Stacey Abrams


Welcome to words matter with Katie. Barlow and Joe Lockhart welcome to words matter. I'm Katie Barlow. Our goal is to promote objective reality as a wise man once said everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Not Their own facts. Words have power and words have consequences. Our guest today is a New York Times. Bestselling Author Serial Entrepreneur nonprofit. Ceo and political leader in two thousand eighteen after serving for eleven years in the Georgia House of Representatives seven as Democratic leader. Stacey Abrams became the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia winning more votes than any other Democrat in the state's history leader Abrahams was the first black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee for a major party in the United States and she was the first black woman and first Georgian to deliver the response to the state of the union after witnessing the handling of the two thousand eighteen election by the Georgia Secretary of State's office leader. Abrams launched fair fight to ensure every American has a voice in our election system over the course of her career leader. Abrahams has founded multiple organizations devoted to voting rights training and hiring young people of color and tackling social issues at both the state and national levels. Stacy is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations where she serves on the subcommittee on diversity leader Abrahams. Welcome to words matter. Thank you for having me so before we talk about politics. I WanNa talk about you for a moment. You are the second of six children. You're born in Madison. Wisconsin raised in Gulfport Mississippi and Georgia. And both of your parents are methodist ministers. So I wanted to get you to talk about growing up as a black woman in the south in the nineteen seventies and eighties and how that origin story informs your work today. Thank you so my parents were at the time I was growing up. They were my mom's Librarian. My Dad was shipyard worker. My mother received her Masters Degree in library. Science from the University of Wisconsin. Which is why was born in the north but my family my parents were both from how burdensome tippy we were working poor. My mom was accomplished librarian. She became the head of the college library however moments in her career. She made less money than the janitor. Who cleaned the college? My Dad was shipyard worker. Who by having a college education because he had a learning disability was presumed not capable of being in an office and having one of those jobs but was an extraordinarily hard worker. Who did everything along my mom to take care of us but we were still working poor but my parents wanted us to understand that our economic situation did not dictate our futures. They told us we have three jobs. Go to church at school. Take care of each other church because they wanted us to believe in something larger than ourselves go to school because they knew education had basically been their way out For both my parents were first generation college and the third was service that it's not enough to do for yourself and your family. Your responsibility is to help others My Mom's putting it was no matter how little we have. There's someone with less. Your job is to serve that person. And that's how I grew up in apparently was not able to forget it. It sounds like it. It started early in with your folks. But when did you think you might want to pursue a career in public service? My Mom and dad would take us out volunteer almost weekly when we growing up and while I appreciated what we did. I was always bemused by the idea that these two ordinary people and their six kids could six the poverty of Mississippi. And so I would ask my parents. Shouldn't someone else doing this to shouldn't there be a macro system that can solve this problem. And they said that's hope government and I became fascinated with understanding why the public sector didn't work the way it could. It seemed to me that parody was inefficient. It was immoral. And it squandered human capital. Though in high school I became very aware of politics and in College. The started working more as a volunteer activists but having gotten into a fight with the mayor of Atlanta. When I was a freshman in college I ended up getting a job working in his office as a sophomore. And that really turned my attention towards the idea of running across when they myself so you first came to national attention during your two thousand and eight run for the governor of Georgia and in two thousand nineteen when you delivered the Democratic response to the State of the Union address but you were twenty five year overnight success story. You've been a fixture at Georgia politics for more than a decade. Has Anything surprised you about life on the national political stage? I think it exactly what you articulated. I am a twenty five year overnight success so you know I worked for it. I did federal internships because I wanted to understand how the federal government works. I worked in a win being and I worked for the EPA twice. I had been very intentional about building my private sector understanding. I was very successful. Democratic leader Helping Guide Chambers at faced being put into super minority status meaning Republicans would hold two-thirds majority and for seven years. I blocked that