U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Monday stressed the importance of women and people of color in both the 2020 presidential election and census at the national NAACP convention in Detroit.
“There’s nothing more wholesome for the political process than increased participation of women. [It’s] a big advantage to the country to have women in leadership positions,” Pelosi said.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shared a similar sentiment, recalling an incident in which reporter Tim Skubick asked her last month during an event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment if angry women would decide the 2020 election.
“I was asked by a reporter, ‘Do you think angry women are going to decide this next election?’ And I thought for about a millisecond and I said, ‘Tim Skubick, I think smart women are going to decide this election,’” Whitmer said.
The five-day NAACP convention has featured a slew of Michigan politicians, including Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.), as well as several presidential contenders.
Pelosi also participated in an event hosted by U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) as part of her “Woman to Woman: Speaker in the House” series.
The first and only female speaker offered her advice to women who may want to run for office in the future.
“Know your why. Why do you want to do this? You’ve got to show why. What’s your vision for America if you run for president? Show your why, what you care about,” Pelosi said. “Most of all, show people what is in your heart. Where your authenticity is, person to person, because that’s the sincerity.”
Whitmer touted the historic number of women in leadership positions in Michigan after the 2018 midterms, noting that all three of the state’s constitutional executive officers are women. In addition to Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson are in office.
“I was chatting with Speaker Pelosi about what happened here in Michigan in 2018 and how different it was from what happened in 2016,” Whitmer said, referring to Donald Trump winning Michigan in the last presidential election. “We showed up. We showed up like our lives depended on it, because we know they do. We showed up and because of that we elected women to all the statewide offices.”
The success was summed up by Pelosi as “women marched, women ran, women won.”
Pelosi hopes to translate Michigan Democrats’ success into national success.
“We are here to listen, to learn from you, so together we can lead the way for a better future for all,” Pelosi said.
Abrams, a Democrat who narrowly lost her gubernatorial race last year, declined to run for U.S. Senate in Georgia but is still considering a presidential bid.
She has founded two organizations since 2018: Fair Fight, which aims to expand voting rights, and Fair Count, which aims to ensure that communities of color are counted in the 2020 census.
“We’ve got to start putting in place voter registration efforts today,” Abrams said. “We’ve got to make sure that the census is not just a conversation but an action plan that we are pursuing, that we’re already talking about what’s going to happen.”
Abrams was last in Michigan in May when she keynoted the Mackinac Conference for Public Policy.
She said Monday that we should challenge traditional ideas about who will or won’t vote in elections, noting that her gubernatorial campaign increased Latino voter turnout and participation among young people.
“Victory isn’t just about getting in office,” Abrams said. “It is also about dispelling a myth that is told about our people time and again, that Black people have maxed out their promise and maxed out their purpose. We were told that we hit the ceiling of Blacks participating in Georgia because [Barack] Obama ran and, well, that was it.
“I love President Obama; I voted for him every time he stood [for election]; but I know how many Black people live in Georgia. I know people, Black people, in Georgia deserve access to education, access to health care, access to economic security, and I knew that they were waiting for one more opportunity to make their voices heard.”
Abrams warned that voter suppression could play a role in the next election.
“You can’t call something out when you’ve become part of it,” Abrams said. “Some of you said people don’t vote because they’re apathetic. Some of you bought into the narrative that folks stay home because they’re too lazy to go outside.
“The right to vote is grounded in the opportunity for power. When you’ve been told time and again that you are powerless, when you try to exercise that power in the United States of America and you are slapped down, not by laws, but by your neighbors when they drive past your street instead of stopping to see if you’re going to vote, if you’re registered,” she continued. “If you’ve ever been in that car and sped past that part of town, you are complicit.”
At least 10 presidential candidates are expected to make their cases for why women and African Americans should vote for them at a forum at the national NAACP convention on Wednesday.
Candidates confirmed are: former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.); South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro; U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.); U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas); U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.
Other presidential hopefuls scheduled to address the convention include former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and author Marianne Williamson.