Stacey Abrams thinks she’ll be president by 2040

FiveThirtyEight’s Clare Malone spoke with Stacey Abrams about her 2018 gubernatorial run and what the future holds.
33:36 | 01/31/20

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Transcript for Stacey Abrams thinks she’ll be president by 2040
And apparatus and help. People on this project and I'm wondering if you could tell me that story. The first time he decided to run for office and what was that moment in your life and money. I was serving as deputy city attorney the city of Atlanta it was the first administration. Net and Atlanta when there was a Republican governor. And there's been a lot of changes in how the city and the state and tracked it. My job as deputy city attorney was to manage the team of lawyers that went to the State Capitol to monitor what such. And what I realize when I got there was so they're very few people working. As legislators who had ever actually worked for city government. That a lot of people have been mayors or City Council members. But very few people who were bureaucrats that it actually administer. The rules there are problems. And the disconnect between the idea is in reality. Legion right. And for me it was helping my job was to essentially take this information in the translated for. Someone working in watershed management or summoned her in charge of transportation. And two things hit me one with the realization that. Bureaucrats needed to be in office because often what legislator for doing we're solving problems that they understood the surface of but they didn't understand. The regulatory scheme and how did you actually administer them a tax attorney by training says the administrative piece of things yes it's me. The second part there was that I knew you. By that point that I wanted to certain executive role. And I realized that I didn't understand the legislative process. I wouldn't be an effective executive and my sense because. No matter what the executive wanna whether it was a governor or mayor if you didn't understand how the process of building lots happened and how you navigated that. You were going to be less effective you work we'd get what you want it yet and I believe in practical knowledge so I decided to run for office so it's interesting a lot of a lot of the women that we talked. Two for this project will say someone kind of put a bug in my ear at that certain time and there's an interesting thing Ben jealous but. Had this FaceBook post I think the night at the days of year gubernatorial primary vote. And he said 25 years ago Stacey Abrams told me that she was going to be the first governor George and I believed her. And it's so interesting because you seem one thing that seems to stand up for freedom reading about you and is that you knew you want front profits and. Once it. So now I'd I knew I was gonna profits starting college I will correct then we'll open a crack when I told him it was I was going to be mayor when OPEC had decided that governor but. That has always had higher expert. I grew up in a family that was very committed to social justice. That spent a lot of time doing direct service issues that in the meet me has always been ones it. I knew they couldn't solve alone not my parents and the six of us we were going to solve poverty in this. But what fascinated me was the issue of who could do it which part of the world to fix it. And government to me seemed to be the best able and often the least engaged in that process for him from management. And so I'm a bit of a self starter and I want it to solve it and when I realized that as a matter of efficiency. Being in charge of government pieces can help me get things done. I'd cite the need for a process. Do you think that years unique as a woman politician having that kind. I knew from a long time ago ask a nonprofit. Think I'm unique I think I would say I'm than usual because for a lot of women. That instinct is to direct service to try to solve the problems are and politics is the pace and complicated. And not too complicated for women but it's complicated to figure how you enter happy stay happy make change happen yet. I'm I've always been fascinated by the systems and for me this is just a system you have to understand the system you need to you. Take over big if I would see that the difference for me was less. That I don't ask don't we for people ask me to do things that tend to tight. Fix the problems icy and because my I always been focused on social justice issues. Government has always seemed like one of the key solution to the. You prop your family and actually you and I have something in common with her both. One of six siblings which Larry I'm the youngest number Q packed and it isn't necessarily about women in politics but. I'm so interest if you think there's any connection between. You know big annaly. And the idea of running for officer or no because when your regulate its there's a lot of community there's lots of systems when you're living with that many people. I'm curious about that unit you're close with your siblings. Sort of wonder what roll up late in particular your sisters and I think about. The sister pairs of Kabul Harris my Harris. Your sister's a federal judge and had sort of curious what impact that. So I'm number Q ethics and when you we think about some of the tax on any of my annaly. Our older sisters the captain I'm financing logistics. Leslie sort of increased director in the industry are staff. Contend that their responsibilities deployment. But and our family are going up he had lots of things that we wanted to use kids things he responsible for through the work my carrots were doing. And yet capture mean part of getting through day was that you at six people. Under the age of twelve to get things done at. And so you you've sort of figure out where you are my mom assigned each of axis of going to be responsible forces it was my younger brother Richard. But I'm close to each of my siblings in different ways and so I think. The macro for me was that yes the government exited in our family you know there's a president vice president won't talk about with who. A quick stop but we're all forget my mom that told anything. The