Stacey Abrams is right: Georgia's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, has helped turn his state into one of the worst places to live in the country.
Abrams, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee to face off against Kemp for the governorship this fall, made her declaration during a fundraiser in Georgia on Saturday. And although she predicted her words would be taken out of context and used against her, she was quite clear about the things Kemp has done to make her state a demonstrably bad place to call home.
“I am tired of hearing about how we’re the best state in the country to do business when we are the worst state in the country to live,” Abrams said, according to audio published by The Gwinnett Daily Post.
“Let me contextualize,” she added. “When you’re No. 48 for mental health, when we’re No. 1 for maternal mortality, when you have an incarceration rate that is on the rise and wages are on the decline, then you are not the No. 1 place to live.”
She went on to say: “Georgia is capable of greatness, but we need greatness to be in our governor’s office. We need someone who actually believes in bringing all of us in there together.”
It didn’t take long for Republicans, including Kemp, to do just as Abrams predicted and condemn her remarks:
Here's a quip from a former senior adviser to the National Republican Senatorial Committee:
Whining aside, all it takes is a quick Google search to confirm Abrams was accurate in her depiction of her state.
Georgia is among the country’s poorest states when it comes to mental health care. It also ranks among the worst when it comes to its maternal mortality rate, and you can expect those numbers to get even grimmer if federal abortion rights are overturned later this year and a strict anti-abortion law goes into effect in Georgia. The state also has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, and there’s persistent wage inequality that falls hardest on nonwhite people. On top of that, Georgia Republicans passed a law last year — S.B. 202 — that restricts Georgians’ ability to vote.
For people who aren’t wealthy white men — or deeply invested in upholding wealthy white men’s power — Georgia is, in fact, one of the most oppressive states in the country. Republicans in the South frequently deploy the same rhetorical trick, in which they intentionally misinterpret criticism about their oppressive ways as criticism of the states they come from. That’s how civil rights have historically been couched, by white conservatives, as an affront to the Southern way of life.
But like civil rights activists in the past, Abrams hasn't minced words about precisely who she’s condemning and why. And it’s not Georgia generally — it’s the right-wing officials imposing their oppressive fantasies on it.