Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams Vows to Continue to Fight Voter Suppression
Republican candidate Brian Kemp will be next Governor of Georgia, but Stacey Abrams vows a legal fight for voter rights while building a new movement
MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network, I’m Marc Steiner. It’s great having you with us.
Just earlier, Stacey Abrams gave what might be called a non-concession speech. She realized, given the present circumstance, she could not win, and Brian Kemp would be the next governor of Georgia. But she would not concede an inch, because her opponent used every means at his disposal to suppress her vote and the Black vote in Georgia. Kemp was secretary of state of Georgia, so he had power over all voter registration and election day voting. She’ll have much more to say later and we’ll hear some of that and let me outline a little bit what of Stacey Abrams faced in this election and the ways he suppressed the vote, that’s Kemp I’m talking about.
He purged more than a million voters, most of them clearly members of her base, in the year before the election. He closed 214 polling places in six years, mainly in areas where her base voters resided. He put 53,000 voter registrations into limbo because of tiny inconsistencies, a missing hyphen in a name or a missing middle initial, 70 percent of whom would have been Abrams voters, most likely. And on election day, in the heart of her geographic base in Atlanta, 700 voting machines were mysteriously wrapped up and unused, causing hours and waiting for Black voters in that city. So what’s next for Stacey Abrams and the fight for the vote, and what does Georgia have to say about all this to the future of our country? Voting is key, as is the outside struggle, but something’s going on here, and Stacey Abrams is probably the key to that.
We are joined by Jaqueline Luqman, who is editor of Luqman Nation, a great journal. And welcome back to The Real News, Jacqueline, good to have you with us.
JAQUELINE LUQMAN: Thanks so much for having me back.
MARC STEINER: So I thought we’d begin by hearing a bit of what Stacey Abrams had to say to people today in not conceding and challenging but realizing that she could not become governor.
STACEY ABRAMS: Under the watch of the now former secretary of state, democracy failed Georgia, Georgians of every political party, every race, every region, again. Voting is not right for some, it is a right for all and it is not a privilege. I stand here today as witness to that truth. This election is about all of us, as is the resolution of this moment. I acknowledge that former Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election, but to watch an elected official who claims to represent the people in this state baldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling. So let’s be clear. This is not a speech of concession, because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that. But my assessment is the law currently allows no further viable remedy.
MARC STEINER: And that was just part of Stacey Abrams’ non-concession speech she gave today. Now, Jaqueline, this was a powerful speech she gave.
JAQUELINE LUQMAN: Yeah, I kind of choked up a little bit as I was hearing that little snippet again because I had said up in the weeks leading up to this midterm that the Georgia Election, in particular, would be like the litmus test for the direction this country would go for years to come. And it’s not that the results surprised me, because I’d known about Brian Kemp and his voter suppression for quite some time. But what surprised me was the response of some people after the election, because it just let me know how much more work we have to do.
MARC STEINER: And we do. I mean, that’s the issue here. I mean, I think that this election was an amazing election. First of all, here’s Stacey Abrams running for governor of Georgia, a Black Woman running for governor of Georgia. In the Democratic Primary, she won the majority of the white Democratic vote, and in the general, she won only twenty-six percent of the white vote. Most of that vote goes to the Republicans.
JAQUELINE LUQMAN: Right.
MARC STEINER: But the fact that if you take the number of votes that were suppressed, and people not allowed to vote, she could have won this election.
JAQUELINE LUQMAN: Yes.
MARC STEINER: We’re talking about Georgia.
JAQUELINE LUQMAN: I meant, the fact that she won the primary with the support she did from the Democratic Party, the fact that she did garner the support that she did from honestly – let’s be honest, in order for Stacey Abrams to have won that race, even with the voter suppression, she would have had to have garnered more than 30 percent of the white vote. So this is not a matter of – and this is the part of the response to this particular election, and the one in Florida, that angered me so much, is that people focused solely on the Black vote, how many Black people voted, or the percentage of Black people who voted for Stacey Abrams.
