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One of the best things about Stacey Abrams is she’s a pragmatist.
Abrams is deservedly a progressive icon for all the work she has done fighting for voting rights and getting Democrats to the polls in the once-deep-red state of Georgia. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), meanwhile, has mostly been treated like a villain since he declared he won’t support his party’s For the People Act, a somewhat messy voting rights bill favored by the left.
But on Thursday, Abrams said she “absolutely” could back Manchin’s alternative voting rights proposal, which includes a mandate for early voting and a ban on partisan gerrymandering — but also new voter ID requirements and authority for state officials to purge some voters from the rolls, two ideas that have previously been anathema to Democrats.
Manchin’s proposals “will create a level playing field, will create standards that do not vary from state to state, and I think will ensure that every American has improved access to the right to vote,” she told CNN.
Abrams’ stance may surprise some of her allies on the left, but it shouldn’t. As a Democrat in Georgia, she has had to grind for her party’s victories. Before its wins in the 2020 election, it had been 20 years since her state voted a Democrat into the U.S. Senate, and nearly 30 years since it voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. To help obtain election victories for President Biden and U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock — and to serve as minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives — Abrams couldn’t just appeal to the left. She had to work with people like Manchin the whole time. The alternative would have been a theatrical impotence all too common in our politics.
Instead, Thursday’s announcement could give lefty Democrats some room to find common ground with Manchin after weeks and months of bashing him — and with it, the possibility of enacting new voting protections into law. As always, Republicans will have a say. But once again, Abrams deserves credit for making what seemed impossible a little less so.