Why Stacey Abrams Is the Future for Democrats

“We are going to inspire voters who, for the first time, see their values in the candidate, and see the investment follow those values,” Abrams says.

By Jamil Smith | Rolling Stone Magazine | July 23, 2018

 

When you are black and fortunate enough to exist in an environment where your intelligence is valued and nurtured, you will inevitably be the First and Only. It could happen in a boardroom or a college seminar or a tournament – there are too many American venues where your blackness, treated like its own achievement, is used as a cloak for the past sins of others. Being the First and Only is rarely something to celebrate, and it can be a lonely way to make history.

Stacey Abrams doesn’t give much of a damn, though. Certainly, the 44-year-old former Georgia House minority leader is the only black woman to have led either party in the state’s General Assembly or its House of Representatives. And now she is the first black woman of a major party to be nominated for governor in any state. That last part is likely why you’ve heard of her, though she is also running the campaign many liberals wish all Democrats would: Namely, forget compromising on issues like civil rights and abortion access; run candidates who look like your base; and stop devoting so much time, energy and money to winning over people who will never vote for you. “My approach is this,” Abrams says. “I’m not going to spend a disproportionate share of our resources trying to convert Republican-leaning voters when we can invest in lifting up the voices of those who share our values. Because here’s the thing: I think our values are the right ones. And I think these values that are shared actually are going to be victorious on their own.”

Abrams’ white, center-left primary opponent, fellow former Georgia House Rep. Stacey Evans, would have been the presumptive favorite in elections past. Like many Democrats, Evans was accustomed to a tired bit of strategy: The only way the left has a chance in the South is to be white and go right. During the campaign, she called Abrams’ progressive-centered approach “unhealthy for democracy.” It didn’t matter: On May 22nd, Abrams defeated her fellow Stacey by more than 50 points, winning all but six of Georgia’s 159 counties – including 63 percent of lily-white Forsyth County, known to local residents for generations for its hostility to African-Americans.

When Abrams spoke with Rolling Stone, she felt unencumbered by the moment.