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Former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun On The 2016 Election

It’s been an interesting week to be alive! Two years of intense campaigning culminated on Tuesday in the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

To help us put the election into context, we’re joined by Carol Moseley Braun, the first African American woman to serve as a United States senator.

She tells us about that time in 1993 when she and Barbara Mikulski became the first female Senators to wear pants on the Senate floor. Yep, not a typo: 1993.

WBEZ’s Greta Johnsen and Tricia Bobeda spoke with Carol Moseley Braun on Thursday about the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, pants and the future.   

On her reaction to the 2016 presidential election

“It was not a happy outcome from my perspective. I am brokenhearted. I know Hillary Clinton would have been a fabulous president, not only because of her credentials and her qualifications, but her heart’s in the right place. So for me it’s devastating on so many different levels, both personally and politically and even as an American citizen.

“Having said that, however, I think it’s really important that people recognize that in this country, we have to have a peaceful transition of power. We have to come together, we have to work together, we have to give this president a chance. There were people who felt as strongly when Barack Obama got elected, and we were angry - at least I was upset with them - that they wouldn’t come along and support the duly elected president. And that’s who Donald Trump will be: the president of all of us. And so we really have to hold him accountable, hold his feet to the fire, but at the same time be prepared to give him a shot, give him a chance to govern, because government and politics are two different things.”

On her decision to run in the 2004 presidential race

“My little niece at the time was 11. She was doing her social studies homework, and she said to me, ‘Aunty Carol, all the presidents are boys.’  You open up her book, she had pictures of all the presidents, and they were all boys. And I said, ‘Oh Claire, girls can be president too.’

“I was so shaken because I realized I had just lied to her. And so my brother said to me, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to run for president.’

“I didn’t know I was going to take these steps. They just came. They were natural extensions of who I am, and I just follow one step in front of the other.”

On starting the pantsuit revolution

“I had a really nice - I won’t name the brand - but a really nice pantsuit. I was going to wear it to work. And it’s like, ‘Why shouldn’t I wear this?’  

“It was one of those unwritten rules that they don’t tell you about unless you’re part of the circle. And nobody was talking to me about these things, so I had no clue. I just didn’t know any better; I was wearing my nice outfit, I thought. And I walked onto the floor of the Senate, and the gasps were audible. And again. it’s like. ‘What’s up? What’s the problem?’ It’s not like I had on a kilt.

“What happened next was that other people started wearing pants. All the women staffers went to their bosses and said. ‘If this senator can wear pants, then why can’t I?’ And so it was the pantsuit revolution.”

On what the future holds

“We will get a woman president here in the United States. This is the greatest and most powerful country in the world. There is no reason that we have not had a woman president. We will, one day, get it.” 

Then-First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton raises hands with then-U.S. Sen. Carol Mosely-Braun, D-Ill., on Oct. 23, 1998, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Michael S. Green)

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