If nothing else (and sadly, there is little else), Georgia Democrats have a keen eye for identifying candidates with “clickable” potential. The narrative of the 2014 election cycle was the next generation of two of Georgia’s vaunted political families restoring Democrats to power — in the last year, the party has pivoted from the white suburban wunderkind in Jon Ossoff to the #blackgirlmagic of Stacey Abrams, the hashtag pulled from a March 16, 2018 post on StaceyAbrams.com.
But monetizing the internet has been one of the biggest challenges of our era, and Georgia Democrats thus far have been unable to turn “influencer”-driven candidates into election winners. At some point, they might consider holding bonafide primaries rather than show elections meant to build the online brand of the party’s preferred candidates.
Georgia Equality again played its part in the establishment’s charade by endorsing Abrams over the other eight candidates running for the state’s highest office (only one of them a Democrat) without hosting any forum to get a would-be governor on record supporting LGBTQ issues, releasing any candidate scorecards, or even laying out the rationale for the LGBTQ nonprofit’s selection.
In announcing its endorsement, Georgia Equality called Abrams “exceptionally strong on LGBTQ issues,” with only the vaguest outline to verify the claim. It also noted, “Since beginning her career in public service as an attorney with the City of Atlanta, Stacey Abrams has worked hard to make sure that LGBTQ people are treated equally,” which is strange because anyone familiar with Abrams’ tenure as a deputy city attorney might describe her as getting off to a rough start on LGBTQ equality.
Abrams worked in the city’s law department when then-Mayor Shirley Franklin was mulling over whether to enforce the city’s Human Relations Ordinance against a prestigious golf club that had denied spousal benefits to committed gay and lesbian couples. The first of two options Franklin weighed, which was supported by LGBTQ activists and the club members who were discriminated against, was to sanction the club; the club would inevitably sue the city and expose the weakness of the Human Relations Ordinance, but a court opinion then could be used to draft a non-discrimination ordinance that was legally sound.
The other option, advocated by the city’s lawyers and executed by Franklin, was to do nothing — to let the golf club go unpunished so the city (and its LGBTQ-beloved mayor) would not suffer an embarrassing defeat in court. As a result, in 2018, there are still no protections for LGBTQ Atlantans in employment, housing, and public accommodations, and the city’s Human Relations Ordinance remains legally feeble.
Queerly, Georgia Equality counts this among the reasons LGBTQ Georgians should vote for Stacey Abrams, but I’m skeptical that progress in our movement can be brought to this state by someone who couldn’t fight for basic anti-discrimination protections in a city like Atlanta. The Human Relations Ordinance fiasco, Abrams’s belated advocacy of removing confederate monuments from Stone Mountain, and her capitulation to Republicans as House minority leader leave me wondering whether LGBTQ Georgians, and progressives in general, can trust that her policies and deal-making will match the trailblazing liberalism being marketed on social media.
I’m also skeptical that the Democratic horde so sure Hillary Clinton would turn Georgia purple (and that Ossoff would “flip the 6th”) can use the same playbook to get its current avatar into the governor’s mansion. I cannot sign onto the impending Abrams coronation, and will instead vote for Stacey Evans in this month’s Democratic primary.
The Georgia Voice reached out to the Abrams campaign for an interview. The newspaper would like to extend an opportunity for the Abrams campaign (and Georgia Equality) to respond either refute or clarify all or portions of the piece, which is comprised of Mr. Lee’s perceptions and opinions and are not representations of 1) a news item and 2) the views of our newspaper staff.