Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Opinion: Stacey Abrams embraces a nasty brand of Democratic politics

Before Charlottesville happened , this stood to be the big political story of the weekend -- at least, locally (from my AJC colleague Greg Bluestein):

"Democrat Stacey Evans' speech to a conference of progressive activists descended into chaos on Saturday, as protesters interrupted her repeatedly and she struggled to make herself heard over chants of 'support black women.'

"Evans, a Smyrna state legislator who is white, expected a tough audience at the Netroots Nation event, where her rival Stacey Abrams was treated like royalty. But she said she at least expected to be able to make it through her remarks.

"That didn't happen.

"Almost as soon as she took the stage, a ring of demonstrators – some holding stark signs criticizing her – fanned out in front of Evans. The chanting soon followed. Pleading repeatedly for the room to speaks – 'let's talk through it,' she implored – the demonstrators at times drowned her out."

A picture is worth a thousand words, and these videos are worth more than that:

Evans' opponent in the Democratic primary is of course a black woman. And one would be forgiven for thinking the implication of the protesters' chants is that one cannot support black women, in general, while backing the opponent of a particular black woman in this race.

Which is why Abrams' reaction to the disruption -- which one might have expected to try to calm tensions in a campaign that still has many months to go -- ranks as the second most disappointing  statement from a politician over the weekend:

If the protesters' implication was as I described, there's also an undertone to Abrams' statement: This behavior is OK, and Evans can expect more as long as she's in the race.

So far, Abrams has taken the questionable (to me, anyway) approach of trying to run well to the left not only of Evans, but arguably of any first-tier Georgia Democrat running statewide in at least a decade. I call it questionable because there is hardly any evidence Georgia's electorate has shifted sharply to the left. Yes, Democrats trying to run as centrists (Jason Carter, Michelle Nunn, Jon Ossoff, to name a few) have not moved the needle for the party at the ballot box. But it's far more likely that's because most Georgia voters didn't believe their centrist rhetoric, or because they prefer conservative candidates, and not because they were really just looking for someone to run as an unapologetic man or woman of the left.

Either way, that's for Abrams to decide, and I won't exactly sweat it if she's the nominee and gets crushed in the general. More noteworthy, and alarming for our state, in my view is her apparent approval of the protesters' linking ideology to race.

Abrams' statement indicates the protesters were really just upset about Evans' record on education policy. If so, why didn't their signs and chants reflect that? Instead of "trust black women" or "support black women," why didn't they say Evans hates public schools, or some such? As someone who has been knee-deep in those same education debates, I am all too aware that leftists know perfectly well how to accuse, even (or especially) falsely, their opponents of hating public schools. Yet, most of their signs and chants were not about education. They were predominantly about race. (One of the few signs about education mentioned "vouchers," a policy that as far as I can recall has not come up for a vote in the House since Evans was elected.)

While some Georgia Republicans may be tempted to sit back, pass the popcorn and watch Democrats tear one another apart, that's short-sighted. The left already, and increasingly, applies this kind of "logic" -- that only certain types of people can speak truth, or even deserve to be heard -- to conservatives. Think of the temper tantrums we've seen on some college campuses over the past several months when conservative authors and academics were invited to speak, including attempts to shout down speakers and physically block others from attending their remarks. (As an aside, I'm confused: If "speech is violence," as some progressivists claim, then how exactly is using one's voice -- on a college campus or during Evans' speech -- a "peaceful protest"?)

That this "logic" is now being turned on other progressivists is not satisfyingly ironic. It's a disturbing sign of how deeply this strain of political virus runs on the left. This is not a mere tactic; it's an ideology unto itself. And the spread of it within Democrats' ranks, as opposed to being used only against Republicans, may be less a sign of opportunism than of even more fanatical belief in it. That doesn't simply disappear after a primary. On the contrary -- especially if, as is expected at this point, Abrams wins the nomination.

On a personal note, I've known Stacey (Godfrey) Evans since our college days at UGA. She and I agree on a few things political and disagree about many more, but I know nothing about her that would call into question the content of her character.

And here I thought that was what mattered.

UPDATE: Shortly after this post went live, Abrams issued a longer statement on her Facebook page. In my view, it reads like a wordier version of what she said Saturday -- comparable to if President Trump's statement  today had again failed to call out the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists by name. But your mileage may vary, and I'm posting it here in the interest of full reporting:

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.