As the first black woman to be nominated for governor by any major party, Stacey Abrams makes history. Now she needs critical support to win, says political analyst Anoa Changa
EZE JACKSON: It’s the Real News. I’m Eze Jackson. Stacey Abrams could be the first black woman governor in the U.S. The mid-term general election will mostly go down on November 6, but in the meantime primary races are happening all over the country. On Tuesday, voters in Georgia turned out to make a decision in a gubernatorial Democratic primary that was pegged the Battle of the Staceys, with Stacey Evans and Stacey Abrams, two lawyers and former state legislators, competed for the Democratic Party’s nomination. Stacey Abrams came out on top, becoming the first black woman to win a Georgia Democratic Party nomination. This puts Abrams on the path to possibly become the first Democratic governor to be a black woman of Georgia, and the first Democratic governor since 1998.
Here to talk with me about this race is political analyst Anoa Changa. She’s also the host of the podcast The Way with Anoa. Welcome. Thanks for joining us, Anoa.
ANOA CHANGA: Thank you guys for having me.
EZE JACKSON: So this primary win is being celebrated in Georgia, I’m sure. What does this mean for the Democrats in Georgia?
ANOA CHANGA: This was definitely a referendum, a mandate, a definitive determination of the path forward. One thing about this race, it has been depicted as, like, a battle between two competing strategies. And for many of us who began to either support a leader Abrams, or had already been supporting Abrams, or came to support her, saw, once you see the numbers, once you see the demographics, once you see the plan that she’s talking about, it’s a no-brainer.
And so the fight over the past 10, 11 months with those who were in the Evans camp, and those other, more traditional, almost, entrenched Dixiecrat types, to get them to understand why this is a viable option. The issue of viability. You know, there was so much wrapped up into her being a black woman, her being a larger-framed black woman with natural hair, who’s unmarried. I mean, it was just so much there. So for this win to happen, and for the margin, the margin of victory to be so huge, well above any of the polling, it’s definitely a resounding referendum on the issues, on the strategy, and platform that Stacey Abrams, the vision that she was putting forward.
EZE JACKSON: OK. Talk to me a little bit about some specifics about her platform. What kinds of change can we expect to see Abrams bring about if she wins this race? Do you think she has the support that, the support in the state legislature to actually get things done?
ANOA CHANGA: So I think it’s twofold, right. I think that she has the leadership necessary to get a legislature that will be, over the course of hopefully two terms, to get something that’s more amenable, to be able to pass a lot of legislative efforts that we need to see here in Georgia, right. That’s one thing. I think her leadership has already shown her ability to either, not just hold on to seats, but actually expand seats, when we’ve seen seats being lost across the country. She’s been able to do that here, basically by putting tried-and-true methods that she’s applying now in her own campaign.
But I do think that she has respect, actually, and the negotiation skills to work with the existing Republican-dominated legislature to get things like Medicaid expansion moving forward. To get things like there, there was some really great legislation that was passed regarding transit here in the state. However, there was no actual teeth in terms of funding mechanisms in that, and that’s something that she’s also committed to, making sure there’s actually money to meet the needs of, of transit. Not just in our metro areas like Atlanta, but also in more rural communities. And not just mass transit, but also looking at paratransit. Public education has been a huge priority of hers, as well as investing in not just Pre-K, but basically that whole birth-to-three pathway. Because if we’re not starting kids out on the right framework, you know, it leads to other challenges going down the line.
And I think that she has been able to, again, leverage collaborative instances, to be able to, to move things across her career. So I look forward to seeing not just what she’s able to do as governor, but what we as an engaged electorate can do to push our elected officials, to push her forward on, over the next term when she’s elected governor. .