from happening when Hugh Southern Chambers to never don't differ minority status even though the Georgia state Senate did I worked to build infrastructure and to not only be successful in my political work but to build the capacity for the principles. I helped me through the party. I support to be able to do. Its work and we were successful so successful than twenty eighteen. Even though I didn't become governor we flip sixteen. Legislators we took the ancestral seat of Newt Gingrich and Lucy Macbeth gun take the activists now hopes that seed what is surprising to me is how not how much work it takes to get where we need to be but how persistent. We have to be to make sure people know what's happening. The challenge particularly in the south is that we are so off as a lost cause for Democrat that much of the work that I and other than doing for decades has been lost on a national conversation and yet we are the fastest growing part of the country across the sunbelt. We are the vanguard of the next generation of leadership and I'm always a bit taken aback. At how little people pay attention to what's happening here leader Abrams. It's Joe Lockhart again. Thanks for joining us. Can I turn your attention to what I think is taking a lot of your time now? the problem of voter suppression. Not just in Georgia but around the country unless you're political pro you hear voter suppression. You probably think it's bad but I'm I think most of our listeners don't really know what it is. Can you sort of lay out from your perspective? The problem and how we got to where we are today. There's depression is any interference with the ability of eligible voter to cast a vote and that begins with Kenneth Voter Register. And can they stay on the wall so are they purged? They raise from the database. Second is can they act with about that means? Can they get an absentee ballots requested? Do they have a polling place? That's nearby are they. Given opportunities to early vote us to post to be available in there and then the third is can your ballot. Count it when you cast their ballots to get rejected as nasty ballot. Are you giving a provisional ballot because of a mistake made and your provisional ballot is thrown out? Do you have a system in electron a system? That doesn't actually record your vote. Do you have to stand in line for four hours? And because you have to get out of wine your vote does not count because you simply can't afford the poll tax that is standing in line and so it's Ki- registering Stanley rose tenure. He cast about your ballots counted. That looks different in every state but that architecture is true across all fifty states the other part of the challenges that between Nineteen Sixty five and twenty thirteen. The states that were the most egregious about blocking access to the right to vote were held in a state of Basi- they had to do the right thing because of the Voting Rights Act but in twenty thirteen the shelby holder decision was set by the Supreme Court right ended essentially the voting rights act and and the gutting of the voting rights. Act WHAT THE CHIEF. Justice said that braces on his day. Discrimination isn't happening go about Your Business and do what you want and almost immediately states that were once governed by the voting rights act or states that demographic changes started implementing. Almost every one of the measures that I described they started pershing. Voters made it harder for people to register. Made it impossible to use the identification that people use for decades they made stricter that aren't the issue of can go and get your prescription filled. It is do you have an original copy of your birth certificate from the state that would not let you be born in a hospital during segregation. That's the kind of issue that we have. And so what I want folks to understand. Is that unlike the nineteen sixties we're voter suppression was billy clubs and hose administrative errors. Its rules and your paddock. Mazes that convince voters that it's either not worth the effort or it's just impossible to defeat it and it has a physical effective blocking you from voting. It has the psychic effect with convention. You it's not worth trying. I recall that opinion from the Supreme Court Gutting section five of the Voting Rights Act. And if I recall correctly I believe that was famous line in the dissent from justice. Ginsburg WHO said getting rid of those protections like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm. Because you're not getting wet exactly and I wanted to ask you about your work with that piece the litigation piece because as I understand it with firefight it's kind of a two pronged attack or approach both through litigation and legislation that's focusing on those three areas that the registration before the vote the access to the ballots you vote and then the the counting of the vote and making sure that that's effective and proper there was a case. I believe that was filed as a part of your work and I wanted to ask you how that was going and the status of that so we filed a massive litigation. We are currently in Discovery. We hope to be through discovery by the end of the spring and we will get an order from the court at that point Setting a trial date but we are in the midst of and we've had experts who have valid data what we had seen and the information that we aggregated