On January 5th, I anxiously stayed up watching the results of the Georgia Senate Runoff race until DeKalb, a historically Democratic county, released a big batch of votes all at once. I saw Warnock declared presumptive winner of his race, and I watched as the infamous New York Times needle tipped towards Ossoff, too. It seemed like the Democrats would be successful.
As a Georgia native, I’ve always known my state is blue at heart. That’s exactly why Republicans like Governor Kemp have focused not on turnout or persuasion of moderate independents, but on shameless voter suppression tactics, such as purging voter rolls, closing polling stations, and even founding allegations of missing votes.
Stacey Abrams did the hard and necessary work of disproving the myth that “independent voters will decide the election.” For most of my life here in Georgia, and indeed especially for much of Trump’s presidency, Democratic efforts have been spent on independents and potential Republicans who could be persuaded to vote Democratic, especially after Trump was painted as the “unlikeable” candidate.
Surely, the logic went, it makes sense to convince these reasonable people that they don’t really want Trump.
Abrams ably demonstrated that not only is that a waste of money, but it’s ineffective. It makes much more sense to turn out a voter who already agrees with you, than persuade and turn them out. So she found her voters and made it easier for them to vote.
“…I am not the only candidate who can create a coalition and a strategy to win this state; and Georgia is not the only state poised to take advantage of demographic changes; but we are uniquely positioned for effectiveness. The formula to replicate and improve upon our performance is clear: (1) continued investment in infrastructure and a broader electorate than the conventional “base” approach, (2) adoption of our 2018 campaign lessons learned, (3) harnessing and meaningfully engaging continued population and electorate growth, and (4) improvement of and protecting access to the vote,” she wrote in her playbook.
The results speak for themselves.
Hero-worshipping her is the easy way out.
As soon as results started coming in, Twitter was flooded with praise and thanks to Stacey Abrams — which was, of course, well-deserved.
More concerningly, people seemed to think that now that she’d won the state of Georgia, she could perhaps go on to do so again in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and other newfound swing states. Rather than attributing the win to the tireless efforts of countless grassroots organizations, admirers laid all the thanks — and responsibility — at her feet.
Hero-worshipping Stacey Abrams is the easy way out. By singling her out, by marking her work as spectacular, it means that the hard work she did is swept under the rug. It means that only she can perform miracles like this, and the rest of us are off the hook.
Instead of fantasizing about President Abrams 2024, a dream for a better democratic future should start by studying and replicating her tactics. She is not secretive about her methods. She has been transparent about the people she worked with. The least we, her grateful and ardent supporters, can do is take on the work ourselves, instead of shunting it all back to her.
The picture Stacey Abrams paints is an appealing one: a romance writer who only just failed to become Georgia’s first Black and female governor. After witnessing how her race was stolen from her, she sacrificed her own gubernatorial dreams and senate ambitions to found Fair Fight, determinedly — and successfully — ensuring the theft did not happen again.
We all love a narrative arc, and Stacey Abrams is the perfect archetypal hero for us to place on a pedestal. But doing so is the easy way out.
Georgia is a glimpse of a possible future.
Honestly, I never thought I’d live in a Democratic state. Georgia has been red for my entire life, and I live in one of the reddest counties there is. But still, this year I actually knocked on doors, hung fliers, waved signs, sent out texts, and made phone calls.
It’s draining work. It’s tiring and scary and you feel like you can’t possibly make enough of a difference for it all to be worth it. You’re tempted to say only a special, magical few have the power to make a difference, to absolve yourself of having to do all that work next time.
But the effort of turning out the vote is a worthy one, and it’s one that comes down to everyone. Stacey Abrams gave us the blueprints to bring a fair voting fight country-wide. Instead of thanking her by assigning her the impossible task of doing it all herself, we owe it to her to thank her — and take those first steps ourselves.