An Interview with Randa Bronson
Randa Bronson was recently nominated for Time’s list of the world’s most influential people, and she got our attention as well — not only is she a military spouse, but she campaigned hard for Barack Obama. Anytime we run across another liberal milspouse, we want to talk, and Randa was gracious enough — between working at her office job, caring for their three children while her husband’s deployed, and planning for an upcoming move — to answer a few questions.
I was doing what I felt needed to be done, for myself, my husband, my kids, and for everyone else in this country, so I did it.
The past year has been quite a ride for you. First you were mentioned at the Democratic convention, then you were in the running for the Time 100. How did you come to Howard Dean’s attention? How has life changed since then?
I came to Howard Dean’s attention when he was on his “Register for Change” tour. He made several stops in Georgia, and Macon happened to be one of them. I had been volunteering at our local Obama office every waking hour since the house party I attended, so, when asked by the Dean people to get two volunteers to do a speech with Dean to encourage people to volunteer, the regional field director for our office chose myself and my friend Christine. We met with Gov. Dean and told our stories of volunteering.
Since that, my life has changed in the recognition I receive. In my eyes, I am just one of many. I believe that very little recognition is given to the people who deserve it most, whether it be military spouses, children of military members, or people who pour their hearts into some form of volunteering to help those less fortunate. And because of paths crossing, I am now receiving the recognition that I think many, many people should.
You’ve said that you weren’t very interested or active in politics before last year. Were you already leaning left before your husband deployed for the third time? Was it Obama specifically, or do you think you would have supported any Democratic candidate?
I was never registered to vote, nor cared to vote before this election. I can say that had I ever voted prior, it would not have been for a Republican, so yes, I guess you can say I was leaning left prior to his deployment. I would have voted for a Democrat in this election; however, it was Obama who inspired me to register myself to vote. Had he not been in the running, I probably wouldn’t have voted nor been interested in giving other people a voice to vote.
Since the campaign, have you continued to be involved in local politics? How has your Obama experience has translated to issues or dynamics at the local level?
Since the campaign, I have not been very involved in local politics, mostly because after being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, I was scooped up by a local optometrist who volunteered on the campaign and thought I would be a great addition to his office. I thought I might enjoy the job, so I decided to start working and boy, did that take away a lot of my time. I did attend an Organizing for America meeting this past weekend that I found extremely informative and will probably get more involved in after our move to Fort Campbell.
You’re still working with Blue Star Families. Have you had much contact with the administration after the election? Are you one of the go-to milspouses now?
I joined BSF in Denver at the Veterans and Military Families Caucus. I haven’t had much interaction with them until recently. No, I’m not one of the go-to milspouses now.
With your higher profile now, do you feel any added pressure? Do other spouses have ideas on how you should be representing them?
I really don’t see myself with a “higher profile” now, so no, I don’t feel any added pressure. I haven’t heard any spouses say how they think I should be representing them. Had I, I might be feeling the pressure!
Have you gotten any blowback from more conservative members of the military or spouses?
No blowback from conservative spouses nor military members. Hopefully, that won’t happen.
When I lived in an Army town in Georgia, I was the only Democrat I knew. Do you think the numbers are shifting at all? Do we still need to keep our heads down, or is it almost OK to be one? What advice do you have for liberal milspouses?
Maybe I am naive, but it never crossed my mind that as a military spouse, I probably shouldn’t have been volunteering for a Democrat. I was just doing what felt right in my heart. I never felt the need to hold my head down. I wanted to give people who felt like they had never had a voice before, a voice. I knew what they felt like; I always felt as if my vote, milspouse or not, was never going to be heard, so why bother. But the minute I realized that it would be heard, and I could give other people the realization that theirs too would be heard, I was addicted.
I think it’s OK to be one, as you put it, whatever that “one” might be. Just be yourself. I never thought that I was doing something bad by being a Democratic milspouse, and if I thought that, I would be giving other people the opportunity to think that with me. I was doing what I felt needed to be done, for myself, my husband, my kids, and for everyone else in this country, so I did it.
I realize the movers haven’t even picked up your household goods yet, but do you have concrete plans to stay involved politically after you PCS?
As far as staying active politically, I will probably do more with Organizing for America once we get settled. In addition to that, only time will tell. I loved my experience during this campaign. I learned so much about myself and met so many amazing people that it will be hard not to stay active in some way in the future.