from voters across the state. We've had experts say that we only saw the tip of the iceberg in some way and the reality is while we're fighting with lawsuits here in Georgia. This is happening across the country Mark Elias Sue Perkins. We just filed a lawsuit and Texas the closure of five hundred and fourteen precincts. I think it's I think that's number. It's a roughly five hundred precincts in Texas blocked. People from being able to pass their votes in a Democratic primary. And one thing we have to understand. Is that voter? Suppression doesn't simply exist. When it's a general election it happens here wound. We just tend not to notice and if we do not fix the system acid source and if we do not it at every election then it becomes so pernicious that it's almost impossible to disconnect it from how our democracy works and worse it makes us think it's user error that we've made a mistake as opposed to the fact that we should be able to expect better from a system that undergirds our entire positive government so I happen to have someone over at my house. Who's from Austin Texas on Super Tuesday? And she was telling me that her husband had gone in voted and they live in the middle or upper middle class neighborhood and he said he walked in walked out. There was hardly anybody there and on TV. I saw a gentleman who waited seven hours in line so this isn't an administrative issue. It's a Republican strategy to suppress the vote and not the vote. They're not colorblind here to they want to suppress black votes in particular. I understand legislation and the litigation. But what about activation? What can you do to rally the troops on this? So we've done two things fair fight. Action is a C. Four and we do use a triple strategy of litigation legislation and advocacy. We have fair fight you which is our college based program fourteen colleges we have democracy warriors. These are super volunteers who we deployed to State Elections Board meetings and to County Board meetings. So they understand. When polling places are being shut down they know how to fight back about the budget We have our democracy protection works. Which is our national evaluation of how litter suppression exists in every state and then separate. We have fair fight. Twenty twenty which is part of our fair fights hack work and that's actually embedded in the Democratic Party state parties across the country. Because we agree this is a Republican strategy because they have two options with the changing democracy of America they can either adjust their messaging and their politics or they can block people from being hurt because they've decided they better solution to dismantle democracy than simply adapt to the changing world. We live our responses that we have helped create in eighteen states but a protection teams teams. That are working now to understand. The pressure looks like in each state and then to work in concert with the State Party and with good actors in that state to do the work so folks want to be a part of this they go to fair fight when twenty dot com. They can sign up with us. And we can leverage them and engage them One of the examples. Is that here in Georgia? In December they attempted to purge three hundred and nine thousand Georgians. We got a group of together including some of the presidential candidates and and people from around the country who called more than one hundred thousand Georgians many who possibly had moved but thousands of whom should not have been taken off the rolls. We got forty five hundred people to flag and get back on the rolls and we were also able to force the secretary of State to admit that he had illegally attempted to purge twenty two thousand people across the country. They're going to be moments that needing folks to show up to protest the closure of a polling place which is part of what happened in Texas or helping folks get ID's because I d laws are designed and let's be clear. These are restrictive voter. Id Laws we've always had voter ID but these are more restrictive and we need help. Making sure people have access to the right. I D there's GonNa be a moment where we ask you to volunteer. They poll watcher or a poll worker. We need people inside and around those precincts hoping flag. What's going wrong because we know the Republican Party the RMC for the first time in thirty five years or have the legal authority to spend hard and soft dollars essentially intimidating voters of consent decree. They've been under. Nineteen eighty-one was listed in twenty seventeen. And for the first time since that time they can engage in what they call ballot security and what that means is voter intimidation directly targeted communities of color. Yeah I remember the the first congressional campaign I did was in Southside Virginia and it was nineteen eighty two so they were under the consent agreement and they were armed off duty cops at all in all the black precincts With signs and call this number of UC voter fraud. So I called the number and it was the RNC. And that's it hasn't changed is I think it's gotten more sophisticated. One of the more insidious Initiatives from the Republicans is the misinformation that they're putting out there on the census. What can we do to combat than wise? It's important in addition to launching fair fight after the two thousand eighteen election. I launched fair count-. We know