Democrats across the nation might just find Stacey Abrams on their 2020 ballots after all—just not as the presidential nominee.
Just one day after officially ruling out a presidential run in order to continue her fight for fair elections, Abrams, 45, tells The New York Times that she remains open to joining the effort to defeat Donald Trump in 2020—as vice president. In the meantime, though, she’s got other things to do.
Nearly a year after the Georgia governorship was stolen from her by Republican Brian Kemp, it’s undeniable that nobody but Stacey Abrams gets to choose what’s next for Stacey Abrams. Even before the election was officially certified in favor of Kemp, the corrupt then-secretary of state, speculation over Abrams’ next steps abounded: Surely she’d run again, but for which office? Senate? Governor (again)? President?
Shouts of “Abrams (for anything) 2020!” continued to echo in late November as Georgia’s favorite Stacey announced her next project: Rather than jumping right into a new campaign, Abrams was poised to launch Fair Fight Georgia, a nonprofit devoted to fighting not just the blatant and unchecked voter suppression that kept her out of the governor’s mansion, but that scourge’s reach across the entire country.
“My mission is to take a little bit of time to decompress, and then No. 1, file this lawsuit, get this organization off the ground, get a little bit of rest and then get to work figuring out what we can do to not only help Georgia but help the United States,” she told the AP.
Despite this noble and necessary pursuit, demands that Abrams declare her next steps surged once more in February when she delivered a near-perfect official response to the State of the Union address.
Amid the speculation, Abrams maintained that she’d made no decisions yet, beyond her vow to fight for fair elections for all Americans. Traditional media, of course, continued to glide right past the widespread voter suppression that remained Abrams’ crucial focal point, choosing to focus on what she might do instead of what she was already doing.
By late March, a convoluted rumor gained credence: Would Joe Biden, who, at the time, hadn’t yet officially entered the presidential fray, declare candidacy with a running mate already in place? And could—gasp!—that running mate be none other than Stacey Abrams? Abrams was again forced to make it clear that she would be making her decisions when she saw fit, and not a moment before, in a glorious appearance on ABC’s The View.
(Y)ou don’t run for second place. […]
If I’m going to enter a primary, then I’m going to enter a primary. And if I don’t enter the primary, my job is to make certain that the best Democrat becomes the nominee, and whoever wins the primary, that we make certain that person gets elected in 2020.
In Las Vegas on Tuesday, less than four months after her View appearance, the former Georgia state House minority leader skillfully shaped her own story once again. By merging the official declaration that she wasn’t running for the White House with the equally, if not more significant, announcement that she was launching Fair Fight 2020 instead, she made sure that her fight against voter suppression got the attention it deserves.
Abrams knew exactly what she was doing when she refused to quash speculation about her future. She skillfully shifted attention toward voter suppression in a brilliant and loving manipulation of the traditional media, and admitted as much on Tuesday.
Abrams said part of the reason she had talked about running for president was to call attention to voting rights and to make the case that Georgia should be considered a battleground state. She said candidates are paying attention to Georgia, and most have acknowledged that voter suppression is a serious concern that must be addressed.
In a telephone interview (with the Washington Post) after her speech, Abrams said party leaders had welcomed Fair Fight. “Without exception I have received nothing but the highest degree of excitement and offers of support,” she said.
Which brings us back to her Times interview. Despite repeated attempts to force her to admit she wants to move into Number One Observatory Circle, Abrams kept her focus on what matters most to her, and what should matter most to all of us: fighting voter suppression.
First, she was asked why she’s not running for president.
You also turned down the opportunity to run for Senate in Georgia. Is it just that you had your heart set on governor? Or is it that you are looking at being vice president?
I’m certainly open to other political opportunities.
My decision not to run for the Senate was because I do not want to serve in the Senate. I think that there are people who are running who are the right people for that job. And I’m going to do my best to ensure that they can become the senator from Georgia. And that means fighting voter suppression. That means making sure that we are learning things from our 2018 campaign.
But as I think about my next step, my first responsibility is to ensure that when the primary is done — when the nominee decides to choose their running mate — that they are choosing based on knowing that we are in a country where we have built the infrastructure in those battleground states. And that I’ve done my part.
See what she did there? But the Times’ Astead W. Herndon wasn’t giving up on his hunt for an “Abrams for VP” headline without a fight, though. So he seized on the one glimmer of hope Abrams fed him.
So in saying you’re open to other opportunities, that includes any potential selection for vice president?
I would be honored to be considered by any nominee.
But my responsibility is to focus on the primary. And that means using the primary as an opportunity to build the apparatus to fight voter suppression. Because in the end, no matter where I fit, no matter which ones of our nominees win, if we haven’t fought this scourge, if we haven’t pushed back against Moscow Mitch and his determination to block any legislation that would cure our voting machines, then we are all in a world of trouble.
Seemingly defeated, Herndon shifted the conversation to anything but voter protection, focusing on electability and Abrams’ solid approaches to conversations about identity politics. Yet Abrams triumphed again in the end, turning a final question about any regrets she might feel about her gubernatorial campaign back to voter suppression.
What I regret every day is that we could not stop [Brian Kemp] from bastardizing this whole process, from denying the franchise to those who had earned it by being Americans and tried to use right to vote to set the course of their futures.
And I will always be deeply, deeply hurt that we live in a nation that permitted that to happen.
The nation would be lucky to call Stacey Abrams its vice president one day, but first, as she’s long told us, we must protect our elections, and ensure a Fair Fight in 2019, 2020, and beyond. Without fair elections, without voters truly believing that their vote matters, and will be counted, the names on the ballot won’t be nearly as important as they should be.