carolina right now, I went down there to see this with my own eyes. Pigs produce 10 times the excrement than humans do and there is nine million pigs in North Carolina. There is nine million people in New Jersey, well they don’t know what to do with the stuff. They moved into many of these companies, one of the biggest ones a Chinese company moved into poor black communities. They create these massive lagoons for their pig excrement and then they spray it over crops.

I watched it mist into residential neighborhoods people; can’t run their air conditions, can’t open their windows, can’t put their clothing on the line. Cancer rates, respiratory illnesses, all because of our screwed-up systems. I know I was in a great pig state in this, so I don’t want to ever not speak truth about the injustices in this country because I’m concerned about electoral reliability in the future.

I am a United States senator. I’m the fourth elected African American in the history of this country since reconstruction. I have an opportunity to drive home the people that are being left behind and they are not just in the city of Newark. I think the reason why so many people supported Trump is because they lost faith in this political system and they were tired of feeling like they were being lied to over and over again. This carnival barker that was the candidate Trump was able to get them to support him.

I don’t know what my future holds but I’m going to spend between now and 2020 until I have to go before voters and New Jersey for reelection, calling out these injustices and trying to present — which is even more important — to present a vision of this country that compels not Democrats but compels Americans of shared values that we are going to see a country that works. Where we do see business success — especially small businesses innovators — pushing the realms of human potential, where it is an inclusive vision so whoever you are you see yourself with that greater vision for America.

That’s really what I want to focus on, not the next election — which is what gets us in trouble in this country because literally, President Trump didn’t put his hand on the bible before people were asking me that question about [2020]. There is some sickness in that.

It’s called being a reporter, we are very sick. We are a sick people.

Let’s focus, you are a reporter — which by the way, God bless the First Amendment, you are such a critical agent in this democracy. I hope people see that more than ever, but we need to elevate the citizen again. We need to have a vision, a unifying vision for this country. I want to be a part of that. I don’t care what campaigns are in the future to come. I want to bring this country together again, show us that we are more alike than we [think].

Common pain, common purpose, and we have a vision for this future that has nobody’s father — whether it’s a coal miner or my African American dad — ever saying to their child they worry that the next generation is not going to do better than the one before.

Well, when that is eventually your White House speech, when this becomes your announcement for future 2020, just do me a favor and come back to Recode Decode we’ll get more into national politics and you know and technology.

There are so many other things I wanted to talk about.

I know, I know, but I’m going to get yelled at if I don’t let you go at this point. Senator Booker, thank you.

You are in the press, you are used to be yelled at. You are heckled now from politicians.

Yeah, heckled from politicians and also Kara Swisher. On that note, Senator Booker, thank you so much for joining us.

My fellow Anthony.

Your fellow Anthony here at your service.

Anthony solidarity.

Indeed, I’m going to send it back to Kara now and she is going to tell you more about our other podcasts here at Recode.

Thank you very much.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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