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Cory Booker, a would-be bachelor president, says Americans are 'open to lots of different types of f

Cory Booker, a would-be bachelor president, says Americans are ‘open to lots of different types of families’ in the White House

NEWARK — A banged-up Dodge Caravan pulls up next to Sen. Cory Booker, who’s out for a walk in the banged-up city center where he’s lived for almost a quarter-century.

“How you doin’, Mr. President!” shouts the driver, a middle-aged man with a huge smile.

These streets are Booker’s sweet spot, where he was mayor for seven years, where he still has a small house, where seemingly everybody knows his name and wants to shake his hand, and where, on Saturday, he will appear at a rally to officially announce his campaign for president.

It’s also a place where Booker doesn’t feel he needs to explain his private life. He’d prefer to discuss justice reform, education, all his issues — and not why he might be the first bachelor president since Grover Cleveland married in the White House in 1886.

“I hate it that people assume I’d be a bachelor president,” Booker says with a big laugh on this March afternoon. “It’s literally 700 days from now. You never know.”


The son of two IBM executives, Booker was raised as one of the few black people in the New Jersey suburb of Harrington Park, where he was a star football player. After graduating from Stanford University, Booker spent two years as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in Britain, then earned a degree at Yale Law School.

In his third year at Yale, he moved into a run-down rooming house in Newark’s Central Ward, where he says his car was broken into the day he moved in. Later, he moved across the street to a 16th-floor apartment in the Brick Towers housing complex, a notorious symbol of neglect, rats and drug-dealing. He lived there for eight years.

He was elected to the Newark city council in 1998 representing the Central Ward, then was elected mayor in 2006 and a U.S. senator in 2013. Brick Towers has since been torn down, but Booker can see where it stood from his front door.

Booker says he chooses to keep a home in central Newark, rather than the wealthy areas where many of his Yale Law friends moved, because “this really is home for me.” He acknowledges that choosing to live in a grim public housing project for almost a decade complicated his dating life, but he said it made him a better senator and presidential candidate.



Some people are uncomfortable with touchers like Biden. Should they set the rules?

The unwritten rule can be as indelible as any chiseled into a tablet. That’s its genius and its curse. But because norms recalibrate, and today’s are still sorting themselves out, not everyone got the invisible memo that says a person shall not hug, pat, brush, graze, stroke, clasp, rub, squeeze or nuzzle another without first obtaining or at least intuiting consent.

Joe Biden certainly didn’t get that memo. He has operated on his own tactile terms for years, and now he faces an unexpected hurdle as he ponders a twilight run for the White House. Several women have said that when Biden’s exuberant greetings or gestures of support involved touching them, they felt uncomfortable, leading some progressives to hint that he should sit this one out.

Manhandling, assault, uninvited sexual touching — that sort of contact has long violated social norms (as well as laws). But the move to regulate behavior that makes people “uncomfortable”? This treads on newer turf. Life presents “uncomfortable” moments daily, after all, and they differ from person to person. Should rejecting discomfort be the new norm? Should it be what makes me uncomfortable? Which comfort level should dictate? Good luck finding the line of demarcation. Even if we could, such a taboo would set up a Blakeian battle pitting innocence against experience. “Someone should put the bloody brakes on it,” says Francis McGlone, a neuroscientist at Liverpool John Moores University and an evangelist for social touch.

Norms governing touch are headed to a place where they can cause harm, says McGlone, who studies C-tactile afferents, the nerve fibers that respond to gentle touch. C-tactile afferents are “beautifully, exquisitely evolved,” McGlone says, and without the touch that they respond to, babies have weaker neural responses and longer hospital stays, do not gain as much weight and are more at risk for autism. But the benefits derived from this nerve fiber — he’s fond of calling it “the Higgs boson of the social brain” — don’t end in infancy. McGlone points to higher rates of mortality among lonely people, who make up a large proportion of the elderly. What do the lonely elderly have in common? They don’t get touched, he says. “Don’t piss around with 3 million years of evolution,” McGlone admonishes. It “doesn’t make mistakes.” Social touch is “a biological necessity.”


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