The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Why Trump thinks Stacey Abrams — one of 2018′s most experienced candidates — is unqualified to be governor

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate running for governor in Georgia, talked the The Washington Post about overcoming race and gender barriers in politics. (Video: Joyce Koh/The Washington Post, Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

Stacey Abrams is spending the final weekend of the midterm elections hoping to make history as the nation’s first black female governor. But to hear President Trump tell it, the Georgia Democrat is unqualified.

Trump has not said exactly why he thinks Abrams is unqualified, but he has communicated why he thinks Ron DeSantis, a former Republican congressman running for governor in neighboring Florida, is.

Last week, Trump sent out a tweet Monday in support of DeSantis, citing his Yale undergraduate education and 5½ years in the House of Representatives.

Last Thursday, he opined on Abrams, telling reporters: “She is not qualified to be the governor of Georgia, not qualified."

“Take a look at her past, take a look at her history, take a look at what she wants to do and what she has in mind for the state. That state will be in big, big trouble very quickly, and the people of Georgia don’t want that,” Trump said.

But this past Sunday, Abrams dismissed the president’s assessment of her abilities. She said on NBC’s Meet the Press:

“I find his assessments to be vapid and shallow. I am the most qualified candidate. I am a business owner. I am a tax attorney who was trained at Yale Law School. I am a civic leader who helped register more than 200,000 Georgians.”

Let’s take a look at Abrams’s past and compare it with that of DeSantis, who Trump thinks would be “a great governor.”

Abrams has a doctorate from Yale Law School, the top law school in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. It’s also the same law school as Trump’s most recent Supreme Court pick, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. She also has a master’s degree in public policy and has a longer lawmaking career than DeSantis, even serving as minority leader in Georgia’s House of Representatives.

DeSantis held no leadership positions while in Congress. And Brian Kemp, Abrams’s Republican opponent in the governor’s race, also held no leadership positions while serving the state Senate. (Kemp is Georgia’s secretary of state, but he has been accused of using that position to suppress the vote of more than 50,000 Georgia residents by refusing to approve their registration applications. A judge has ordered that they be allowed to vote.)

In fact, Abrams has more elite education and lawmaking experience than Trump himself. So how could she be “unqualified” for the job for which some say she’s been preparing since the days when Trump was a Democrat?

Racism and sexism, according to Trump critics.

Judging by his comments and the policies he proposes, many Americans consider Trump to be racist and sexist. Given Abrams’s identity as a black woman, some conclude that this makes her “unqualified” to be the most powerful politico in Georgia, a state that Trump won in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has a history of dismissing black women and the concerns and experiences that they bring to the table.

Abrams supporter Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) — who Trump frequently calls “a low IQ” individual — is one of his most frequent targets of derision. And media icon Oprah Winfrey, who campaigned for Abrams this week, has found herself on the receiving end of Trump attacks, after conversations about her running against Trump in 2020 picked up.

In the 2016 exit polls, 76 percent of black women said they were “scared” of a Trump win. And in a Gallup poll the summer before the election, 72 percent of black women said they “strongly agreed” that they were afraid of what would happen if their preferred candidate did not win the election.

This is perhaps why black women are one of the groups that voted against Trump at the highest rate in 2016 — and are expected to continue to show their lack of support for the Republican Party in this year’s midterm elections.

Trump knows this and lobs vague but dismissive terms like “unqualified” toward Abrams because it is effective with his base by speaking to the “cultural anxiety” many expressed about a diversifying America without having to actually unpack his attack.

To Trump’s base, which is well represented in Georgia, Abrams is unqualified, despite her many merits. But also consider that Georgia is on track to be the first Southern state that will be majority-minority and that Abrams’s identities, experience and worldview reflect those of many of the state’s residents.

Ultimately, Trump is arguing that Abrams lacks the qualifications to lead Georgia in the type of nation that he and his supporters envision.

Anyone paying attention to Georgia’s gubernatorial race knows that Abrams has no interest in backing Trump’s vision. She wants to dismantle it.