Hope Is Not Lost for American Democracy: Why Democrats Must Follow in Stacey Abrams’ Footsteps

Chloe Duncan-Wald, Contributing Writer

A stable and effective administration can ensure the success of our democracy, and given last Wednesday’s insurrection, it is evidently fragile. When Americans in the recent presidential election guaranteed the Trump administration’s end through their vote, the dark stain of right-wing extremism ostensibly remained. The danger Trumpism poses for the future of American politics points to how persistent and continued voting for stable and responsible lawmakers may be the only way to quell alt-right extremists. While the prospect of repairing and sustaining America’s democracy seems unattainable, especially after much of 2020, there is a way, and there is hope.

While the prospect of repairing and sustaining America’s democracy seems unattainable, especially after much of 2020, there is a way, and there is hope.”

On the same day of the shameful attack on the Capitol, January 6th, Stacey Abrams victoriously pioneered a path towards restoring fair elections in Georgia and beyond. On that day, Abrams tilted the scales of a historically predominantly red state by focusing on voter turnout from Georgia’s Black population. Abrams saw the fruits of her labor after her own struggles with Georgia’s voter suppression. A vital discovery was revealed: enough Democratic voters may exist in the other Southern states that could potentially turn key states blue. Following Abram’s lead of tackling voter suppression nationwide is a necessary first step towards restoring democracy.

Abrams and her Fair Fight initiative registered enough voters for Democratic candidates Rafael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to win the Georgia Senate runoffs against their Republican incumbents. The strategies her initiative implemented have made strides in expanding a Democratic voter base in the South. Fair Fight began in 2018 after Abrams experienced the unjust effects of voter suppression when she lost in the gubernatorial election against Republican Brian Kemp, who controlled the state’s voter rolls. Not only did voting machines err, especially in communities of color, but lines to vote also were disproportionately longer for Black Georgians, and those hoping to register found their applications ‘pending’ until after the election. Kemp had previously utilized intimidation tactics against other groups seeking to register minorities, such as the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center in 2012 and the New Georgia Project in 2014. After Abrams’s loss, she realized that the GOP’s suppression of Black voters was calculated and that the GOP wouldn’t have won without it. In response, Abrams didn’t seek to flip Republican votes, but focused on preventing unjust suppression and mass-registering Black and minority voters. Abrams rightly knew that without suppression, Black Georgians, and Democrats, would have a fair fight and a chance at winning. 

 However, suppression tactics are still ongoing. The recent boom in voter suppression can be tied to the fateful 2013 Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder, which brought the Voting Rights Act to its knees. The Voting Rights Act required states that suppressed votes by race to obtain federal permission before enacting laws about elections. Shelby County v. Holder eliminated this requirement, so states were no longer subject to federal oversight. According to the Federal Election Assistance Commission, the aftermath of this decision has been sweeping: states subject to oversight ‘purged’ voters by removing their registrations, over 40% higher than before. From 2014 to 2018, over 33 million voters have been purged off of registration lists, and in states like Wisconsin, Black voters are twice as likely to be removed. Additionally, this ruling has given way to more gerrymandering, precinct closures on weekend dates where Black voters have the highest turnout, and the criminalization of voter registration drives in states across the country. While these statistics are more than concerning, they are not irreversible. Abrams tackled many of these suppression tactics in Georgia, but the progress she made cannot stop.

Abrams tackled many of these suppression tactics in Georgia, but the progress she made cannot stop.”

Against all odds, Stacey Abrams has led Democrats to a triumphant victory in the Senate, arguably ensuring a smoother presidency for President-elect Biden. If anything, January 6th exemplified that when democracy is restored, it works. Within hours of certifying the Georgia election, the outgoing administration and its supporters humiliated America on the world stage. Yet, the actions of extremists should not overshadow this hallmark win for Democracy. The contrast between the record-breaking numbers of Black voters turning out in Georgia and the viciously hateful Trump-supporting seditionists paint a very accurate picture of America’s divisions. Building democracy will always be more challenging than tearing it down, but Stacey Abrams has proved it is possible by reaching out to silenced minorities—and Democrats must too.