responsibility was you have to get these things done there were no excuses and he did get to figure which system yet figured out. Have you utilize each player best is being a girl in the Stanley play any role. And there's like. You know high achieving anglers it to us it's more like will therefore girls into place and so was the older three of us her all girls and two Brothers and as I think for each of us. We we experience our family was different. I despite my current job I'm an introvert. Which meant that my way of navigating that's different than let's leave the judge what you mean. Yeah she's she runs or count. As well as of leaders of women's organizations I started. But she is a much more accurate personality can Andrea is the oldest and is also an introvert but she never had to where you got it because we just did which she told us. It's funny you bring up into version I was gonna ask you about that because you've you've described yourself as being more introverted person I'm curious as a politician. I often think of women politicians should be chatty extroverted how you deal with that mean he. Idea that people happen out what you should be as a as a woman my job is to you understand what people need. And the figure out how white can deliver it with out having been compromised. So yes Simon introvert. IA campus because the most effective way to get people Hughes talked to use to go and fight them. However when I knock on the door I pray no one's home and that they want it that's my introvert. But then. Utility part of me says you're gonna knock anyway and then standstill in the open the door and the talked. I'm effective at delivering messages and pretty it speaker. But as soon as I'm done my team knows that I'm which need at least an hour he talks in front of the television by myself without even bother yes and so it's organizing. The way I do my politics is a do you think it's legitimate people want to know they want to know that. They can touch you an axis you that you hear them and part of what being chatting precarious shows that you connect. My job and I think it up an introvert especially women. It's not to hide from the opportunity. To figure how do you mold. What you are good act to meet the needs is fundamentally what people want is not that you have to be their best friend or that stand up comedian. They woman is she can hear them that you care about them. And that your real person who'll think about polygamy and twists. You've also talked about the prism of race and air Allen and the way that you would your policies are viewed through that Chris. Has become more print counts as you become more on the it is exceptionally well it's part of it is each thing I'd stand for in recent years has put me in the singular category. I was the first woman the first black woman. First black person and each time this happened I take on new attribute and you cannot miss me I'd I'd. Not only can you not listen because I'm president and fairly. Clear bat going and want. But I can't divorce any one of those aspects of myself from doing right and I don't want to. And my response is that instead you have to lean in an embrace it. And explain why it matters because. Race does matter gender does matter intersection polity of race and gender matters it informs how it see things experiences that had. But it also allows me a broader view of concerns that other people happy he's even if I don't have those exact experiences. I understand the accept and understand the intensity. Understand the fear him and I can use this pieces to you. Enemy howitzer. Right to the first the first office he ran for one's state wrapped correct. And so from state wrapped to have you experienced that race gender prison when your state rap verses. Now when you are. Stacey Abrams of Georgia Tech first of merit for office I a bring and end a district that was roughly half white half African American. And my eight up my campaign literature that have bite they thought as I can afford on the new colors color possibly. So. We had more simplistic piece but when I first started introducing myself to community. I went to visit a house in an African American part of town knocked on the door in and said I'm Stacy Abramson. State's teams which bush won and says no minimum I'm Methodist. And she just helicopter has that means she's woody woody would he do when. And then when I went to the other side of town that are young and older Jewish woman opened the door and she's like. I thought Stacy Abrams was Jewish NG to look disappointment no I'm a black method. I'm sorry it's so even in my first run. Their expectations of who would stand for that seat. With it white woman as it was a white woman right and my day my predecessor in the seat won't have been an older black from the entered an older black man. I think they expected something different because of the composition of the district chair when arrested for liter I became the first woman to lead a party in the history stated sort. The first black person to lead in the house. And that's as the first black woman to do any of this check and that became a parent sometimes and we had to negotiate because I'm working with people who have never had to have conversations about power with someone who looked like. Right they didn't know what they're doing an I don't know yet. My approach was to just admitted and confronted and they have and what it needs to get -- given what I want and when you say that is it making a disarming comment is it just being blunt about it it depended on the person carrying I would I'd gotten to note speaker of the house when he served served committees I serve on. And so he knew the white ones but the first time we had to and navigate. Thorny issue together. I went with blocked because he'd seen me work he knew. My work ethic and the east this I used to organize the work I did and that report there were others to richest. Dumbfounded that I was the person's it to speak to break and sometimes I had to just. Charm them into the forgetting why they were uncomfortable yet. But sometimes it was drawing out of them what their discomfort was was truly my rates or was it simply I was different. And what that