And they’re focusing on this exit poll, I think that was published by CNN, that said like 11 percent of Black people didn’t vote for Stacey Abrams. But that 11 percent of Black people didn’t lose her this election. The only 26 percent of white voters lost her the election in addition to the 1.7 million voters Brian Kemp disenfranchised. Those with the keys to her losing this election. And to blame her loss on 11 percent of the Black voter turnout is just looking at this problem of voter suppression in a really backwards, almost kind of white supremacist, upside down kind of way, where you’re blaming the victims almost.
MARC STEINER: So do you think she could have won without the voter suppression?
JAQUELINE LUQMAN: Yes, absolutely. I really do. But see, this is how we understand how important these votes were to the GOP and Brian Kemp. Because he wouldn’t have suppressed almost two million people, he wouldn’t have kept two million people from voting if he was concerned that they weren’t going to vote for him, right? I mean, if he was confident that he had a message that would resonate with this almost two million people, he would have left them alone. But he knew he didn’t. He knew that most of them, like you said, almost 70 percent of those people, were going to vote for the Democrat, any Democrat. And with Stacey Abrams’ message, they absolutely would have voted for her, and he could not risk that. And this this is a long game that the GOP has been playing, not just in Georgia, but in every state where the Tea Party won state Houses all those years ago that the Democrats kind of ignored and said, “Okay, they’ll just go away.” Well, they haven’t.
MARC STEINER: So let me pick up on what you said and kind of take this from a historical perspective. We talked a little bit about this before we went on the air together, that we have a situation – when you go back to the 19th century and Reconstruction. I always call Reconstruction the most beautiful experiment in democracy this country has ever really tried and destroyed. It led to 90 years of terror against Black people in the South. But then came the 1960s, and we had the movement for voting rights in the South and the Voting Rights Bill that was passed, that the Supreme Court just hacked to death in the last several years.
And now, we’re seeing in the South, both Gillum and Abrams in Florida and Georgia, respectively, almost winning those races and perhaps could have won, especially in Georgia. You see what happened with Beto O’Rourke in Texas, which was another piece, even though he was a white candidate, also it was this groundswell of Mexican-American, Latino and Black voters in that state. So I’m curious, in the context of the history of the struggle, of the Black struggle in America, of the struggle for voting rights, of struggle for a different kind of America, what does this moment say to you, where we are right now with what happened to Stacey Abrams in Georgia?
JAQUELINE LUQMAN: This movement says a few things. This says that we, as an electorate, not just Black voters, but we as people who believe in freedom and democracy, this alleged thing that we think is called democracy, have kind of rested on our laurels and we’ve let a lot of stuff slip. We have not paid attention to the attacks on voter rights that have been going on since the Voting Rights Act was penned, not since it was passed, but since that legislation was drafted, forces in our political system have been working to make sure that it did not stand. So we’ve ignored the fact that legislation addresses issues, but that doesn’t mean that you can ignore the problems that that legislation was put there to address.
You have to stay vigilant and you have to continue to hold elected officials accountable, especially when you see what happened with the Tea Party wave and you see this plan that the GOP has been implementing in the background come to fruition with all of these voter ID laws and closing polls and gerrymandering. That wasn’t something they did just all of a sudden, that was something that they planned in order to make sure that they maintained the electoral majority, because that’s the only way they could. So it tells me that we haven’t been doing the work on that front that we should have been.
MARC STEINER: So there are a couple of quick things I want to touch base on. One, I don’t think that, watching what happened in Georgia, for those of us who really believe that we have to build a strong democracy in our own country, this is really infuriating to watch this happen. I mean, I think her campaign fueled so many people with passion and with hope because of what she represents in Georgia. And I won’t let Michigan and New York off the hook here. I’m just talking about Georgia.
JAQUELINE LUQMAN: Right, yeah.
