Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, voting rights activist, and romance author Stacey Abrams is ready to be Vice President, thank you very fucking much. She said as much in a new Elle profile by Melissa Harris-Perry, in which Abrams’s ambitions are on full display for all—notably the Biden campaign—to see.
Experienced politicians know there is a right way to answer questions about pursuing higher office. Be demure. Redirect. Convey vague interest while insisting never to have given it serious consideration. But Stacey Abrams does not give the expected answer when I ask if she would accept an offer from former vice president Joe Biden to serve as his 2020 running mate. “Yes. I would be honored,” Abrams says. “I would be an excellent running mate. I have the capacity to attract voters by motivating typically ignored communities. I have a strong history of executive and management experience in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. I’ve spent 25 years in independent study of foreign policy. I am ready to help advance an agenda of restoring America’s place in the world. If I am selected, I am prepared and excited to serve.”
It’s impossible to look at the profile’s accompanying photo—an elegant Abrams in black and white, head held high with twists framing her face like a halo, wearing a smart cropped blazer with matching dress pants—and not sense the power Abrams is ready and willing to deliver. But a killer power suit and a grasp of policy doesn’t quell the primary argument against her snagging the VP spot: Her lack of governing experience. A recent poll even showed that most voters want Biden to prioritize experience when it comes to his VP pick rather than their ideological leaning, gender, or race.
Abrams is impressive on the stump and on paper: Degrees from Spelman, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT Austin, and Yale Law, and tenure in Georgia’s General Assembly as well as the Georgia House of Representatives, where she was the first black person in a leadership role. And currently, when she’s not working on young adult fantasy novels, she’s busy leading Fair Fight, an organization that combats voter suppression, and Fair Count, a 2020 Census mobilizing effort. Still, she’s no governor or member of Congress as most vice presidential nominees have tended to be, and she’s best known to most Americans as a woman who lost her gubernatorial bid.
But Abrams knows her reputation. She also won’t let it stop her.
“I am very self-aware, and I know that my résumé...is usually reduced to ‘She didn’t become the governor of Georgia.’ But it is important to understand all the things I did to prepare for that contest. That campaign was not a whim. It was the outcome of decades of deliberate work building my capacity to serve as many people as I could, in the most effective way possible. My responsibility is to be ready to do the job—to have the core capacities that are embedded in the role. I am able to stand effectively as a partner, to execute a vision, and to serve the vision of the president.”
Abrams is a rare political figure in 2020: She’s liked by both centrist Democrats and many on the left. And while Abrams’s ambition is palpable in this interview, her activist sensibilities are not dulled by her desire to attain power. During a discussion about the covid-19 pandemic and the economic stress it is placing on Americans, Abrams emphasized the need for policy and value shifts that protect the nation’s most vulnerable.
...What sets her apart from many decision-makers is her insistence that our problem solving must always begin at the bottom. “Many Americans are now experiencing what poor communities live with daily. We have communities perennially facing lower wages, higher poverty, lack of access to health care, and lack of access to child care. Shift workers, low-wage workers, agrarian workers, and service workers are now being pushed over the edge,” she says. “We must be intentional about identifying these challenges and concrete about naming and pursuing the solutions. These issues aren’t ancillary. They are central to who we are. The poor deserve expanded and deepened support. The poorest among us are often the people working the hardest. And they deserve to be protected. It is not socialism to have a social safety net.”
One of the profile’s most emotional moments was Abrams’s take on beauty, which she claims not to think about often. “I don’t look like everyone else,” said Abrams. “But I do me really well.”
She described herself as a “sturdy black woman with natural hair” who was often called “smart” rather than “beautiful.” But her take on what beauty really means to her was touching:
“I feel beautiful when young black girls come up to me. They are not just excited to see me, but to see themselves in me. When little girls point to the gaps between their teeth because they haven’t had braces. They may come from families that will never be able to afford them, like mine couldn’t. I keep my gap. I could do Invisalign, but my gap is my mother’s gap. It’s my grandmother’s gap. This doesn’t make me less, because my parents didn’t have the money to have my teeth fixed with braces. And it doesn’t make me less when I stand before a nation and deliver the State of the Union response.”
Even if Biden ends up picking some boring white moderate woman as his VP—Amy Klobuchar is surely watching her phone like a hawk these days—we can expect to see Abrams fighting the good fight and making her way onto our ballots sooner rather than later.