Pam Adams: Catching up with Carol
You'd think her name might come up this election cycle.
With all the talk about a certain rock-star politician from Chicago, you'd think her name might have been mentioned.
When it comes to women, high political office, and 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, you'd think she'd at least get the where-are-they-now treatment.
"I am a recovering politician," Carol Moseley Braun said in a recent telephone interview.
She is, she said, "100 percent out of politics, totally involved in building an organic food product company."
You can argue there's nothing more political than food. What we eat, how it's produced, labeled, transported and commercialized, not to mention what it costs, is the raw meat of governance. The Boston tea party was no party.
Moseley Braun's latest venture - Ambassador Organics, a line of teas, coffee and spices under the umbrella of Good Food Organics - morphed out of her original intent to transform the family farm in Alabama into a sustainable, organic farm after her stint as ambassador to New Zealand ended. Sept. 11, 2001, changed her plans, and the sustainable farm idea turned into a business that blends modern marketing with sustainable farming techniques dating back to a time when dinner came from just beyond the back door and the moon told Mama when to plant.
But . . .
Before Sen. Barack Obama, the Democrat from Illinois, there was Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, the Democrat from Illinois. Before Hillary Clinton's groundbreaking run for president, there was Carol Moseley Braun's somewhat groundbreaking run for president. It was a shortlived campaign in 2004, but she qualified for the ballot in 21 states and the District of Columbia, more than any woman before and until Hillary Clinton.
And before 2004 there was 1992, the year Moseley Braun, on the shoulders of a broad, bipartisan, biracial coalition, shook up Illinois politics by defeating long-time incumbent Alan Dixon in the primary and went on to win a U.S. Senate seat. You may recall she was the first black woman ever elected to the Senate, the first black senator elected as a Democrat, and the first female senator from Illinois.
(I am still amazed that the country has only elected five black senators ever, two of them from Illinois, and that one of them might be president.)
With her historic Senate win, Moseley Braun became a symbol of pride and progress, attracting cheering, multiracial crowds throughout the country. It was a big deal, as it should have been, for a former state legislator and Cook County recorder of deeds elected from the south side of Chicago, as it is now for another former state legislator elected from the south side of Chicago.
Hers turned out to be a one-term affair, doomed as much by extraordinarily high expectations as the extraordinary level of scrutiny she encountered as a freshman senator. Much of the controversy and criticism she garnered for questionable activities, some of it fair, some of it not, turns out to be tame compared to the scandals some of her congressional colleagues, not to mention the Bush administration, have survived.
Past controversies aside, party unity is the main-course issue at this week's Democratic National Convention. Moseley Braun's issue is biodynamic farming, a sustainable farming technique that stresses the union between food, body, spirit and farming.
Biodynamic farming is sometimes called authentic organic farming. "Everything on the farm is treated as one unit," she explains, "with particular attention paid to the quality of the soil and the quality of the water. The idea is the whole farm is a complete organism."
Products the company currently sells are grown on biodynamic farms in Sri Lanka, India and Mexico. Moseley Braun wants to see biodynamic farming expand in the United States and see more locally produced biodynamic products on the market. She knows that's going to take education and a change in attitude, from the ground up to more government support for sustainable agriculture.
"That's not just politics, that's policy, and I remain very interested in policy."
Pam Adams can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.