U.S. Sen. Cory Booker addresses a crowd at Sherman Phoenix Aug. 11, 2019, in Milwaukee as part of his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Photo by David Wise.

MILWAUKEE — U.S. Sen. Cory Booker told a crowd at a business incubator in the city’s Sherman Park neighborhood that the way to beat President Donald Trump is not by engaging in his tactics, but by inspiring people to get off the sidelines and participate in democracy.

The Dem presidential contender said the 2020 election is not a referendum on Trump.

“This election is going to be a referendum on us, on who we are and who we must be to each other,” Booker said during the Sunday stop. “It’s not about what we’re against, it’s about what we’re for, and who we’re for. And I believe in us. I’m betting on us.”

He said some believe the way to beat Trump is by fighting fire with fire. But he noted that as someone who ran a fire department as Newark, N.J., mayor, “I don’t think it’s a good strategy.”

“We will not beat him by fighting him using his tactics, his terms on his turf,” Booker said. “That’s not our history.”

He pointed to the civil rights movement and noted those in the fight didn’t win “by bringing bigger dogs and fire hoses.”

Instead, he said activists and artists inspired others to get off the sidelines and participate in democracy.

“I’m going to beat Donald Trump, but I’m going to beat him by inspiring, by engaging, by uplifting, by encouraging, by making sure that we don’t sit on the sidelines,” Booker said. “Because democracy is not a spectator sport. It is a full-engagement participatory endeavor. We have work to do.”

He said the goal must be about more than beating Trump.

“Beating Donald Trump is the floor; it’s not the ceiling,” Booker said. “It gets us out of the valley. It doesn’t get us to the mountaintop. I’m all about the mountaintop.”

Booker gave his speech in front of a diverse crowd at Sherman Phoenix, a facility that houses a variety of small businesses. The building previously housed a BMO Harris Bank branch that was set on fire during unrest in 2016 following an officer-involved shooting.

Introducing Booker was Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, state Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, and activist and former congressional candidate Khary Penebaker.

Booker was to hold a private fundraiser and attend the 5th CD Dem Party’s BBQ fundraiser after the event. He was then to return home to Newark following a roughly two-week tour that included stops in Detroit and Philadelphia.

During his speech, he touched on climate change, health care, education and other issues. He also spent considerable time discussing gun violence, along with his plan to require licensing for firearms.

“If you need a license to drive a car, you should have a license to buy and possess a firearm,” he said.

He said that every day, Americans pledge “liberty and justice for all.”

“But where is the justice when children are being killed every single day in our nation by gun violence?” he said. “Where’s the justice that we don’t seem to have the compassion or will. Where’s the justice?”

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