LITTLE ROCK - Democrats should respond to Donald Trump’s “hate” with love, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said by telephone at an event Saturday celebrating the opening of the Arkansas headquarters of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Booker, a rising star in the Democratic Party who gave a speech that energized the audience at the Democratic National Convention last month, was scheduled to appear in person at Saturday’s ceremony, but his flight was canceled because of inclement weather.
A party spokesman said just over 400 people attended the event held under a portable canopy outside the campaign office in Little Rock’s Tanglewood Shopping Center as a steady rain fell. The 1,600-square-foot office is staffed by three full time-employees.
“We have a candidate that’s engaging in demagoguery and hate speech and seems to be waking up echoes from our past that we had hoped we’d left behind us,” Booker said of Trump, who has proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and has said that when Mexico sends people to the U.S., “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
“I’m hoping we can answer that negativity with more positive action,” Booker said. “I hope we can respond to it not with hate but with more light and more love and more action and positivity.”
Booker said that for a long time he loved Clinton intellectually, but his esteem has grown since getting to know her personally.
“I knew she was the most qualified person to run for president in my lifetime. But (on the campaign) trail I got to know her personally and I saw that these policy issues were really rooted in her love and commitment to her fellow American citizens,” he said.
Booker noted that the presidential race is not the only race on the ballot.
“In these last 87 days, I hope that all of us can do something more to double down, recommit, reaffirm our efforts to make sure that we not just only elect Hillary Clinton but really that we are fighting for building a strong party up and down the ballot,” he said.
Democrats currently control no statewide or federal elected offices in Arkansas and neither chamber of the state Legislature. No Democratic presidential candidate has won the state since Bill Clinton in 1996.
Former U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, another speaker at Saturday’s event, told the crowd the state party is not dead.
“Eighteen months ago, people were writing the tombstone for the Democratic Party in Arkansas, but it’s not true. We’re back, we’re getting there, it’s going to be a great election for us,” he said.
State Democratic Party Chairman Vince Insalaco told the crowd, “At the end of 2014 all I heard is, ‘It’s over for Democrats,’ and all of a sudden the Republicans have shown their true colors.”
The state GOP did so by, among other things, removing any mention of support for early childhood education from their party platform last weekend, “but yet they’ve got millions of dollars to spend on remodeling the governor’s mansion,” he said.
The national Republican Party showed its true colors, Insalaco said, by nominating for president “perhaps the worst person to ever run for office.”
The event was held on the eighth anniversary of the fatal shooting of former state Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney by a man who later was shot and killed by police. Insalaco did not mention the anniversary in his remarks but said in an interview that Gwatney was in his thoughts.
“He was a good friend of mine,” he said. “His kids took dance from my late wife. He’s always in our thoughts.”
Insalaco said that if Gwatney were alive to see a campaign office open in Arkansas for Clinton as the Democratic nominee for president, “he’d be so happy.”