Steve Ralls

Bring Back Carol

Filed By Steve Ralls | July 24, 2007 9:03 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Carol Moseley Braun, Senate, sldn, steve ralls

If Senator Barack Obama is successful in his bid for the presidency (and no, I'm not saying he's my candidate; he's not), former Senator Carol Moseley Braun should throw her hat in the ring to replace him in the United States Senate. There has been no finer public servant in American politics for decades, and Braun would bring a much-needed progressive voice back to the halls of Congress. Few other people can say they took on Jesse Helms and won, and few other people would be a greater champion for LGBT equality.

I still vividly remember watching election returns in 1992 with my mother (I was 16 at the time) and, when hearing that Braun had won her historic campaign for the Senate, immediately said, "She should be president someday." In 2004, when Ambassador Braun announced her campaign for the White House, I wrote my first check to a presidential campaign. It is a donation I have never regretted, for a candidate who has never let me down. We need more public servants ('politican' has never accurately described what Carol does) who aren't afraid to fight the seemingly unwinnable fights, and our community needs to urge Braun to re-claim her seat in the Senate.

When she first arrived in Washington, Braun was a celebrity. People lined up to meet her. They had big expectations. And in every vote she cast, and in every position she took, she lived up to those expectations. She was a true progressive who never forgot her roots and never left anyone behind. For the first time in a long time, the disadvantged who had no voice in the political process before found their voice. She spoke forcefully, eloquently and with a sense of right and wrong that few people can stake a claim to.

In 1993, when the Senate debated the ban on lesbian and gay military personnel, she cast one of only twelve votes against the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, advocating from day one for the right of LGBT Americans to serve our country openly. She supported hate crimes legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and - from day one - the right of LGBT Americans to marry the person they love.

Just imagine having that voice back in the Senate today.

Several years ago, Ambassador Braun keynoted Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's national dinner. She arrived in town sick, battling a nasty cold with a growing fever, but nonetheless gave one of the finest and most inspirational speeches I have ever heard. Few people can make me cry, but Carol moved me to tears.

"My message to you tonight is a simple one," she said. "Each and every person makes the difference in shaping the direction any one person's life can take, and by extension, any one community; any one country. As you take on the issues and the personal challenges, the political controversies facing LGBT people, you help to define the battleground on which the struggle for the hearts and minds of the American people is being fought."

"I've tried to be a warrior for social justice and a pioneer," she added, "but in truth my public service has simply been a small repayment for the work of millions who share a love of this country and a desire to see her own good crowned with brotherhood. They expanded opportunities so that I could contribute to my country to the maximum of my ability. They broadened the pool from which the political class could be taken, and I like to think that America is richer because of the expansion of capacity that their work made possible."

Indeed, America has been made much richer by Braun's service to our country. And now, more than ever, we need a warrior for social justice . . . and a pioneer. Carol Moseley Braun is the epitome of both.

"Every person . . . every voice . . . every effort makes a difference as group responses emerge from individual action," she concluded at the SLDN dinner. "The starting point is what you are prepared to do to move our country in the direction of its most noble path. So long as our individual actions are focused on living up to the promise of a better America, our world cannot help but move in that direction, and the future we create cannot help but be better than the past we cannot change."

We need Braun's voice back in the United States Senate. If the opportunity presents itself for her to claim that seat in that most hallowed of chambers, she should do so, and we should all support her. And if she does, I will be honored to write the first check for her campaign and do whatever she asks of me to get her back there.

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Forget "if Obama wins" thinking - I'd be much happier to see Braun as President and Obama still a Senator.