Friday, October 01, 2004

Carol Moseley Braun, and Women in Politics

We finished up a busy week at the Rockefeller Center with a visit from former Senator and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun. She met with students and faculty and delivered an inspiring public lecture on her personal experiences.

She emphasized the need for women, particularly young women, to enter political life and suggested that it should be a priority for a woman candidate to run in every House and Senate contest. Good idea. More choice, particularly from groups that have been reluctant to run or discouraged from running in the past, can only strengthen our democracy.

In preparing to introduce her for that lecture, I searched through transcripts of the debates in the Democratic primary and her interviews over the last year or so. She and I don't often agree on the best remedies for social problems. We are far apart on things like her support for a single-payer health care system and my support for the war in Iraq. We are closer on things like the need for balanced budget rules for Congress and support for gay marriages.

My search revealed the following exchange she had with Bob Edwards, who interviewed her on NPR's "Morning Edition" on May 6, 2003:

EDWARDS: Are you in the race to dilute the support of Al Sharpton among black voters?

MOSELEY BRAUN: I'm in the race to dilute the support for every candidate among black voters.

Her A+ answer continues with other groups of people she would like to have supporting her. I tip my hat to her if this all transpired as it reads on the transcript.

Carol Moseley Braun has served in government at the local, state, and federal levels. Based on that experience, she was an order of magnitude more qualified to run for President than Al Sharpton. Leaving aside the bigotry inherent in the way the question is framed, how could anyone at that early stage of the campaign possibly insinuate that, of the two, she was the one who didn't really belong in the primary?

I am going to speculate that it might be because she is a woman. And this exchange illustrates just why her admonition for women to seek public office in large numbers is a cause we should all support.

UPDATE: Here is a link to The Dartmouth's coverage of the event.

1 comment:

Rice said...

I think journalists shouldn't have repeatedly asked that question. But, in this instance, context is key.

It was widely rumored at the time that Terry McAuliffe had asked Braun to run as a way to siphon support away from Sharpton. There was almost certainly some meeting between the two, and DNC leaders were clearly worried that Sharpton might solidify the black vote and be a thorn in their side.

Braun clearly had more experience, but experience isn't worth much. Sharpton had the media. He was getting widespread coverage, and looked likely to continue to get coverage. He was media friendly. Sharpton also had a national following as a civil rights leader -- something Braun didn't have.

In a perfect world, you'd be right about Braun. But she hadn't shown any hope or sign of being a credible candidate.