EZE JACKSON: Yeah, I think that’s an important point to make when we talk about these midterm elections, and voters being engaged, and actually paying attention and pushing candidates. Because Abrams ran on a platform that championed progressive issues, you know, like you mentioned, education, economic equity, and affordable health care. But some people have called some of her progressive values into question, like this article last year from Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report. He noted that she endorsed school privatization. And then Zaid Jilani from the Intercept pointed out some inconsistencies, like how she was backed by Koch Industries in 2014 and 2016, who we know is a heavy Republican contributor. What’s your response to these critiques? What should people use as a litmus test when, when backing these candidates?
ANOA CHANGA: I think the issues that Bruce Dixon, who’s someone I absolutely, like, adore and admire a lot, are actually something that we need to be looking at across the board, whether we’re talking about black [electeds] or anyone in general. And Bruce, actually, with his longstanding history in politics, has a very thoughtful process. It can be, sometimes his writing can be considered, by some, confrontational. But I really do think it takes into consideration conversations to be had.
So my understanding of the differences in some of the legislation that came down were negotiations that Democrats, and even some of the labor unions, were more amenable to in terms of getting certain legislative efforts passed, after already defeating a more severe version of legislation that would have turned over schools in black and brown communities to, you know, some unilateral state turnaround czar. Which, unfortunately, ended up happening through other means, anyway.
So I think the criticism, critique that Bruce raises, and that the Black Agenda Report raises in general, is something that we as activists, organizers, those who don’t exist within that the internal Democrat space, should definitely be keeping those things in mind when we’re talking about people and deciding whether or not we’re going to be willing to stand in space with them in election time. But we don’t necessarily bite our tongues on these issues. I’ve not been one to disagree, or publicly state I disagree, on stances she’s taken. For example, the BDS vote that was taking place here, I think it was in 2016. She had the right vote. She voted along with most of the majority of the House caucus [inaudible] against a BDS bill while her opponent Stacey Evans voted for it. But she was put on the defensive and having to defend her vote earlier on in this election, and pledge this very undying love for Israel, which we’ve seen from so many Democrats across the country. We also know that issue is used to leverage negatively against black candidates. We saw it happen to Donna Edwards. We saw it happen to Keith Ellison. We saw it happen to Dwight Bullard down in Florida.
So I think that there is room to critique and support people in the same, in the same vein, because that’s how they improve and that’s how we get better representation. I’m one who refuses to cede ground in spaces because someone does not meet every single aspect. So I definitely appreciate [inaudible] criticism. Now, regarding the Intercept’s articles about Stacey Abrams, quite honestly, I don’t think that, I think that people should take any criticism coming out of the Intercept about anything happening here in Georgia with a grain of salt, because you have writers, you have two writers, who did not, who had their own personal bias, who have their own personal dislike and distrust based on whatever issues they have, and failed to, in their own advocacy for Stacey Evans, ever address any of the really glaring issues in her own record.
And At times, in an instance with redistricting, for example, actually distorted the issues involved. Because there was a piece by Lee Fang a couple of weeks ago about, you know, Stacey Abrams allegedly colluding with Republicans for racial gerrymandering, which is something that was only alleged by two Evans surrogates, who are not indicated such in the article, and Republicans, when in fact they did not actually talk to the two POC candidates who were running in those districts who were Abrams supporters, one of whom, Sheikh Rahman, won the election last night, who is actually involved in that lawsuit that the NAACP has.
So there was a very heavy-handed way that those two writers for the Intercept, relying on the value and strength of the Intercept brand to push forth conversations that Stacey Abrams had, you know, voted on a piece of legislation that was allegedly going to include increased predatory lending and things like that, where Stacey Evans actually cosponsored legislation with Republicans that would have caused issues in terms of debt settlement programs, and debt management for families. And also, we recently saw a Root article come out that Stacey Evans, while in her eighth year at her first law firm, she represented countrywide banks in 2011.
So there are all these glaring issues. So I’m not one to ever justify, explain away people’s records. But at the same time I’m not, I’m not willing, particularly in progressive spaces, to cancel a candidate who may have made decisions or choices. I’m willing to hear people through, and also see the opportunity. Can we push them on these issues? Can We build with them? And what are they trying to do, what are they talking about? Because that was the case, we just cancel people automatically, progressives would’ve canceled, black progressives, we would’ve cancelled Bernie Sanders upon learning that he voted for the crime bill, regardless of what his justification. So that’s just real.
