by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Stacey Abrams was repeatedly praised as a “bold progressive” with an “unapologetically left” agenda during her failed gubernatorial campaign in 2018. Now that she’s running again in 2022, Abrams and her media allies would like to revise the record by insisting that she is in fact a pragmatic moderate.
Astead Herndon’s most recent piece in the New York Times suggests the Stacey Abrams rebranding effort is well underway. Herndon, author of articles such as “Menace Enters the Republican Mainstream,” conducted his own “review” of Abrams’s political ideology and found “a leader who has carefully calibrated her positions, making a point to avoid drifting into one Democratic lane or another.”
The article includes a revealing quote from Democratic megadonor Steve Phillips about why white progressives, who comprise the vast majority of party activists and professional journalists, have been so willing to embrace Abrams as one of their own. “It’s hard for white progressives to be too critical of someone who is so strongly and fiercely unapologetically Black and female,” Phillips told the Times. “Her authenticity comes from the sectors that are the core parts of the progressive base.”
It’s certainly true that the white progressives who dominate the Democratic Party at the national level are egregiously out of touch with the policy preferences of most minority voters. Abrams has been reluctant to embrace extreme left-wing positions that might offend her billionaire donors, such as defunding the police, single-payer health care, and the Green New Deal. Whether or not that makes her a “moderate” is a different question.
The media coverage of the 2018 campaign, for example, was rather emphatic in terms of promoting Abrams as an example of how Democrats could find success by rejecting moderation. As it happens, much of the coverage appeared in the pages of the New York Times.