that. The census has two key responsibilities and our lives. One is the allocation of one point five trillion dollars every single year. For almost every federally funded social program whether we're talking about snap benefits or hospital. Investment Medicare and Medicaid transportation small business investment. You think of it it's funded by the census. The communities that are not counted in the census do not receive their dollars and because a number of those programs are designed to specifically respond to the needs of communities of color if communities of color undercounted. Those dollars. Don't just disappear. They get reallocated. Other communities the other pieces that reapportionment apportionments the allocation of congressional leadership across the country as well as redistricting. The drawing of wine for political districts happens based on the twenty twenty cents. If people are not counted they will not count and because of the Supreme Court in Twenty nineteen partisan gerrymandering as legitimate action. The only federally prohibited forms. Gerrymandering is racial gerrymandering. They can't pack or otherwise obscured the ability of communities of color to work together to elect their chosen leaders. But if they don't get counted in the census then when those lines are drawn they can simply ignore their existence. That happened endorsed happened across the country. And so what we want to do to count is ensured that we have an accurate count particularly hard accounting unity. It is about your power and is about your money and those are two things that unfortunately on the democratic side we tend to ignore until election day or until Census Day but the Republicans actually had deep research done on how they could rig the census Hamas wholesaler. His analysis and research is used to create the citizenship question that almost pass muster except that his daughter found the information and got into common cause and we were able to use it through the coalition of groups that were fighting citizenship question. We got that information to the Supreme Court but what they were doing then they will continue to try to do which is the race communities of color from the narrative of America. They know that this is the fastest growing demographic and they know they cannot win elections if actual political power is allocated appropriately in our country. All right and finally Lee Abrams. We wanted to talk about the the current presidential race for a moment and while the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is hotly contested between Progressives and moderates one thing that everyone seems to be talking about and even agreeing on. Is that Stacey? Abrams should be vice. Presidential nominee and while most politicians in positions like that adopt of Faux humility. You've made it clear that you are interested in the job. So why did you decide to forego the usual pretense in the so called veepstakes? Well I I think two things one is that it does a disservice to women to women of color people of color to kids with aspirations to see someone who is not normally included in a conversation. Essentially say oh. Don't look at me because in that moment. What I'm saying is I'm not worthy of this folk. Humility is a communicated so humility is communicated as interest or as inability and my obligation given the unique position. I hold is to absolutely declare my capacity for that job and my willingness to serve but secondly I believe I could be a good vice of it. I have a strong background in management and legislative experience. I have foreign policy experience. I've spent twenty five years in self study and travel and I would be an exceptional partner. I good at getting folks engaged. I'm good at explaining things and I think I cut across some of the differences that we often see between progressive and moderate wings of our Party. I'm a progressive in the south. Which means I've had to learn how to speak progressive moderate conservatives I and multi lingual in the values of our party but most of all I am to my core Democrat who believes that progress will only be made if we engage every voter if we invest early if we do the work of reaching young voters and voters of color and do so without alienating or isolating ourselves from White voters and twenty eighteen. I proved it could be done. I received more votes than any Democrat in Georgia. History including the highest share white voters since Bill Clinton but also tripling Latino Asian Pacific Islander turnout increasing youth participation one hundred and thirty nine percent and increasing black participation by forty percent. I including myself in the conversation because I would be honored to throw. We've got about minute or a minute and a half left putting aside You know who the VP is. How FRUSTRATING IS IT With Elizabeth Warren? Getting out of the race. That women don't seem to have made the progress that I think we all expected. I go back to Nineteen eighty-four with Gerry. Ferraro and I think there was an expectation that there'd be a woman president soon. How can we fix that? One of the reasons I think so highly of the foreign. She didn't run despite being a woman and she didn't run because she was a woman. She ran out of woman's meaning that she acknowledged present. Something and signal pumping but it was also a challenge and she never shirks from that