Abrams won't say Kemp is 'legitimate' governor

CNN's Jake Tapper presses Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on whether she believes Brian Kemp is the "legitimate" governor of Georgia.

Posted: Nov 19, 2018 3:29 PM
Updated: Nov 19, 2018 3:51 PM

It's quite possible that voter suppression made the difference in the Georgia gubernatorial election, which Republican Brian Kemp narrowly won over Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate who was seeking to become the nation's first female African-American governor.

Yet instead of simply conceding, Abrams has cast a cloud of illegitimacy over Kemp's victory, refusing to answer CNN's Jake Tapper as to whether Kemp legitimately won the election. Instead, she simply said that he would be the "legal Governor of Georgia."

That hedging is itself harmful to democratic legitimacy. While Abrams may have valid points -- Kemp, for example, improperly used his position as secretary of state to influence the campaign, and promulgated voter registration rules that potentially shut out thousands of minority voters -- our democracy depends on the losers recognizing the winner's rightful claim to the elected office.

Other candidates who have lost under a cloud of electoral improprieties have not questioned the final result in the same way. Most famously, Al Gore almost certainly should have won the 2000 presidential election, if not for the "butterfly" ballot in Palm Beach County, Florida that confused voters who meant to vote for him.

Many saw the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore, which ended the recount, as fundamentally unfair. George W. Bush won Florida by only 537 votes, which gave him an Electoral College majority. Yet in accepting his loss, Gore did not refuse to acknowledge Bush's win as "legitimate."

Of course, the situations are not exactly analogous: Unlike Kemp, Bush wasn't creating the rules of the game in the very campaign where he was a candidate (though arguably it is similar given that the person running Florida's elections at the time, Secretary of State Katherine Harris, was also serving as the co-chair of Bush's Florida campaign). To be sure, others suggested that Bush was not a legitimate President. But the losing candidate himself graciously accepted defeat.

We will probably never know for sure if Kemp's actions, leading to voter suppression, may have changed the result in Georgia. Yet that's not as important as the underlying problem: voter suppression is never appropriate and we must do everything we can to make it easy for all voters -- and especially racial minorities, given our sorry history of discrimination -- to participate in our democracy.

It's heartening that Abrams apparently plans to file a lawsuit to change Georgia's election processes and make it easier to vote. But there's a meaningful difference between challenging Kemp's voter suppression tactics and refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of his election while conceding the race. It's possible for Abrams both to lament the voter suppression that occurred -- while pledging to fix it -- and still recognize Kemp as the legitimate winner this year.

I've not been shy about criticizing Donald Trump and other Republicans for lying about voter fraud as a political maneuver to justify voter suppression. Though it's not exactly the same, Abrams' refusal to acknowledge Kemp as a legitimate winner also undermines the public's confidence in our electoral structure. Of course, that was likely Abrams' point -- to draw attention to the election problems in the state. But the answer is to work harder for positive voting rights changes, not to question whether the winner actually has a rightful claim to the office.

"Voter fraud" has been the mantra of many Republicans who lose and do not want to accept the outcome. That has set a dangerous precedent, undermining the public's confidence in our elections. Democrats shouldn't follow their lead.

As Abrams said in her CNN interview, words matter. Losing candidates should recognize the legitimate claim of the winner to the elected office. Then they should double down on their efforts to make our electoral system as inclusive and democratic as possible.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1462456

Reported Deaths: 20308
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion2005922494
Lake992001456
Allen903391005
Hamilton70705539
St. Joseph63078746
Elkhart48098622
Vanderburgh46217523
Tippecanoe42115330
Johnson37119516
Hendricks35078455
Porter33900460
Madison28036530
Clark25186321
Vigo24768341
LaPorte22894307
Monroe22201243
Howard21344372
Delaware20937363
Hancock18289217
Kosciusko17513199
Bartholomew17399212
Warrick16060212
Wayne15757296
Floyd15399252
Grant14898293
Morgan13934230
Boone13172136
Noble11421140
Dearborn11355112
Henry11312201
Shelby11231150
Marshall11041166
Dubois10782152
Jackson10174104
DeKalb9944128
Cass9942142
Lawrence9914219
Huntington9823139
Gibson9131125
Montgomery9005140
Knox8762124
Harrison8718111
Whitley844771
Steuben8340102
Jasper8069113
Putnam795197
Clinton792994
Miami7914133
Wabash7598138
Jefferson7551124
Ripley6993111
Adams6508101
Scott629086
Daviess6266127
White602379
Greene5913111
Clay587173
Wells5814120
Decatur5754118
Jennings572276
Fayette5657121
Posey529146
LaGrange512996
Randolph4925128
Washington482067
Owen480398
Fountain463579
Spencer438156
Starke434086
Sullivan432164
Fulton426790
Orange412682
Jay403964
Rush395736
Carroll371349
Franklin369850
Perry362155
Vermillion345062
Pike308945
Tipton307974
Parke305038
Pulaski266973
Blackford266755
Newton228359
Brown222654
Benton213321
Crawford211231
Switzerland189414
Martin181921
Warren169520
Union163619
Ohio119516
Unassigned0742

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2403645

Reported Deaths: 30922
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin2596932036
Cuyahoga2572672998
Hamilton1666711699
Montgomery1103831586
Summit1066861382
Lucas895171149
Butler78647924
Stark747301383
Lorain62885783
Warren49934468
Mahoning49735909
Lake46850586
Clermont43541428
Delaware38876210
Trumbull38576748
Medina37611416
Licking36901401
Fairfield33848331
Greene32124416
Portage31381356
Clark30277440
Richland28251420
Wood27660289
Allen24372392
Miami22806389
Muskingum22298244
Columbiana22095399
Wayne21275354
Tuscarawas18847423
Erie18041221
Ashtabula17932338
Marion17503231
Scioto16553203
Ross16163249
Pickaway15536173
Hancock15251227
Geauga15244221
Lawrence13847186
Huron13399182
Union1329683
Belmont13255247
Jefferson12864257
Sandusky12770197
Athens11949106
Knox11511195
Seneca11454200
Ashland10795174
Darke10673196
Washington10564168
Auglaize10152141
Crawford9854175
Shelby9699155
Brown9400140
Fulton9235148
Guernsey9109115
Defiance9057134
Highland9035143
Logan8955141
Clinton8719121
Mercer8640111
Madison8568104
Preble8002160
Williams7848135
Putnam7731135
Ottawa7629120
Champaign7556112
Jackson7383114
Perry714598
Coshocton7043136
Morrow694580
Fayette662287
Hardin6219125
Pike617086
Gallia594989
Adams5779124
Van Wert5779120
Henry565592
Hocking5521103
Carroll4828100
Wyandot482289
Holmes4747161
Paulding401163
Meigs375071
Monroe299368
Noble279851
Harrison279461
Morgan276848
Vinton239845
Unassigned08
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