Parenthood’s Kristina Braverman Deserved to Lose

Website-Kristina-Braverman-Campaign-Poster

Kristina Braverman‘s message: I care (Pinterest.com).

I appreciate that Kristina Braverman finally acknowledged on Parenthood that she should have gone negative in her race for mayor of Berkeley. But my opinion remains unchanged: she deserved to lose.

Kristina is generally likeable, and her seizing the day and running for office in the wake of her cancer is admirable. However, even by her own (atypical political) standards, she was a bad candidate.

As someone who got her political start in local campaigns, I watched this campaign with some interest. It flopped in some ways I previously experienced first-hand, including the sexual harassment of young female staffers. Of course, this reality clashed with Kristina’s public image. Kristina ran as the mother who truly cared. She was not only a mother experienced with advocating for her own kids – especially her son with Asperger’s – but she also promised to  advocate for everyone else’s kids too.

The turning point, when it looked like upstart-candidate Kristina might win, was during the race’s one debate. Kristina connected with the audience by acing a question about special needs kids in public schools. The questioner’s deaf daughter was struggling to find sufficient help in her new school; Kristina not only promised she would fight for the woman’s daughter, but also shared her personal phone number and closed with a hug. There was no doubt she was the warm candidate, the one you’d gladly invite over for dinner.

However, Kristina’s main opponent, Bob Little, was a slimy guy who ran a much rougher – and more typical – campaign. If Kristina had really been running to win, she would have used the personally verified dirt she had on Bob. Dirt that she announced a press conference to share before chickening out, much to the chagrin of her hard-charging, Obama-trained campaign manager.

The dirt in question involved Bob Little’s inappropriately pursuing Kristina’s niece, Amber, two years earlier. Kristina walked in on them at work. Amber was 19-years-old at the time, while Bob was about 10 years her senior and needless to say had significantly more power in the situation.

Amber knew that Kristina needed to punch back, and she encouraged Kristina’s to use her bad Bob experience for the cause. Kristina’s campaign manager insisted it was the right move, and campaign-wise, it was. However, Kristina buckled at the last minute. As a mother looking to run a moral high-ground campaign, she decided she couldn’t publicly roll in Bob’s dirt. And since that was her standard, that’s the standard by which we should judge her complete and utter failure. In more situations than I care to count early in my political career, I was Amber, and the adult women (and men) around me did nothing to intervene and shut down my Bob Littles.

There was the local race I worked during my senior spring of high school. It was an open secret that the campaign manager, 10 years my senior, wanted to ask me out, but felt restrained by New York’s statutory rape laws. I’ll never forget the campaign’s female fundraiser calling out across the cramped office one afternoon, remarking how inconvenient it was that I wouldn’t be 18 until the fall. Of course, I felt more preyed upon than inconvenienced.

The next summer, someone recommended me to another campaign. I interviewed but didn’t get the job. It seems the real clincher credential was a willingness to sleep with the interviewer, which another woman had volunteered to do. My middle-aged recommender felt terrible and invited me into his office to apologize, which he did, before proceeding to tell me how hard it was to be away from his family, and how he had a hotel room only a few blocks away . . . I quickly left (alone).

All of this is to say, campaigns can be wonderful, exciting, chaotic fun, but they can also be petri dishes for terrible, harassing behavior. If Kristina wanted to run as a caring maternal type, her behavior should have matched her words. That would have included speaking out for the less powerful people around her, like Amber.

By keeping Bob Little’s inappropriate behavior hush-hush, Kristina allowed Bob to win. She also increased the likelihood that the newly powerful Bob will feel free to act out again. And really, how many Ambers must there be?

This article appeared in Acculturated.

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