Defender of the right to voteShe said Tuesday that she felt reprimanded and insulted in the summer of 2020 while enduring questions about her ability to handle the position of vice president of the United States when then-candidate Joe Biden was considering choosing her as his running mate. Abrams spoke with author NK Jemison on the first day of the South by Southwest festival, which takes place almost this year.
“They reprimanded me for refusing to object and pretending I didn’t have the ability to do the job because I didn’t have the title and the positions that people were used to seeing they had,” Abrams said, adding that they asked him a question with which very few people have to fight.
“There were all these insults instead of looking at the fundamental question. They asked me the question that white men are not asked, ‘Are you qualified?'” Abrams said.
The former Georgia secretary of state said there is “absolutely a bewilderment” in society with “the audacity of people of color who think we belong in the spaces and declare that we deserve to have access.”
In 2018, Abrams lost the Georgia gubernatorial race to Republican Brain Kemp by less than 55,000 votes. He said that “blocking so many thousands of voters certainly had an impact on the outcome” and jokingly referred to his career trajectory as “an asymptote of success.”
“I’m very, very close to crossing the line, but I never get over it,” Abrams said. He noted that he has been able to become more involved in activism for the right to vote “due to an act of perfidy by someone in power who decided that people who looked like me should not be so active and proactive in their politics.”
Abrams, who will publish a new political fiction book “While Justice Sleeps” in May, attributed much of his success in politics to storytelling and voter participation.
“You have to center the voter, center the citizen, the person in the narrative,” Abrams said. “If it is someone else and they cannot benefit or be victims of it, then you give them a reason not to pay attention.”
Abrams, who founded Fair Fight Action in 2018, a national organization that aims to address voter suppression, said voters must remain vigilant in holding elected officials accountable “because between elections is when life happens.”
He said the more than 250 proposals to restrict voting in states across the country are trying to reverse the progress of voters who showed up in record numbers last election cycle to make their voices heard.
“We worked to engage the largest number of communities of color as active voters in Georgia in the history of the state … we did it by telling them a story about their power,” Abrams said. “And now we have 253 bills across the country trying to undo their performance.”
Last week, the Georgia state senate narrowly passed a bill that will repeal unexcused absentee voting if it becomes law. During the November elections, 1.3 million voters in Georgia used mail-in ballots to cast their vote.
The new proposed legislation also creates stricter identification requirements for those who want to vote by mail and would make Georgia one of the most difficult states to request an absentee ballot.
On Sunday, during an interview with CNN, Abrams called the push by Republican state lawmakers to add more voting restrictions “racist” and a “reduction of Jim Crow in a suit and tie.”
“The only connection we can find is that more people of color voted, and it changed the election result in a direction that Republicans don’t like,” Abrams told CNN. “Rather than celebrating better access and greater participation, their response is to try to eliminate access to voting primarily for communities of color,” he added.
Abrams spoke on the first day of the South by Southwest virtual festival, held annually in Austin, Texas. Other notable politicians speaking at the festival later this week include Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar and former President George W. Bush.