talent. Much like Hillary Clinton women have to continue to fight because there is an intention of us not succeeded. That's one of the reasons I I reject so humility. I think we're often taught that it's humility but what we're being asked to do a selfish statement. I mean you are self effacing you a race yourself in the narrative and you give others permission not to see. I think that what she signaled what Comma Harris Signals Pearson Gillibrand. Amy Clovis Tulsi Gabbard. Every woman who ran what they signal is the responsibility. We have as a as a nation to fully embrace who we are and that is a nation. That's more than half women and we deserve to be charged leader Abrahams. We look forward to watching your continued participation in this discussion In the coming weeks and months and we are grateful for your time today. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for having been fun. 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You get unlimited access to read or listen to a massive library of condense nonfiction books all the books you want an all for one low price and right now for a limited time blankets as a special offer just for our audience go to blink dot com slash words matter. Try It free for seven days and save twenty five percent off your new subscription. That's blinking. I spelled B. L. I. N. K. I S. T. Blinking DOT com slash words matter to start your free seven-day trial and you'll also get twenty five percent off. But only when you sign up at blinking dot com slash words matter all right Joe so you had a southern candidate for the presidency but this is a whole different Vail. Hey as we may say in the south. I thought her Her point was interesting that she made about being a political progressive in the south she had to learn to speak progressive. But also moderate also conservative to get anywhere in Georgia politics which as a participant in Georgia politics. Anyone on both sides have to kind of target those audiences but what did you make of what she had to say? We have great people on here every week but Stacey Abrams was if not the most impressive person we've had one of the most I think she captures the shoes with a very sophisticated understanding but with a motivating narrative. And I think that she is going to get a very very long. Look if Joe Biden's nominated I've lessened side into what Bernie Sanders will be looking for. And I think the real field for Biden will be fairly small. I think it will be a woman. I think it will be a woman of color and one of the things about Stacey. Abrams is America. Hasn't seen that much of her. But I think you'd be listening to this. You know that the more they see the more they're gonNA like her. And speaking of Bernie and Biden. A lot has happened since we last spoke. The field is now narrowed down to two going into Michigan. Any predictions there from South Carolina to Super Tuesday. More happened in short time that I've ever seen in a presidential. I wanted to ask you that because it seemed very quick to me but my institutional knowledge is shorter. No I mean we. We're talking about a candidate who it at best come in third place in previous contests winning across the board by more than he was supposed to win and candidates getting out knowing people to judge and Clova chart got out the day before. Super Tuesday didn't even go to the polls to get more data so the media tends to make everything seem extraordinary like everything is breaking news but this was extraordinary. I think this week's primaries are very important particularly Michigan. Sanders signalled his intentions by canceling a Friday rally in Mississippi conceding. The South to Joe Biden Michigan State. He won last time by a very narrow margin over Hillary Clinton. He has to win Michigan. He has to make the case that outside the south his wing of the party is strong enough to take him to Milwaukee and the nomination if he loses in Michigan. It's very hard for people to believe that narrative and one of the things I think we can take away from the earthquake of South Carolina to Super Tuesday is Democrats are looking for getting on with it they want someone that will beat trump. I believe that if Sanders Loses Michigan Democrats will write them off He'll get his twenty-five thirty percent of hardcore supporters. But I think Democrats are itching for this to turn trump and away from inter-party squabbling. So I think Wednesday morning. We're going to have a much better sense of where this races and while all of this is going on we are dealing with a national and potentially global crisis dealing with corona virus putting aside the fact that both Barney and Biden are well into their seventies and hitting a campaign trail shaking hands and kissing babies and visiting multiple populations a day that have potentially been affected by this at the same time. The White House is trying to Tamp down fears say things like we've got it handled. We've kept it limited. The mortality rates are extremely low. Maybe even lower than what's being reported but there's so much left that's unknown and we're starting to get inklings of that and reports of that based on the testing and the test kits available. But what do you make of how this is getting handled? Well I think there's there's a couple levels to this one is. We talked a little bit last week. About how the president has failed leadership test. His