I was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, dubbed the “Year of the Woman” because four female senators—more than had ever been elected in the course of history—swept into office on one day.
I was the only woman of color among them, and indeed, the only African-American in the Senate from that day until Barack Obama was elected 12 long years later.
All I ever wanted to be was a good legislator, but it was soon clear that I had to be more: I had to be a voice for millions of Black Americans, Black women in particular, who’d never seen themselves represented in our politics before.
I wasn’t fully prepared for that responsibility and appreciated the support of a few other senators who tried personally to help me through.
Joe Biden led the way.
Biden has always been an ally and champion of women’s and civil rights. Back then, that meant he was determined to have me join the Judiciary Committee—although, having served on my state legislature’s committee, I was underwhelmed by the idea. But before I was even sworn into office, he came to my house to make his case and, over cherry pie, persuaded me to take on that important role.
Through the years, I have worked closely with him on a number of issues, particularly concerning race, and I grew to admire and respect him greatly. When some senators tried to renew a patent for the Confederate flag, Biden helped to kill the initiative in committee. When others unbelievably tried to repeal public accommodations laws, or to shut down funding for historically Black colleges and universities, Biden stood against them.
And when crime was ravaging our communities, we worked together with community leaders, faith leaders, mayors and members of Congress to address the crises.
Joe Biden sought a balanced approach, traveling the country and convincing police to back many of our preventative and community policing measures.
Some of the crime bill’s provisions are now criticized. Those criticisms have at times been used to paint Biden as racially insensitive. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Biden has spent his career working to make government a force for good, and to make a difference for millions of people who would’ve been left behind. He was then, as now, on the right side of history.
That push includes the long list of foundational work that he did to improve women’s lives, both as a senator and the vice president:
He wrote the Violence Against Women Act, pouring resources into the fight against domestic and sexual violence; he pioneered our efforts to stop college sexual assaults. He kept anti-choice judges off higher courts and fought to ban discrimination against women for being pregnant, when applying for loans and when seeking fair pay.
And Biden fought for our families, too, securing health insurance for kids in poverty; funding women, infant and child food support; and working to protect them from lead paint.
Today, many of these achievements are under siege, threatened by President Donald Trump’s war on women, on people of color and on this country’s values and democratic institutions.
We must fight back in 2020. And we have to look past Trump toward the future and choose a presidential candidate who can build that bridge forward.
We’ve always known what so many in the national media are now saying: Women of color will be key to that decision. Joe Biden has always known that, too, and his record proves that he’ll work hard for us now, as he always has.
He’ll protect and expand Obamacare, not scrap it, and he’ll institute innovative partnerships to narrow the maternal mortality gap. He’ll pass sweeping criminal justice reforms, including fairer sentencing, an end to cash bail and a more compassionate and constructive juvenile justice system. And he’ll stand against the racism and hate crimes that have surged under Trump—including by enacting meaningful gun controls to not only protect our children from mass shootings but also from the countless unreported gun tragedies that kill thousands more every year.
Recent years have seen a groundswell in political activism among women, who’ve not only marched but voted and run for office in record numbers. Now it’s time to prepare for 2020.
There’s no doubt that we’re in a battle for the soul of this nation, and I’m certain that Joe Biden is the best-equipped to lead the fight and to remind us who we are and how far we’ve come as a nation.
Democratic voters can be proud to unite around him.
Carol Moseley Braun served as United States Ambassador to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa and was U.S. Senator from Illinois. Now, she is serving in her favorite role as a grandmother to twins.