The narrative about her has been that, unflinching and undefeated, she is fighting a fair battle against the voter suppression that denied her her rightful victory the first time around, and as a charismatic figure of limitless talent, she is headed toward bigger and better things than narrow defeats in state elections.
As it happens, he may be headed for an even less narrow defeat in the exact same state election. Come November, he may look more like Beto O’Rourke than Barack Obama.
There is no doubt that Abrams is a talented organizer whose voter registration and turnout efforts helped move the needle in Georgia. He also has acting ability and the enthusiastic support of a group of loyalists, a category of people that seemingly includes everyone who profiles her.
New York Magazine wondered in the headline of her 2019 profile if she would run for governor, senator, vice president, or president: the world was in her hands. Vogue asked, “Can Stacey Abrams save American democracy?” A Washington Post magazine article about her included a moody, artistic image of her staring off into the distance in what looked like a superhero’s cape.
The problem is that all the hagiography never dealt with the reality of her loss in 2018, instead taking for granted her version that unjust voting restrictions brought her down. It also failed to sufficiently account for what it takes to be elected statewide in Georgia as a Democrat in the normal course of things (i.e. when Trump isn’t sabotaging his own side), which is crossover appeal or, in his defect, genuine political talent once in a generation.
Although you would never know it by reading his press, Abrams hasn’t shown it either.
To his credit, he came close in 2018, but his case against Georgia’s electoral system as a sinkhole for racist voter suppression never made any sense.
Georgia adopted both no-excuse absentee voting and widespread early voting more than a decade ago. The state has had automatic registration since 2016 and allows people to register online.
Turnout in the last elections has been very strong. In 2018, for example, it far exceeded the previous midterm elections of 2014.
His specific complaints about the 2018 election also fail. He has made a big deal out of closing venues across the state. But this was not a statewide or Republican initiative. Counties make these decisions on their own, and it’s usually for budgetary reasons or to get a polling place out of rundown buildings.
He attacked the so-called “use it or lose it” rule that removes voters from the rolls when they become inactive. However, this was not a draconian or arbitrary provision. It used to take about seven years from start to finish, after someone didn’t vote in multiple elections and didn’t respond to multiple notes; now the process takes about nine years. (If someone was removed by mistake, he can always re-register.)
He complained bitterly about the so-called “pending” file, an interim status if a record didn’t match a driver’s license or Social Security records. But voters have more than two years to address these issues and can still show up and vote with ID at polling places.
Nobody bothered to examine any of his claims particularly closely; instead, he simply became a gospel Democrat who had been robbed of the election. When Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren slammed Kemp for signing Georgia’s election law last year, she said, “The Republican sitting in Stacey Abrams’s chair just signed into law a despicable voter suppression bill to bring Georgia back.” to be Jim Crow.”
Of late, Abrams has been at pains to soften her claims about 2018, likely worried about looking like a sore loser and mindful of comparisons to Trump. She recently said: “I refuse to concede [to] a system that allows denying access to citizens. That is very different from someone claiming a fraudulent result.”
Actually, it’s not that different. It is true that she has not alleged that no one double-counted the votes or that Venezuela tampered with the machines. Yet when he says, in his book, that Kemp is “a racist demagogue who carefully disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Georgians,” and that the state “removed voters from the rolls, he ensured that thousands would not be able to cast their vote and blocked thousands more from voting.” counted”, she obviously she is questioning the legitimacy and fairness of the elections.
That’s wrong when Trump does it, and it’s wrong when she does it.
The outpouring of attention Abrams received after her first run for governor must have been gratifying: who doesn’t welcome effusively positive press? – However, she surely has played into her fights this time. In 2018, she was a new figure; she is now well defined as a national progressive celebrity, a status that would be an absolute boon in California or New York, but not in Georgia.
It would take considerable skill to fix this, and instead Abrams has added to their problems.
The fact that MLB pulled the All-Star Game from Atlanta due to the new voting law put it in an awkward spot. She did not support boycotts of Georgia in response to the law.
In a USA Today op-ed, he wrote: “Boycotts are complicated issues that require a long-term commitment to action. I have no doubt that voters of color, particularly black voters, are willing to put up with the hardships of boycotts. But I don’t think that’s necessary, yet.”
The problem, however, is that if you use your platform and credibility to portray your state as the home of horribly racist voter suppression, it’s hard to expect corporations that are hypersensitive to accusations of racism to not react.
On the other hand, for some reason, Abrams also found a way to be somewhere else when Joe Biden came to the state to give a major speech on his main issue of voting rights last year.
Whether he just wanted to avoid associating himself with Biden, or didn’t want anyone else stealing the limelight from him on the issue, it was a strange choice, too smart in the middle.
More accordingly, it recently rated Georgia as the “worst state in the country to live in.” Her attempt to cleanse it of her was to call the comment “inelegant,” which is a euphemism for an unforced error that, from the moment she uttered it, would clearly haunt her every day in the future. And so it has been.
In recent polls, he’s trailed by as little as 2 points or as much as 11. A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published an article titled “Democrats Worry as Stacey Abrams Battles in the Governor’s Race.” Georgia”, perhaps the hardest. that has been written about her in a major national publication.
The Times examined various reasons why it might underperform, including the effects of sexism. That idea feels like a test of what a new excuse will be, and not a very plausible one, given that neighboring Alabama has a female governor, if Abrams again fails to rise to the top.
A more legitimate reason is that he is running against Kemp, an entrenched incumbent who has proven to be an incredibly skilled politician. How many Republican officials have frankly defied Trump, as Kemp did after the 2020 election, and lived to tell the tale? (The next time, by the way, that Kemp poses in a photo shoot for a flattering profile in Vanity Fair or Teen Vogue will presumably be the first.)
Toppling him was never going to be easy, but it’s those challenges that make political stars genuine.