On visit to Milwaukee, Stacey Abrams talks about progressive organization


The former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist visits Wisconsin on a speaking tour.

Democratic political organizer and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams addressed an audience of several hundred at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee on Wednesday evening, discussing her roots in Wisconsin and her vision for the future of progressive organization.

The 2020 election cycle saw Democrats take both the presidency and the Senate, while retaining a slim majority in the House of Representatives. Abrams’ vision to continue building on these successes in 2022 revolves around one central principle: persistence.

A record number of Americans flocked to the polls in last year’s election which largely appeared to be a referendum on former President Donald Trump. The result, a victory for current President Joe Biden, was widely celebrated by Democrats. Padding Biden’s victory was won by 16 votes from the Electoral College of Georgia, which had not been awarded to a Democrat since 1996. Abrams went on to help Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock win Senate seats American a few months later, giving Democrats control of the chamber. .

Wisconsin’s political status as a swing state will again be in the crosshairs of both parties in next fall’s election, as Republicans hope to topple Gov. Tony Evers and Democrats hope to oust GOP Senator Ron Johnson from its seat and expand their majority in the Senate.

Milwaukee will be especially important in these battles. The city’s lack of participation by the black population in the 2016 election was one of the many factors that some believed cost Hillary Clinton the presidency in 2016. Clinton also did not visit Wisconsin during the elections. general elections.

Democrats appear keen to avoid this mistake in the future, having invested immense resources in the state. The Democratic National Committee attempted to host its 2020 convention in Milwaukee until the coronavirus pandemic finally forced the party to hold a virtual rally.

Visits from high-profile progressives like Abrams have indicated a commitment to continue fighting for the Badger State.

Only protracted social movements, argued Abrams, stand the test of time.

RELATED: Wisconsin Voting Rights Groups Call on Biden and Congress to Revive People’s Law

She used the example of medicare reform. Democrats had worked for decades to push through something on this front before President Barack Obama finally enacted the Affordable Care Act. According to Abrams, it was the inertia of politics that helped him overcome multiple Republican repeal attempts.

“Voting is not magic,” she said, “it’s medicine. She continued the metaphor by reminding those in attendance that when people stop taking medication, the disease can come back.

Abrams warned that while Trump was not in power, he was, in his mind, a symptom of a larger problem that must be defeated at the polls with continued participation from progressives as in 2018 and 2020.

Attempts to restrict voting rights in states across the country have worried the organizer. Whenever elected officials restrict access to polling stations, “we are wasting what we could be,” Abrams said.

She diagnosed many of the fears on the right as being based on America’s changing demographics. Abrams urged progressives to address the nation’s changing identity and push back on the conservative framing of issues.

She lambasted President Ronald Reagan for weakening civic faith. “Government is people” who work together to achieve something bigger than themselves, she said.

Abrams was joined on stage by Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes who acted as interviewer and moderator for the night. Barnes also shows up to topple Johnson.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, left, moderated a discussion with progressive voting rights activist and organizer Stacey Abrams at an event at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. (Photo by JT Cestkowski)

Abrams referred to her personal connection to Wisconsin, being born in Madison while her mother dated and worked at UW-Madison. According to Abrams, his mother earned less than a janitor because of her race and gender.

Abrams said the lack of money impacted his growth, in large part because of the way his parents used their lack of means as a lesson. “No matter how little we have, there is someone with less,” she told him, quoting her mother and father. “Your job is to serve this person. “

As Abrams and his family finally moved to Gulfport, Mississippi, the drumbeat over the importance of his parents’ service never ceased.

Her decision to run for governor of Georgia in 2018 – the first black woman to do so – was based on her desire to ensure good governance, she said. Abrams ultimately lost the race to Brian Kemp, a Republican who, the year before the election, used his post as secretary of state to purge hundreds of thousands of names from state voters lists.

“Being the first one isn’t fun,” Abrams said. “Sometimes you’re the first to lose. She went on to say that she did not focus on earning the title “The First” when she ran for certain positions, and instead committed to ensuring that she was not. not the last.

This desire is reflected in his work: a commitment to train people of color in political organization. Abrams said that a community’s support for a political goal hinges on members of that community helping lead the movement.

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