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Why Biden should pick Stacey Abrams as VP

Far from a choice based on political calculus, the former top Democrat in the Georgia House shines in her own right

by Matthew Capuano-Rizzo, matthew.capuanorizzzo@sciencespo.fr

Stacey Abrams speaks to reporters before the November 20 Democratic presidential debate in Atlanta, Georgia – Getty Images

 

While the rest of the world grapples with the Coronavirus, the Democratic Party nominee for President in the United States is busy dealing with sexual harassment allegations and choosing a vice presidential pick. After a fraught primary battle, particularly with Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, the Biden campaign is striving to position itself as a unity choice in contrast with a divisive, but relatively popular President Trump. The Biden campaign has sought to emphasize the President’s downplaying of the virus and his administration’s slow response. Joe Biden’s VP pick may be the most consequential choice of his campaign as it indicates the ideological direction of his campaign (moderate with Senator Amy Klobuchar vs more progressive with Senator Elizabeth Warren) and his policy priorities (“kitchen table” issues with Klobuchar vs Wall Street reform and climate change with Warren). In a poll, 71% of Democratic voters said Biden should consider Warren versus 59% for California Senator Kamala Harris and 50% for former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. 

Stacey Abrams was born in Madison, Wisconsin and raised in Gulfport, Mississippi. Her family later moved to Atlanta, Georgia. In 1995, she graduated magna cum laude from Spielman College and went on to earn a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from Yale University. She has founded businesses in financial services and child beverages and was elected to Georgia House District 89 in 2007. Her experience, integrity, and candor make her the best choice for the Biden campaign. 

Experience

The main argument against a potential Abrams vice presidential pick is that she has never held a national office, particularly given Joe Biden’s preference for experience. So let’s talk about experience. 

Early in her tenure, a Republican representative was struggling to present his bill and Abrams passed him a helpful note. He was shocked. The note read, “look, I think your bill is a bad idea. I just don’t think it should be bad law.” Her courage to work across the aisle led many Republicans to bring her their bills for a final read-through. She was elected minority leader in 2010 and worked with Republican governor Nathan Deal on criminal justice reform that was hailed nationally. In addition, she worked to pass the state’s largest ever public transportation funding program, and a law that saved the state’s HOPE scholarship program. She is thus willing to bridge party divides at a time when few are willing to do so, and such a willingness to work in a bipartisan manner will be crucial as we re-emerge from COVID-19 and rebuild our country.

In 2018, she came within 55,000 votes of becoming governor of Georgia. In that election, she tripled Latino and Asian-Pacific Islander turnout and increased African American participation by 40 percent. These numbers come despite the efforts of Abrams’ opponent, the current governor Brian Kemp, who meddled in an election that he was participating in. Tens of thousands of voter registration applications, nearly all from African Americans, were held up by his office. During Kemp’s tenure, he purged more than 1.4 million voters from the voter registry and closed more than 200 polling places from 2012 to 2018. Instead of going for a walk in the woods following her 2018 defeat, Abrams immediately began addressing the systemic issues in our electoral system and country.  

Integrity

When Stacey Abrams speaks, she invokes a strong sense of sincerity and moral clarity that is uncommon, if not unheard of, among politicians. She is someone who truly believes in and acts on what she is saying. 

After the 2018 gubernatorial race, Abrams started the organization Fair Fight to combat voter suppression in seventeen states. She also established Fair Count that has constructed internet installations, and partnered with faith and community groups to ensure that all people, particularly those from minority communities, are counted in the 2020 census. She has also created the Southern Economic Advancement Project with the goal of increasing economic opportunities in the South. 

Thus, although she has not held office at the national level, she has created and run national organizations that address issues integral to our democracy such as justice and representation. She has worked for fairness in the business, nonprofit, and political spheres. As her many initiatives demonstrate, she is more interested in doing the work than bickering about politics. Her experience, sincerity, and expertise would give the Biden campaign the best chance of defeating Donald Trump in November. 

Candor

While voters may find themselves lost in former Vice President Biden’s well-meaning, but poorly organized personal stories and policy explanations, Stacey Abrams is clear, candid and to the point. Governors Gretchen Whitmer and Michelle Grisham were more deferential in their responses to the VP question. Abrams, however, stated her ambitions clearly: she has her sights set on the Vice Presidency. “As a young black woman growing up in Mississippi, I learned that if you don’t raise your hand, people won’t see you,” Abrams commented. 

She has made clear, however, that her public campaign is not just for the VP spot, but rather to help the most vulnerable – as she has always done. She recently announced an initiative with former Presidential candidate Andrew Yang to provide direct cash payments to 100,000 families receiving food stamps in 21 states. Such assistance will be essential to individuals and families in need, particularly since direct payments from the stimulus bill could take up to 20 weeks to be delivered

Stacey Abrams is qualified, working with Democrats and Republicans to pass consequential legislation during her tenure in the Georgia State House. Stacey Abrams is determined, responding to her 2018 defeat by doubling down on her commitments toward a more representative democracy, creating organizations such as Fair Fight. Most importantly, Stacey Abrams is true. She has never wavered in her belief in a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable future. And she has never stopped working to realize her vision. 

 

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