Stacey Abrams made history last week by becoming the first woman of color to win a major party gubernatorial nomination in America. That she did this in Georgia, a red state with a complex legacy of racism, is even more stunning. What the pundits missed is how she went about achieving her dominating victory in the primary and how this strategy could help her make history again in November.
Much has been written about how Democrats can win future elections. Either we win back blue collar Obama/Trump voters or we double down on turnout from our base.
Now that she is pivoting to the general, Abrams is not choosing between either/or but embracing both/and. She is an unabashed progressive on choice, gay rights, climate, and guns and an unabashed progressive populist on the economy. A strategy that has expanded the base of the Democratic party by bringing in new voters and is winning over those coveted independents.
Internal polls show Georgia voters care far more about bread and butter issues than the right wing culture menu they are used too.
She seems likely to pursue a sharper general election focus on two issues she also long emphasized on the road to the Democratic nomination: the economy and her vow to expand Medicaid.
“Every election is about something, not just someone. And it looks like the electorate in Georgia is much more focused on the economy and healthcare, and not as much on other issues,” said Fred Yang, a partner with the pollster. “They seem to be what’s foremost on voters’ minds in 2018.”
Abrams is the rare figure who combines the strength on identity politics millennials and minorities have come to expect from Democrats along with the populist progressive approach to economic equity that made Bernie Sanders a household name. As the party looks to national figures to bridge our internal divide, she is a name that will likely be in the mix. Especially if we help her win in November.