difference meant. Because some people dislike me because of Richard Anderson people just didn't like me because the two yet. And my job was to figure out which one let's because immutable characteristics. I can do nothing about. The parts of meat that cause she fear or panic or anger. If there are things I kitten. I can adultery teammate it will be easier first work together I will fight that I agree with you and if I don't we just have to work. I'm curious how you think and act that prison every parent and policy issues new voters. How you think different groups proceed let's say white women vs black and white men vs black Mike I think you've written a little. Black women may be more up front with few concerns they have about your campus at various points that you mean to you think that you. This is a white woman she probably is coming with this understanding of me. One thing that movements. In the very clear through my way primary and was that because my opponent was a white woman at the same name similar. Reza male and at least on the superficial. While polls we are both attorneys and legislators. What was disconcerting. To me was actually finding out that. This same challenges I had existed for all of those communities. And people were just concerned that a black woman do the job up later. I mean and it came from black women white women whiteman Blackmon. The Tina it and it. Almost every. Every combination you can imagine when I reached out someone from that community said well you know I think that most qualified. Job. As though they were giving me some kind of fatal diagnosis but now they had met him. But what I found is that it was less about me. And more about how people perceive that combination of what. The electability Nevada Atlantic and it it's not endemic solely to the white community or the black community it. Manifests itself. Because people position themselves through the worst ones they can imagine. And sometimes it's because they're trying to look out for you but more often they're trying to justified their own discomfort. And that part is the hardest as it. What we discovered is that when our focus groups and our analysis. I picked up support from every one of those groups and sat on planes today and people come and say hi to me. And I can't really tell based on what they look like how the point react to her I was at a airport and you talk in this kind camel clutch. As tall like I camouflaged came up to me and I'm thinking oh dear god what is he going to sit me he said think I'm so glad I think. I really enjoy that speech you gave it and it was both a moment for Rios of being happy and a re affirmation that. Yes there are certain categories of community that are going to be disproportionately. Lately to light. Right but that I can't extract from any one person. This larger neared its record yes an my job isn't to try to figure that out my job is to do my best work. And to try to demystify. They're concerned about but what I can't fix I can't fix and and in the ones doing the work. Yet I mean I am curious about that gubernatorial primaries that you said you ran against another woman who is white was also named CC. I ready. A ticket from a local columnist who said that it. The primary could have the feel of the feud between beyonce and Taylor Swift. Did you expects. Media coverage of your race to be what turned to do which was petty rejected as deeply misogynist but. He did you expect. I wasn't surprised by that mostly it's even for the journalist he said eight. I think the challenge was they never confronted happening to navigate so many different so I will. I will give them some benefit of the doubt but not too much because it was 2018. And had the juxtaposition into mending Michael I doubt it would've been reduced to that. Fassel a description there become the complexity of what was happening. And so I do you think that there is there is a Elise in this sometimes team how we were described how we were covered. That there is also dismissal of the legitimacy candidacy. Because for a lot of these reporters there were multiple reasons I think I can win and soon. The onus and responsibility. For a better treatment of the campaign and better coverage did not hold. More than ending do you think that those reporters were. Turns characterizing yours say policy positions because of say okay this is of a black woman and therefore she's probably. Thanks best I think there's a combination of mischaracterization. Of myopia and they would focus on. A racially. Pertinent aspects with. The microscopic detail and ignored the larger point that was being made to wind IA would talk about. The colonel justice reforms for example but the one that was misheard. I mean pervasive was conversation I had in response to you Charlottesville. My response. Was one that was grounded in a conversation about how we think about. Each of us situated in that state and how we need to confront nationalism and white supremacy. And the dehumanization of others. But it became this varied theory hyper simplistic. Conversation. That never gave full. Wait to what I thought was a fairly complex issue and in my mind a fairly new want characterization I had a very apps would just. Poll which is I don't like racism. But there were other pieces to it but what happened was not simply the focus on that it was a focus to the exclusion of everything else I talked to. And so while I was the only candidate with robust health care plans with robust plan to promote justice reform and energy. And we had reams of information. But I also had experience and a history I can point you for everything I talked about everything came back to anything that had he reached let's tone. That became. The lead and the lens through which everything else let's discuss. I remember during that primary there was a lot of talk about. You know the idea of appealing to white suburban women in particular right and that was. And that a white woman candidate in the general election would be better able to appeal to those white suburban women. Do you think that. That bore out in the general election do you think that there were white suburban women who may be because of your race didn't give you a