Stacey Abrams: progressive champion

Before Republican Governors Nathan Deal and Sonny Perdue, Georgia had a long history of white male Democrats holding the seat going as far back as 1872.

While the parties and their favored policies shifted between reconstruction and the civil rights era, Georgia state politics have been conservative since it was a colony.

Hopes for a Democratic leader lay in the hands of liberal strongholds such as the metro Atlanta area. One of these strongholds, Dekalb County, happens to be the home of the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate. The emergence of Progressive-Democratic leader Stacey Abrams could change Georgia history. She would be the first African-American female governor in history.

Her identity is not the only reason for the broad support Abrams has. Her backstory and speeches have inspired a blue wave of supporters.

Growing up poor, a woman, and a person of color, Abrams’ voice speaks to impoverished and minority communities. While at Hendershot’s in downtown Athens, she shared an unfortunate tale of the day her and other valedictorians across Georgia gathered at the governor’s estate.

“That morning my parents got up, woke me up. We went outside, but we didn’t get in our car because my family didn’t have a car. My mom called us gentile poor; we had no money, but we watched PBS, and we read books.”

“We get to the top of the driveway and there was the guard station. The guard comes out and he looks at me, and he looks at my parents. He says, ‘This is a private event, you don’t belong here.’” Abrams pointed her finger at the crowd motioning the guard’s behavior.

Abrams confessed that she was ready to leave.

“I’m ready to start running, but my mother has my arm in a death grip. Because my parents needed me to understand at that moment that no one gets to determine your humanity but you.”

“The only clear memory I have of that day is the man standing in front of the most powerful place in Georgia, looking at me and telling me I do not belong. We have lived through two years of a leader telling us we don’t belong, and we’ve got someone running in this election who tells a lot of us we don’t belong. But we’ve got a chance to tell them something else. We will open those gates wide when I become the governor of Georgia so no one ever doubts that they belong!”

For many citizens, the choice between Abrams and her Republican counterpart Secretary of State Brian Kemp is an easy one. The two Georgia gubernatorial candidates have conflicting opinions on important issues like civil rights, economic issues, education, gun control, and healthcare.

Because of her substantial platform in these areas, BluePrints Magazine has endorsed Abrams. She supports the LGBT community and anti-discrimination laws that will advance protections for all workers. Abrams is fighting for common sense gun control, and she has a plan to generate thousands of long-term jobs that support a living wage. She intends to protect public schools from privatization and wants to strengthen debt free pathways to higher education for students. She hopes to expand Medicaid and will protect women’s reproductive rights.

Like Abrams, Kemp also supports small businesses. He plans to do so by cutting bothersome regulations. He also plans to strengthen rural Georgia, reform state government, and “PUT GEORGIA FIRST.” These four issues make up his 4-Point Plan to Put Georgians First.

In the past, Abrams has fought legislation that would permit discrimination.  She voted against House Bill 757, a bill that would have allowed taxpayer-funded groups to deny services to members of the LGBT community. Abrams also co-sponsored HB 323 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation within state agencies.

Kemp would support a religious freedom and restoration bill that would permit businesses to deny health care coverage for contraception or to discriminate against gay couples. Kemp supports the construction of a border wall, wants to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, cut off benefits for illegal immigrants, and defund sanctuary cities. In short, he supports the Trump administration’s policies.

Cedar Shoals is a diverse school, and we feel that Abrams’ plans support our student body’s education and future careers. Many of our students depend on programs such as DACA, and there are many Republican endorsed bills that could negatively affect our students.

Abrams’ chances of becoming the first black female governor potentially lay in the hands of minority groups and first-time voters. As Secretary of State, Kemp is overseeing his own election, and accusations of voter suppression are rampant.

There are 1.5 million new Georgia residents since 2005. Approximately 80% of these new residents are people of color. Abrams previously founded the non-profit New Georgia Project to help young people register to vote. Between 2014 and 2016 alone, this organization registered over 200,000 voters of color. Abrams also helped restore over 33,000 illegally canceled voter applications.

Kemp, on the other hand, will continue Georgia’s notorious history of voter suppression. Kemp’s office has purged over 35,000 individuals from Georgia voter rolls using software that disproportionately targeted minority voters. He has also stalled more than 53,000 voter applications as “pending” over acute details such as hyphens, and a disproportionate amount of these voters are black. Since 2012 Kemp’s office has canceled over 1.4 million voter registrations. Abrams has called Kemp a “remarkable architect of voter suppression.”

Kemp’s purge of voter rolls is an attempt to sway the ballot in his favor and to secure his position as Georgia’s governor. Many may argue that Abrams is also acting in her own self and political interests, as the majority of the voters she helped register are likely to vote Democrat.

The difference is that Abrams’ self-interests also happen to be in the best interest of American democracy. Kemp’s attempt to mute colored voters does not mix well with the state’s changing demographics.

Kemp is attempting to earn a majority of votes from a minority of voters. Meanwhile, Abrams is trying to make Georgia responsive to its changing population.

Kemp only has four bulleted issues on his website, and the information there is not substantive.  In attempting to illustrate how he will reduce regulations on small businesses, he merely links to a Gainesville Times article about his populist rhetoric. A man who cannot even explain his own issues does not deserve the title of Georgia governor.

In contrast, Abrams has a clear message of what she will do as governor, and her previous record shows that she will keep her promises. Kemp’s bulleted gambit isn’t fooling anyone. He may have his four-point plan, but Abrams is the only candidate who will actually put Georgians first.