Ah, Cory Booker. In mid-January, at the hearing to consider the nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, Booker became the first sitting senator to testify against a fellow sitting senator at a confirmation hearing for a Cabinet post. His testimony was well received by Democrats, and received a lot of publicity. Naturally, immediately after the hearing, there was plenty of speculation that this was really the first speech of a likely campaign to run for President in 2020.

But just a day later he voted to reject an amendment put forward by Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders that would have allowed Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canada. Canadians spend about 50% less than we do on the exact same drugs. It was largely a symbolic vote, as it would not have legalized importation. As Jeff Stein wrote on Vox, if it had passed it would have meant there was “enough political support in the Senate for the idea, increasing the odds of some real action eventually being implemented.” The amendment lost, 52 – 46. Booker has received over $267,000 from pharmaceutical companies, according to Jezebel, The Intercept and other sources.

With that vote, Booker was sending The Signal, which is a very public, though indirect, way of communicating to big business that its interests are safe with him. That message gets noticed by the titans of industry, and when Booker runs next, for another Senate term or (surprise!) the presidency, they will be much more willing to write large checks. That will happen, directly and in private this time, when he reminds them of the votes he’s cast that made them millions.

The Signal gets sent both nationally and locally. Here in Texas, it was sent in 2015 by George P. Bush, nephew of President Bush the Younger, when he came out in support of an effort to de-list the golden cheek warbler as an endangered species.

George P.’s Signal seemed a little forced, but the message was clear. Private property owners (read: real estate developers) could count on him, should he ascend to higher office. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t agree on the de-listing, but no matter. The Signal was sent, and George P. will be on the lookout for a plum statewide office coming open in the next few years.

Cory Booker, though, is angling for a job with worldwide impact. He may have thought that his Signal would slip by unnoticed, but now that we know, we can’t ignore it. The best approach for now is to pressure him through calls, letters and organizing, and at election time send him our own Signal, by voting for someone who will support the 99%.


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