MARC STEINER: So I mean, to me, the other part of that is what she’s about to do now. I mean, one of the things she indicated was this is a struggle she sees as a fight, and she’s going to continue that fight, it looks like to the next election and beyond. So she’s using this as a way to organize something that she tried before, which is why Kemp despised her to start with.
JAQUELINE LUQMAN: Right, exactly. And this is also, I think, the other lesson in this outcome that we need to be clear on, we meaning those of us who call ourselves revolutionaries. We can’t let Stacey Abrams or the Democratic Party or anybody who is concerned about the situation to just believe that lawyers can handle this, that we should just leave this up to the courts. That’s what the Democratic Party did in 2000. And if there had been more of a grassroots, in the streets, citizen-fueled and led protests that pressured politicians and the judiciary to pay attention to and address the irregularities that were revealed in 2000, I think we would have a slightly different outcome. So I think we can learn from 2000, and if we’re really about that work, if we’re really about that revolution, we cannot let Stacey Abrams do this work by herself.
There were too many people in Georgia who went and did amazing, amazing, grassroots door-knocking, people out there canvassing for Stacey Abrams, knocking on 15,000 doors a day. We cannot let those people’s work go to waste by sitting here and saying, “Well, Stacey Abrams is probably going to handle this in the court, so let’s just wait for the courts to handle it.” No. We need to get out in the streets behind her and back her and fight for our rights and demand them again.
MARC STEINER: And it seems as if what she’s saying is she’s going to organize a new movement in Georgia to do just that, not just fight the courts, though she may, I don’t know if she is or not, but to fight literally in the community and to begin organizing people to take back Georgia. I mean, that seems to be what she’s saying.
JAQUELINE LUQMAN: And that’s what I heard too. And if I lived in Georgia, I’d probably be at an organizing meeting if she has one going on right now, but I don’t live in Georgia. But I know people who do live in Georgia, and I wish that I could give them strength and love, because I know they’re tired now, but we can’t stop this work. So, yeah. Wherever we are, even from Washington DC we have to – because we had problems with voter suppression and our own Democratic, predominantly Black city council disregarding the vote of the people. So we all have some fighting we have to do in the streets.
MARC STEINER: I’m curious what you think, as we conclude, what I said at the top of our conversation, where this takes America, where you see this fitting into the struggle for a different kind of America? You see, across the country, young people inside the Democratic Party running for office and winning and people outside, communities of color, all kinds of communities really standing up. Where does this fit into all that? Where do you see this taking us?
JAQUELINE LUQMAN: I think this takes us to the head-on collision that we were always going to have to have with the ugly truth that white supremacy is still very much a powerful force in this country. In our electoral, politics in our social interactions, in our institutions, unless we address this issue of white supremacy. I think we make a mistake in believing that the people who voted for someone like Brian Kemp, who actively denied people their constitutional right to vote, and the people who voted for Ron DeSantis, who spoke at a white supremacist organized conference four times, are not white supremacist. We put ourselves right back behind this eight ball of wondering what happened when we are disappointed by majority white electorates when they don’t vote for the obviously, if not perfect candidate, certainly the less corrupt candidate.
So we have to do with white supremacy in our society and we have to make up our minds that we are going to push, especially the Democratic Party, those of us who are outside the Democratic Party, we’ve already decided to do that, we’ve already made up our mind that there’s probably no hope for the Democratic Party. But for our brothers and sisters who are still in the Democratic Party, you’re going to have to push that party to address issues of white supremacy within the party and in the society at large. Unless they do that, then we’ll continue to be right back here.
MARC STEINER: Well the white supremacists may have won the day, but they haven’t won the war for sure.
JAQUELINE LUQMAN: No, no.
MARC STEINER: And this has been really very inspiring, watching these campaigns, as it was inspiring talking with you, really. Jacqueline Luqman is the Editor in Chief of Luqman Nation and joins us here at The Real News once again. And I look forward to covering this and following this with you down the road many times more. Thank you so much for your time today.
JAQUELINE LUQMAN: Thank you so much for having me back.