Abrams gave a version of what would be a stump speech if she were in fact running. Recapping the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race, she cited her ability to turnout both African Americans and whites. “In 2018, I accomplished something no one has accomplished since Bill Clinton: I increased the white share of Democratic votes in the state of Georgia." She argued that by appealing to minority voters, she also juiced up the white vote for Democrats. She clearly acknowledged that Republican Brian Kemp is the “legal” elected governor but refused to endorse what she calls “one of the best voter-suppression systems in the country.” She detailed what is now a familiar litany of efforts to limit the ability of nonwhites to vote. Her state is afflicted with registration suppression, access suppression and counting problems (or, she wise-cracked, “which I like to refer to as Florida”). Abrams’s speech set down a marker for the candidates: Every candidate should talk every day about voter suppression.
The more interesting and controversial portion of her remarks focused on identity politics. Coming at a time when South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg recently criticized identity politics, her comments took on extra weight. She said “identity politics” is now “a dog whistle” used by people who do not want to see communities of color. In her nomenclature, identity politics is simply about seeing and understanding specific groups that have unique needs. Without that, there is a lack of trust between these communities and politicians, she explained, and without trust, "they have no reason to engage and no reason to show up.” Though not criticizing any presidential candidate, her emphasis on bringing in new talent and having candidates who look like the communities they represent could be seen as implicitly rebuking the old guard of white, male candidates.
Her speech was remarkable on several counts. First, she is a powerful presence in the room. Her intensity, focus and wit allow her to transfix a room, even without natural applause lines. Second, she is one of the few Democrats who can convince people of the connection between a system in which it’s considered a problem “when too many people can use democracy” and the negative outcomes that harm these voters, including failure to extend Medicaid, abortion bans and education funding. Unless marginalized voters can vote easily, the policy outcomes simply won’t change. Third, she dissects better than any politician the systemic problem of voter suppression which long predates President Trump. A system in which voting is not a burden especially for working people (Abrams noted that if you make Georgia’s minimum wage, $5.15 an hour, you cannot afford to take a half-day off from work to stand in a voting line for four hours) will not produce outcomes like the 2016 presidential race. It is not a coincidence that midterms with the historic turnout produced a Democratic takeover of the House and the most diverse House of Representatives ever.
Abrams’s message is simple but compelling: An electorate that looks like the United States will produce progressive outcomes.