Stacey Abrams talks Trump, 2020 and the challenges facing women in politics

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There can be few more appropriate and powerful speaking guests for International Women’s Day than American politician Stacey Abrams. A member of the democratic party, she hit global headlines for her hotly-contested race against Republican Brian Kemp in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election. The first black female major-party gubernatorial nominee in the history of the United States, Abrams narrowly lost the election to Kemp, but triggered a major conversation around voter suppression in the process – an issue which she is now actively campaigning to prevent.

In February of this year, Abrams delivered the response to the State of the Union address, becoming the first African-American woman ever to do so.

In conversation with Channel 4 News Anchor, Jon Snow, at The Conduit on International Women’s Day this year, Stacey spoke about her plans for the 2020 presidential election, the measured thought process that guides her decisions and her experience as a woman of colour in politics.

Thank you to accelerateHER and Wayra UK for hosting Stacey, Jon and the Diversity in Tech panel that followed their conversation.

On her 2018 gubernatorial race

“I’m most proud of the team we built for the campaign. It was the most diverse team in Georgia history, and it had the intended effect, which was to make sure the electorate saw themselves reflected in the campaign.”

“You vote because you want the things you need for your community, so we’re spending time connecting with the community. Whether it’s healthcare or reproductive rights, people need to understand that the right to vote is the right to govern your life.”

“I do not believe that I’ve failed. I’m not the Governor but, in the way that I’ve responded, I’ve been able to create a set of circumstances I never imagined.”

On the 2020 presidential election

“My skills need to match the moment, match the need. It is insufficient to run for office just because the office is there.”

“I internalise my responsibility. I’d have to be ready to do it again and do it with the same gusto as I did the first time I ran for Governor.”

“If we don’t look inward and make the assessment of whether something is right for us, we get pushed into something that isn’t right and end up with a situation we don’t want.”

On her historic response to Trump’s State of the Union address

“My mission was not to appeal to anyone who finds Trump’s rhetoric appealing. If you’ve internalised his language, that speaks to more than I can accomplish in a ten-minute speech. My responsibility was to the Americans who do not feel protected by his leadership.”

“I don’t believe in converting Trump supporters. I believe in beating them.”

On being a minority in modern America

“I think we’re seeing an increased sense of isolation and a change in how we align and collaborate […] The changing demography can either be a frightening occurrence or it can be seen as an opportunity to respect difference and not allow it to divide.”

“Every moment where we’ve made a decision that led us to take land or attack communities that were non-white, we were putting ourselves on a path to true integration.”

On being a woman in politics

“Men can wake up, look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m having a good hair day, I should be in charge of the world.’ Women wake up and say, ‘I don’t have a PhD in everything yet, so I’m not ready.’”

“It’s hard to be the first to do things but it’s even harder to be the victim of things left undone.”

On being a leader

“You can compromise your tactics, but you can’t compromise your values. If we make trade-offs, they must be trade-offs that advance the course of justice.”

“Having nothing is not an excuse for doing nothing. Wherever you stand you have access to people, power and resources.”