fair shake or. I think that's a fallacy that is perpetuated. In part because we keep re litigating the last election. I sixteen between sixteen are in our case 2014 importantly. I a achieved the highest turnout of white voters for Democrats in the generation said it didn't that was a borne out. But I also simultaneously increased every single metric of communities of color. And so what we demonstrated is that. It is a fallacy to argue that in order to win this group of people you'd have to either. Look like them or exclude another group we centric communities of color we talked to the marginalized. We competed everywhere and it worked we increased our turnout rates astronomically had received more votes than any Democrat Dorgan mr. And that was a function. Of the campaign and in the function of the candidate I want this man and might facility for being able to talk about that she's. That but the suburban white mom cared about and the suburban black mom and a suburban with teen. I want to ask about. Black men that election. And I knew you had some things to say about so there they exit polls in the general election I think you know what I'm asking you. It showed it probably more black men than expected perhaps. Voted for the Republican Brian camp. That's untrue. So the exit polling had a fairly impressive number that he actually look at the data from the election. Once the numbers we're in. There's always a higher percentage of black from the black men but democratic but that the marginal difference was not notable at least roughly equal to what it all places. And that is so after the election there was this kind of cycle of our black men. More sexist. Than we think you think that that's. I think at the south Blackmon. Particularly in the south have tended to be more conservative. And there's always a gap to says there's a gap between white men in white women there's a tendency for women of both. Racist he. Be more democratic leaning. Four black men it is a number it's a few points it is not ten points fifteen points it's a very marginal difference. But that has been borne out through I think every single fourth. I will say that might disc insertion with that. Conversation is that there is an attempt to. Place blame on a certain community as opposed to you highlighting in eliminating all of the things accomplished. And understanding reports suppression played. Writ large in an election. Because the communities that are more likely to be affected by voter suppression RB's color particularly. One thing we've been asking women politicians in this projects. My T make a trivial question of people but. It's about you know your visual public presentation. Rate the idea that I mean I think women in general think about this I know I thought about what I was gonna Wear it this morning. But even thinking about what clothes to Wear what photo ops to do I'm country's T find yourself. Person cure all that when you pick out what you're aware that morning or we're gonna go on the campaign trail well I. Active does develop a style my style as a legislator was different. And I wore more pants and more bleachers but on the campaign trail I needed to you. Protect aid an image that was sleeker then. Being in the state legislature in the middle winter remote that here. And so I really have to figure out what might style would be the fact that I was on my feet and on the road that whole time. I developed. Like dresses so I started Wear more dresses I've found dresses that flattering that didn't wrinkle. Which is a key issue. Because he got to stand up and sit down and pianist Ian for hours or bust for hours he can't get out and look at just union exactly. But I also think that colors I couldn't Wear patterns because patterns don't show up as well. And I had to think about which color I wore. Because every color here it's a meaning for someone she wearing shirt who's her recent you know it's the color that was there and it's clean. Come back from the fact Peters that. And so it was. Yes you have to think about it because it's not just about who I am it's what people see and I think it's disingenuous. To believe that appearance doesn't matter. That issue there is house appearance judged. As part of the whole and not as the sole marker of our effectiveness. And we are women have been mistreated. Is that we are expected to look exactly the same. And that were expected to meet a certain model of perfection and a certain aspect of what people expect to see and that I rookies so irritate you happen to think OK I've moved from the Georgia legislature. Entries profile act I think more. We're spend more or whatever howitzer and it can well. Eight unseat irritate. It I had to accept it because I was asking for different. And I think we do it's it's as Americans we have made certain that the wheat we present ourselves as a part of how we get. Can't change what it can't change is that I'm not that you would you think she's so I have a lot of people advising me on what might looks at. And how much it for myself and what I needs to do what I couldn't. Those people and we me in the race. Those offers an ice were politely rejected. On an Afghan and other things that you know one detail that struck me your book. He's you write about how you guys did focus groups for how voters felt about single woman running for governor. And just stripping away the world of politics where this stuff is so normal. How it feel to you have. Tapped to attack ask strangers how they felt about relationships that luckily I was present for anything. However people felt comfortable offered me their advice and their insights what I asked them or not yet. So I had. Random people who it. Tell me what they thought. And they featured their TP sister one is that people are trying to reassure themselves. That there's not some secret behind it other than the fact just not that good evening. I've I've tried and sometimes I'm good sometimes not so much -- little busy so far behind on. But what asking is do you share experiences with me that can help you answer so I get that. The ones that are judgmental because they're trying to figure who I am and what I'm worth the those are legitimate and those of the ones