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Why Doesn’t Stacey Abrams Have the Same 2020 Hype as Beto O’Rourke?

beto stacey abrams 2020

When we look at the modern U.S. Presidents, there are, by and large, just a few paths that led them to that position. Typically, they came directly from a position as either a sitting senator or governor. If they entered the White House as a Vice President before becoming President (as with George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford), they often come from Congress.

Before Donald Trump took office, the last president who didn’t come from one of these established pipelines was Eisenhower, whose previous job was U.S. Army chief of staff and general WWII war hero.

Earlier today, statistician extraordinaire Nate Silver tweeted this musing:

Obviously, Trump’s presidency has highlighted the benefits of having an established politician in the White House: namely, that they come in understanding how government works.

For example:

But isn’t there something to be said for bringing in an “outsider,” as Trump was touted to be? So much of politics is mired in corruption, too-close relationships with lobbyists, establishment decorum, and other factors that prevent the kind of real change so many Americans are looking for. (We don’t all want the same kind of change, but most of us seem to agree that things aren’t working as is.)

Looking at the incredible number of young people, women, POC, LGBTQ+ people, and more elected in the recent midterms–many of whom were elected over longtime incumbants–it seems that people are valuing strong voices and unique perspectives over establishment politics. So even though Donald Trump could easily have ruined the idea of electing a risky “outsider” to the country’s highest office, it seems like voters are still open to the idea that experience isn’t the single most important qualification for the 2020 election. That’s especially true since the next Democratic candidate will (likely) be going up against Trump, who changed all the rules of political races in real time back in 2016 and isn’t about to go back to playing by the old ones.

So there are a number of unusual names being floated for the 2020 presidential race–most notably and loudly being Beto O’Rourke. Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander was in the same boat for a time. Both men have been called “the next Obama,” and they both have experience in state-level politics, so someone like Beto is not quite the risk Trump was. But it’s his ideas and his ability to motivate people–especially young people–that is his major selling point in terms of political power.

As to Silver’s question about Stacey Abrams, he apparently got tired of the sarcastic replies and insists that yes, he, too, knows exactly why she’s not being talked about in the same way as someone like Beto.

If we’re going to talk about who gets celebrated as an “outsider,” we can’t ignore that that label most often and easily gets applied to people who look like insiders. Now, among the people listed as many’s “dream candidates,” there are some women of color who consistently get named. Some are purely dream candidates who have said they don’t want and would never pursue the job, like Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. Others are far more “establishment,” like Kamala Harris. (And it’s hard to imagine that if Ocasio-Cortez hadn’t won her race, she wouldn’t be getting huge amounts of 2020 hype, though she, too, has said she doesn’t want that job, ever.)

But why isn’t Stacey Abrams being talked about in the same way? Who could possibly watch her non-concession speech and not feel fired up about her?

Yes, we know the answer to that. And it’s worth drawing attention to and calling out. There are plenty of “insiders” I’d be thrilled to see run against Trump in 2020. I’d also be open to someone that isn’t currently a senator or a governor. But again, we need to look at who gets chosen to be called an “outsider.”

Who are you hoping to see on the ballot in 2020?

(image: PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images; Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.