EZE JACKSON: Yeah, no, it’s totally real. I mean, the fact that, I think that Stacey Abrams is on a path to become the first black woman governor in 2018 brings up a very interesting point in terms of what’s going on in the country. But specifically in Georgia, like, Georgia, being a frontrunner right now, and a historically conservative state electing Stacey, I think, speaks volumes to, you know, the complexities that in this race. .
Now, the last thing, I got to wrap up with you, but we talked about this being the midterm election, and in a year of Trump, the importance of it. These elections could significantly affect the amount of things that the president is able to get done going forward. You’ve got a state senator named Michael Williams, former state co-chair of Trump’s campaign. He ran an ad featuring a deportation bus that he said would be used to send home people in the country illegally. The back of the bus warns of murderers, rapists, kidnappers, child molesters, and other criminals on board, and says, ‘Follow me to Mexico.’ Can Abrams and the Democratic base in Georgia fight down that kind of rhetoric? Do you think that can happen?
ANOA CHANGA: Absolutely. The problem, the problem is that-. The problem with someone like a Michael Williams is people, people will point to that instances like, ‘Oh my God,’ and think that someone like Casey Cagle, who’s the frontrunner, and has emerged and is going on to the runoff with-. Casey Cagle’s our lieutenant governor. Brian Kemp is our current secretary of state. They will, they will have a runoff in July. They will point to Michael Williams and say he’s so bad, but ignore the other two.
The problem is that, you know, trying to compete with moderate Republicans, we’ve already seen, we saw the strategy fail with Hillary Clinton in 2016. We saw it fail, turn right around John Ossoff in the 6th Congressional District. Moderate Republican or otherwise, they’re not going to leave the party. If they haven’t left the party already, considering everything that’s been happening, they’re not budging. Republicans are Republicans. They vote for the party line. That’s it. And What Stacey Abrams is promoting is not that we have to find some way to appease racists, appease people who are going to dehumanize others for votes. What we need to do is engage those who have been left out and disenfranchised while the Democrats have been chasing elusive moderate white Republicans.
So we already have the numbers here in Georgia. Gwinnett County, there’s so many different areas of the state that have already been rapidly expanding demographically, and we’re on track to be the first majority minority state in the South. So, and that’s a demographic change that’s happening within the next few years, and we already have the numbers. In a January 2018 op-ed, the Georgia Democratic Chairman DuBose Porter pointed out that consistently 23 percent of white voters vote Democrat in the state of Georgia. The Georgia electorate is 40 percent African-American, and that’s overwhelmingly voting Democrat. And then when you add in Asian, Pacific Islander voters, Latino voters, that, that whole portion of POC rises to 45 percent. So we have 45 percent of our electorate just straight off the top is POC. And then you add that 23 percent of white people who vote.
We are the majority of the electorate. Turnout isn’t key, investing in people is the key. Not chasing those, trying to pick off a few moderate Republican voters because people don’t want to actually have a clear definitive message on issues like immigration, like education, like expanding Medicaid. Running these moderate Democrats, centrist Democrats who are too afraid to, to offend people are losing, and have been losing since 1998 here in Georgia. So we have the numbers. We have the future on our side. And I really do believe that we will win.
EZE JACKSON: Well, we’re definitely going to be paying attention, Anoa. I’m glad we got a chance to talk. I hope that we can continue to talk from now until November a couple of times. You raise some awesome points. Hopefully we can get the whole country watching and pay attention to these midterm races, because they are very important. Thanks for rocking with us today.
ANOA CHANGA: Thanks for having me.
EZE JACKSON: All right. You’ve been listening to me talk to political analyst Anoa Changa. She’s the host of the podcast The Way with Anoa. I’m Eze Jackson, and this is the Real News.