Booker: Americans should be 'deeply disturbed' by direction of their country

Booker: Americans should be 'deeply disturbed' by direction of their country
© Greg Nash

New Jersey Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony Booker2020 hopefuls skeptical of criminal justice deal with Trump Sentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies Bernie Sanders socialism moves to Democratic mainstream MORE (D) on Wednesday took aim at the divisions in the U.S., arguing that Americans should be "deeply disturbed" about the country's direction.

Speaking at the We the People Summit in Washington, D.C., a meeting of progressive activists that doubles as a cattle call for prospective 2020 presidential candidates, Booker criticized the federal government for its treatment of immigrants at the border and of convicted felons.

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He argued that while Americans still have a "common pain," they've forgotten their "common purpose."

"If this country hasn’t broken your heart, you don’t love her enough. If you are not deeply disturbed by what is coming, you’ve got to check your own love," Booker said.

"Some people call it patriotism, that’s a fine word, but understand patriotism is love of country and you cannot love your country unless you love your fellow countrymen and -women.”

He went on to lament that America is not doing enough for its poor, noting that America is one of the few industrialized nations with 20 percent of its children in poverty.

"If you were going to be born on the planet Earth generations ago, this would be the nation to be born in. But now other countries are surpassing us, lifting people out of poverty, while our poverty rates are stuck," he said.

And he called for measures meant to protect the common American, like a right to health care, new "commonsense regulations" on hedge funds and businesses to protect workers, and more robust support for mental health.

That focus, which drew significant applause from the friendly crowd, is an important piece of Booker's push to calm concerns about his past donations from pharmaceutical groups and other corporations.