Stacey Abrams: “We Have to Work Harder” Than Those Who Would Suppress the Vote

Democrats have selected former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to deliver the response to President Trump’s State of the Union address. The address will take place on Tuesday, after being delayed due to the government shutdown. Abrams will become the first person not in public office to respond to the president, as well as the first African-American woman to deliver the response. She recently launched Fair Fight Action, a voting rights advocacy group, after she narrowly lost Georgia’s governor’s race to Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who was widely accused of suppressing the vote. In mid-November, Abrams refused to concede the race, and Fair Fight Action is now suing Georgia election officials for mismanagement of the midterm elections.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: Democrats have selected former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to deliver the response to President Trump’s State of the Union address. The address will take place Tuesday, after being delayed due to the government shutdown. Abrams will become the first person not in public office to respond to the president. She will also become the first African-American woman to deliver the response.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer praised Abrams for her work on voting rights. She recently launched Fair Fight Action, a voting rights advocacy group, after she narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race to Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who was widely accused of suppressing the vote. In mid-November, Abrams refused to concede the race.

STACEY ABRAMS: Pundits and hyper-partisans will hear my words as a rejection of the normal order. You see, I’m supposed to say nice things and accept my fate. They will complain that I should not use this moment to recap what was done wrong or to demand a remedy. You see, as a leader, I should be stoic in my outrage and silent in my rebuke. But stoicism is a luxury, and silence is a weapon for those who would quiet the voices of the people. And I will not concede, because the erosion of our democracy is not right.

AMY GOODMAN: Stacey Abrams’ new group, Fair Fight Action, is now suing Georgia election officials for mismanagement of the midterm elections. I recently spoke to Stacey Abrams in Los Angeles, where she was attending the National Day of Racial Healing, organized by the director Ava DuVernay. I asked Stacey Abrams about Fair Fight Action.

STACEY ABRAMS: We have launched Fair Fight Action, which includes Fair Fight Georgia. Our mission is to fix our democracy by forcing changes to our electoral system. Voting rights is the foundation and the bedrock of how democracy works. It’s how we make our voices heard in our communities. And in Georgia and around the country, that democracy is failing. And so, our mission is to make certain that we take a systemic look at what’s happened, from registration to voter access to ballot counting, and make certain that for every state and for every American that the right to vote is held sacrosanct and that everyone can leverage it.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of Amendment 4 in Florida? And do you see this as a model for the country?

STACEY ABRAMS: Well, I think what was done with Amendment 4 and Desmond’s work is extraordinary. What I want to point out is that Florida had the most egregious laws when it came to felony voters and—felon voter re-enfranchisement. In states like Georgia, it’s not that they don’t have the right to vote; it’s the complicated forms that they have to navigate to access that right to vote. But I do believe that lifting up the fact that anyone in America who is an American citizen, who’s a taxpayer, who has paid their debt to society, should be re-enfranchised, and it should not be an obstacle course. And I’m proud of the state of Florida for taking the step to make that re-enfranchisement possible.

AMY GOODMAN: The governor seems to want to find a way to stop it, but a lot of people are getting re-enfranchised, are signing up.

STACEY ABRAMS: I think that what’s happening in Florida is a pathway that we need to walk for the rest of the country, and that is not only demanding better action, but then standing behind those demands and pushing better action by those who are elected. Whether it’s in Florida or Georgia or across the country, we have to understand that our responsibility doesn’t end on Election Day, because the minute the elections are over, the people who won—who did not share our values—are going to be working hard. We have to be working even harder.

AMY GOODMAN: A lot of people credit your race with, well, opening up people’s imagination, so that in 2018 we see now the most diverse Congress in US history.

STACEY ABRAMS: I’m proud to be part of a pantheon of elected leaders who, from around this country, found their voices and lifted up their communities. What we were able to do in Georgia was build an unprecedented multicultural, multiethnic coalition. We tripled Latino and Asian Pacific Islander participation. We increased youth participation by 139 percent. And we outperformed with African Americans and with white voters to numbers that haven’t been seen in Georgia before. And what that signals is that you can win in America, you can win in the Deep South, by talking to communities and engaging them where they are and treating them with the respect that every community deserves.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you just the last two questions about the latest news. Just today, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the trans ban for now, the ban on trans people in the military. Your thoughts?

STACEY ABRAMS: I think it’s an abomination. These are men and women who have protected our country for the last few years, since President Obama opened up the military and said, “Step in, if you want to help.” And what the conservative bloc of the Supreme Court has done is said that they are willing to put us in harm’s way to suborn discrimination and bigotry coming from the White House. There is no rational purpose for this. There is no rational need. And by allowing the ban to take place while litigation continues through the courts simply says that we are not going to stand up for every American. And that is a shame for that to be coming from the Supreme Court of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, the video that went viral. Where Dr. King gave his speech in Washington, DC, now we see, in 2019, a Native American elder, the Omaha elder Nathan Phillips, drumming and chanting, and young white high school students from Kentucky, from Covington High School, the Catholic high school, mocking him, sneering. Your thoughts on what this means for the future?

STACEY ABRAMS: I know that there is a narrative that says that we don’t have the full picture of what preceded at that moment. But the issue is what happened in the moment we saw. And in that moment, we saw disrespect. We saw communities divided. And we heard language that is not appropriate. So, no matter what instigated it, what we have to focus on is why this was the reaction.

And unfortunately, this begins at the top. We have a commander-in-chief who has never failed to signal his xenophobia, his racism, his bigotry and his hatred. And that will absolutely filter down to the youngest and most impressionable members of our communities. And so, we all have to stand up and say that, regardless of why it began, it ends now. And I look forward to being part of that conversation, which is why I’m excited to be here for the National Day of Racial Healing.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. I spoke to her in Los Angeles. She’ll deliver the response to President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.