90,000 Americans are dead.
1,400,000 confirmed U.S. cases.
36,000,000+ unemployment claims filed.
— CAP Action (@CAPAction) May 18, 2020
The Washington Post did an anodyne and extremely predictable beat-sweetener on “The Power of Stacey Abrams” last week, and it completely unhinged that portion of the Very Serious Commentariat which would predictably come unhinged at the very possibility that a voting-rights activist might be getting serious attention. Give Jen Rubin her due, she can hear the dog whistles:
There is now a whole genre of right-wing punditry declaring, in hysterical and angry tones, that Stacey Abrams would be the worst pick in the history of vice-presidential picks. No, really. The people who defend their vote for President Trump, who support the most unqualified Cabinet in history and who think political experience is overrated now see a catastrophe if the former minority leader of the Georgia state House, the founder of Fair Fight and Fair Count and a rising star in the Democratic Party is picked as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee…
Why all the venom? Let’s begin with the assumption that it is perfectly reasonable to argue she is not the best VP choice or that her lack of national experience would weaken the ticket. But the anger, the determination to ignore her accomplishments (she did found a voting rights group, deliver a response to the State of the Union and hold the minority leader position in her state for more than half a decade), the resentment over her insistence on calling out voter suppression as the reason for her loss and feigned offense at her ambition (horrors!) smack of racism. I suggest the tone of these voices — How dare she?! — would be far different if, say, Pete Buttigieg or Beto O’Rourke were promoting themselves for the job.
Abrams has committed the cardinal sin for an African American woman in the eyes of the right: She will not accept the legitimacy of elections won through voter suppression, and she will not be appropriately docile and humble. Unfortunately, I fear that this is just the beginning of the thinly disguised racism that we will see should former vice president Joe Biden select an African American as his running mate…
Abrams’ political style is “Person Who Is Never Afraid to Demand What Her Constituents Need”, which puts her squarely in the camp of such political stars as Shirley Chisholm (“If they won’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair”), Bella Abzug, and Ann Richards, among others. The current Democratic quest for Biden’s VP gives her a space to advocate for her goals, and she’s out there doing the work.
Some samples: From the AP, Q&A: Stacey Abrams is ready to serve but not on top court
… AP: The pandemic has elevated calls for mail voting. Can states make the changes necessary for that by November?
ABRAMS: No-excuse absentee balloting has to become the law of the land. It’s so critical that the next (pandemic response bill from Congress) include the $4 billion or $3.6 billion to help every state scale (up their absentee mail balloting.) The reality is we cannot afford not to do this. We have no excuse not to comply and not to meet our responsibilities for democracy, and it’s absolutely possible if we scale it up.
AP: The president said recently that people “cheat” by mail voting. How do you compete with that given his platform?
ABRAMS: I would ask journalists to tell the truth, which is that voter fraud is almost nonexistent. Donald Trump voted by mail. It is actually the safest and most accessible way of voting. In 2017, Donald Trump convened a voter fraud task force. It was so impossible to prove rampant voter fraud that they disbanded the committee before they had to issue a report…
AP: Can you talk about black identity politics and what might seem to be a more accepting environment for “blackness” in politics today?
ABRAMS: Writ large, identity politics simply means I can see you, and I understand that there are barriers to your ability to access what is considered a general good.
I enter this space as a black woman with natural hair, who does not look like everyone else. That doesn’t diminish my capacity to be effective, but it heightens my responsibility to be vocal.
Going back to COVID-19, black people are dying at a higher rate here in Georgia: 32% of the population, 54% of the deaths. That’s directly tied to identity, and if we do not acknowledge it, we are never going to find the solutions to address it. And so I think identity politics is a necessary part of our politics, but it’s also not new.
This nation began with identity politics. White men who owned land were allowed to vote and no one else was. That is the most strident degree of identity politics I think you can imagine, and what makes America such an important country is that we evolve, we continue to expand who is a part of our narrative and who has access to leadership (and) access to opportunity.
AP: The bottom line for November – do you believe that 50 states will be able to put together a fair election, an accurate count of the public will?
ABRAMS: Yes, we can have a free and fair election if, one, we have federal investment in those state elections now. Because this is a matter not simply of will, but of capacity. What I want everyone to pay attention to is that as Democrats work to expand access to the right to vote for all Americans, Republicans are doing their level best to limit that access. Why would we want to limit access to our democracy? That should be a question every person asks.