On Election Day, Stacey Abrams could make history. If she prevails over Republican Brian Kemp a week from now, she would not only become the first African American governor of Georgia, Abrams would also become the first black female governor ever elected in the United States.
A Twitter follower was the one who put Abrams on my radar screen. I didn’t meet her until months later when I moderated a panel on voting rights that Abrams participated in during a Congressional Black Caucus conference in September 2017. She blew me away. This latest episode of “Cape Up” is a rerun of the podcast interview I did with Abrams the day after that panel.
I started the conversation, which took place before long before the May 2018 Democratic primary, with a tart observation. That there were folks out there who said, “She’s not gonna win.” Abrams was ready with an answer.
“People think I’m not gonna win because they’re still remembering the Georgia of ‘Gone with the Wind’ or maybe they’re conflating it with Selma,” Abrams told me. Noting that many African American families of the Great Migration were returning to the state, Abrams added, “We have one of the fastest-growing immigrant populations in the nation. Latino, Korean, Indian, Chinese and African diaspora. And so, the reality is, the Georgia that people think they know is not the Georgia that is.”
“The problem is, my party in particular, which tends to be the party that builds those coalitions, has not done the work of building the coalition of people of color,” Abrams continued. “We’ve traditionally left them out of the politics, treated them as base voters, meaning they’ll show up if we have an election, and not as persuasion voters, who need to have the same degree of intensity and intentionality in our campaigning as we give to majority voters, to white voters.”
By the way, Abrams won the Democratic primary by 53 percentage points.
And in that tug-of-war of whether the Democratic Party should win back white working-class voters, Abrams cuts through the obsession. “When we say white working class, what we mean is try to convince Republicans to become Democrats,” she explained. “We call it white working class, but what we mean is that we wanna convince these Republicans to come back to the party.
“My job is not to convince you that your beliefs are wrong. My job is to convince you that the pathway to getting what you need comes through the work I’m willing to do. And so, my focus is not on the white working class, not to the exclusion of — it’s not saying they don’t deserve good leadership, but I’m not gonna change what I believe in order to court your vote.”
“Democrats have to be willing to stand on our own truth consistently,” said Abrams, in a sign that Democrats were no longer afraid to run proudly as members of their party.
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