average act luckily though I didn't have descended any of these conversations they let you watch the tape I want I just read the report points. Luckily in the end people who hear much yet. The judgment and his interest you've you've you've written and talked it out. Imposter passenger. Things like patents isn't necessary a pointed question but. You can point do you still move. Q what I mean you're you know with impostor syndrome worth that kind of thing you crack and politically I didn't vary. Intentional about. Giving myself credit for what I am. And leaving space for me to become more and acknowledge when I'm not and I think part of my opportunity in what I try to talk about in the book. Is that. Impostor syndrome often happens because we don't do that deep personal investigation. And we have to do it and leave it doesn't come maple. I've been there intentional for most of my adult life. Two. Judge wearing them and make sure I'm here because of my Mary is my effort yet and figure out what else it. I believe in serendipity if I get there because someone else decided to make it happen. What I. Internalized as they may get me here but I'm the only person he can keep race. And they think that helped me break the impostor syndrome sensibility. You know Anderson you acting couldn't hear the practice you book your client the art of quarter. For outsiders. I guess that's kind of like your advice to people who are. Who women who might run for office is this just kind of shut that recognizes and Chad absolutely and eat. It is natural. We have been socialized. Our entire lives you're not going to shed fat. By sheer force of well. We have to be intentional about it and part of what I wanted to do was say that part of them to nationality is it's acknowledging what it is admitting how it feels. And then doing what you need to do you do rejected anyway. But it takes practice like any other skill you have to work to reject you thousands of here's indoctrination about our valleys and our values. Alan go back to the Georgia cup race should think it's back. And specifically about a question you asked again and again addressed earlier talking electability. People said it is a state ready for a black woman is the country ready for a black woman. And I'm sure he felt about that specific question. Was it on the front teen who was doing did it become a stock question just developed stock answer to. I think he it is a curiosity. Because there and forming not only fair since abilities but they're trying to prognosticate. And wind something new is on the horizon. We are usually both equally curious and tree. Race and gender had sex. Contextualize meaning in our society that I don't put gripes the question. But I resentment answer that doesn't accept the wholeness of who why. And that's why I was so careful about my response. I'm electable women and I'm electable because I can't. And what I stand for it's not simply. I'm not solely an avatar not some but I'm not solely an avatar or block when. But I am a proud avatar both of those things because it stands as an example to others of what's possible in. But we also to recognize electability is not simply a question of whether he had passed in the people want you it's also whether the system will allow it happened. And that's the other part of how light at its. You have a reputation for being pragmatic politician gets down to it and you know Barack Obama is someone who had that kind of reputation. Do you think that that is in part informed buying. Your race and wanting to capsules that. The race engine temperature most of the things I want to do you know what looks like meat has ever done. And most of the resources that make it possible are usually not immediately. Avail. Pragmatism is figuring out how you can make things happen. Despite not having full access but also being reasonable and thoughtful about what's possible what's. It doesn't mean a victory but it means that I've learned to exercise my way thrive in a way that its January eat the without too much. Idealism chair. You clouding my judgment or. Confusing my action check. You are now the subject of pretty. Brand bent. Running mate speculation. But a lot of times your name comes up in these conversations. About the need to counterbalance. Hypothetical white candidate legendary white male candidate. And in countries how do you feel about discussions the teen to cut put your race and gender first. IAE. Except that I exist in the political light guys in the very specific. And that we as a nation him very by Neary notions of politics you're Democrat or Republican and or. Your black. You are. Waiter person of color we we don't do a lot new locks. And so often. The reason the question is raised begins with act but I think the reason the question is sustain. The story that life behind. I'm very accomplished person who has experience. Relevant issues and has the capacity to do this. And so. While I'm me chief a bit pat what sparked the question. I'm very Howard of why I'm even in the conversation. Is another conversation just because a block. Those are two pieces that people used to. Lift up their intention. But the whole of me is the reason I'm considered viable and that's what I cleaned my job. Is to make sure other people understand there's almost like a private person's reaction that public reaction. I'm pretty public about my primary action. I I recognize white conversation starts but this is similar to the impostor center. No matter why you put me there are no matter why you gave me entry my job is to prove that I can state. My job is to take advantage and deliver so that I can do and more. And I cannot worry myself with what. Limited notion that led you to open the door is my job is to kick the door and take it off its hinges and make sure that people come. This the question like an ending up with people needs to lead the country will elect a woman president next Tony yes. Apps can count on this. Absolutely compelling yet yes. I do it but. That's uplink. I'm very pac man. C statement thank you so much for joining colonel in the system the world.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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