job is to make sure that those with the information deliver reliable accurate information to the public so that they can make reasonable judgments. What you don't want is sort of mixed messages and and chaotic messages. But it's clear. The president has put his reelection and his political fortunes ahead of the public health. He has done everything he could to downplay this on Thursday of last week. He told Fox News that he'd beaten it and it was over. We know it's not over. We know they have beaten it. And from a communications point of view it's disastrous to say you've solved the problem and the problem is apparent to anyone who turns on television or opens the newspaper and I think the most the the worst and most damaging thing of that is when the scientists who worked for the government go out and say in a straightforward way. We don't have this contained. We are worried about this. We don't have the test kits available to test people. And then the president and his economic advisor. And his pollster. Go and tell the press that yes we do have a contained so if you are an average American you think I would imagine a lot of people jump to the conclusion of well if if the President says is contained and the scientists say. It's not will boy. This must be really bad. And even the scientists are being are being held on a short leash and that's created not widespread pack but a lot of people doing a lot of things that they probably don't need to do at this point. Finally the most where you can actually see it on a day-to-day basis are the financial markets on the stock market. The president has made a huge deal. About how much everyone has gained on the stock market? That's been wiped out and it's been wiped out for two reasons one is the virus is having a direct impact on the economy and stock market is never looking at what's happening today or what happened yesterday. Always looking ahead and it's always looking to what they predict will happen and so the fundamentals are changing. Despite with Larry cudlow says every day they are changing. All you have to do is go to a mall. Go to win airport and see how easy to get through the TSA WINE. People have changed their habits their travel habits. They're going out to large events and that will have an impact on the economy but the second thing which is within the control of the administration is the markets can handle can price in the change in economic fundamentals. What really causes volatility is when there's uncertainty and they can't figure out where the floors and this is where The particularly the president but also some of his aides have spooked the markets. They see the president is saying everything's Okay and then scientists saying everything's not in there like we don't know and when they don't know their instinct is to sell rather than to buy and that has a psychological effect on people but it also have a direct impact on the president's reelection prospects we we when we talked to Doug Sosnik The couple of weeks ago and he when he was our guest he talked about the by the end of the second quarter people's minds were baked on whether the president was good for the economy or bad for them for the economy. And so we're coming up to July first. The end of the second quarter is not that far away and now we have incredible economic uncertainty. And it's fair to say that Donald trump is an unpopular president but his core supporters at about forty percent. We'll always stay with them. That theory will be tested if we go into a recession if the stock market tumbles even further if this vicious cycle turns on itself and starts really impacting businesses around the country. And without that it's very hard to see Trumping reelected so the bottom line is there is a reason. trump is using bad information and misdirection. Because it's in his interest. It's a very very risky strategy. It's George Bush mission accomplished. He told the country we had this done. And it's not done and it's an issue a lot of political back and forth. The public doesn't care about they don't pay attention to it doesn't move the one way or the other just moves sort of the twitter verse. You can't have a conversation any place in this country with anyone whether they're a stranger or a friend or a family that doesn't start with corona virus you just can't that moves voters you know it's the old adage of Chicago. Mayor Jane Byrne lost the Mayor Oh action because it snowed and she couldn't get the snow off the street fast enough and she went from being a head in the in the Democratic primary to losing. This is something that impacts everyone. Everyone's thinking about everyone's talking about real anxiety and the leadership that they should be getting from the White House. They're not it's not going away. I suspect we'll be talking about this next week and the week after that and the week after that. Yeah I would count myself included with those people who every conversation they have revolves around at least in the beginning corona virus and so much changes each day that by the next time we talk. I'm sure it will be an entirely different storyline but Thanks TO OUR LISTENERS. For joining us this week until then exciting. Thank you for listening to words matter please. Rate and review words matter on Apple. Podcasts and other podcasts providers.

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