Georgia hasn’t given its 16 electoral votes to a Democratic president since Bill Clinton in 1992. But 28 years later, the reliably red Southern state is poised to go blue, in large part because of the visionary efforts of Stacey Abrams.

The Yale Law School graduate, tax attorney, and former Georgia state representative became a rising star when she ran for governor of her home state in 2018, but she also lost that election under a cloud of racially-motivated voter suppression to Brian Kemp. According to an Associated Press investigation on the eve of the election, Kemp, then Georgia’s secretary of state, mass-canceled more than a million voter registrations between 2012 and 2018, and, in the run-up to the tight gubernatorial race, froze an estimated 53,000 registrations, a majority of them belonging to African-American voters.

When Abrams lost by just 55,000 votes, she told Vogue: “I sat shiva for 10 days. Then I started plotting.”

Abrams had long rejected the oversimplification of her state as solely populated by white conservatives. She’d advocated to turn out and protect the vote in Georgia for years: In 2013, as a member of the state legislature, she created a voter-registration nonprofit called the New Georgia Project, which completed 86,000 new voter applications. But after her 2018 loss, she doubled down and became one of the country’s preeminent voting rights activists, launching the nonprofit Fair Fight to combat voter suppression. Riding the wave of support—celebrity, even—she won during the governor’s race (Oprah and John Legend campaigned for her), Abrams traversed the state, hoping to replicate the electoral feats she achieved in her own bid, in which she tripled Latino, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander voter turnout and doubled youth participation in Georgia. As Vogue noted in its profile of Abrams last year: “She inspired 1.2 million Black Democrats in Georgia to vote for her (more than the total number of Democratic gubernatorial voters in 2014)” and “gained the highest percentage of the state’s white Democratic voters in a generation.”

“We didn’t fail,” Abrams told one consortium of voters. “In the state of Georgia, we transformed our electorate.”

That work continued, to triumphant effect, into 2020. Building on the efforts of New Georgia Project and others, Abrams and Fair Fight registered a staggering estimated 800,000 new voters since 2018 and helped squash suppressive policies like “exact match,” which had required registrations to precisely match voters’ licenses down to the hyphen, or else risk being tossed out. Abrams told NPR on November 2: “45 percent of those new voters are under the age of 30. 49 percent are people of color. And all 800,000 came on the rolls after November ’18, which means these are voters who weren’t eligible to vote for me but are eligible to participate in this upcoming election.”

They all represent an x-factor as the gap between Biden and Trump narrows and Georgia could flip from red to blue, representing part of the path to a Joe Biden victory. In no uncertain terms, if Georgia clinches Biden the presidency, he has Abrams (who had been a reported VP contender) to thank. The Twitterati is already buzzing with suggestions that Abrams should be awarded with a powerful intra-party post. “If she wants it, Stacey Abrams should be the next DNC Chair,” organizer Rachel R. Rodriguez said.

Others noted that Abrams’s story is political Shakespeare for the way she turned her personal electoral loss into a larger victory; the former candidate who personally encountered racially driven voter suppression rising up to make sure that, next time, people of color could vote in historic numbers. “Can Stacey Abrams Save Democracy?” asked the headline of Vogue’s 2019 profile. I think we have our answer.

Source: vogue.com