He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.
If there’s one piece of advice Stacey Abrams has for those looking to enter politics, it’s this: “Politics should be a tool for your policy. Policy should never be a tool for your politics.”
The author, activist, entrepreneur, and political leader spoke to an online audience of over 3,800 on March 18 as part of the 2021 Distinguished Speaker Series at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. “The minute we start making choices so we can win elections instead of winning elections so we can make better choices,” she said, “you have fallen far afield from what should be driving you.”
Abrams should know. For 11 years, including seven as Minority Leader, she served in the Georgia House of Representatives. In 2018, she was the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia, making her the first Black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee for a major party in the United States.
Over the course of her career, she founded multiple organizations devoted to voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social issues at both the state and national levels. The author of nine books, she is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the 2012 recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award, and a current member of the Board of Directors for the Center for American Progress. According to Forbes, which ranked the Nobel Peace Prize nominee among the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, “few people were more powerful in 2020 than Stacey Abrams.”
Abrams discussed several aspects of her political career, including strategies for improving community outreach and increasing voter engagement. Below are takeaways from her conversation with Alan D. Solomont, A70, A08P, Dean of Tisch College of Civic Life. Watch it here.
Serve people, not parties.
“When I served in the legislature, it was always front and center that my responsibility was to serve people,” Abrams said. “It was not my job to make sure I only passed democratic bills to serve people. My job was to get good done and to stop stupid and, even more importantly, to stop mean and evil and wrong.”
The most effective way to do that, Abrams learned, was to work with the other side. “I sometimes adopted their ideas, and I helped them get their bills through,” she said. “We have come to this place in our politics where everything from the other side must be inherently wrong. And that’s just not true. There is a whole universe of what we can do together.”
A pragmatist and entrepreneur at heart, Abrams also recognizes the foundational need for money to produce results, which is why she welcomes the return of congressional earmarking. “Money makes you compromise. When you have to work together to deliver resources, you are much less likely to respond through demagoguery.”
Meet people where they are.
The child of Methodist ministers and activists, Abrams developed from an early age a strong sense of communal obligation. “I grew up in a family that was very committed to social justice. My parents would take us with them to protest. They would take us with them to vote, but they also took us with them to volunteer. We worked at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. We would go to juvenile justice facilities. We spent time in housing projects, teaching young people to read because the school system was not doing its job.”
Seeing “the places and the spaces where things had just broken and fallen apart” led Abrams to ask the fundamental question behind all her efforts: How do we make government work better?
“I do not recall a single politician ever knocking on my parents’ door because we lived in a neighborhood and in a community where we weren’t expected to be part of the political space. If no one asks you to participate, if you come from communities that have been so often distanced—not just from the reality of campaigning and voting, but from receiving the benefits of engagement—you don’t participate. For me, it was about building one narrative that actually spoke to people where they were.”
Abrams credits her upbringing and her parents’ grassroots activism with informing her own approach to organizational leadership. “I read a lot of theological texts about how you grow a church, and I thought, ‘I’m going to grow the church of progress, and we’re going to do the work to get people to be engaged.’” As leader of the Georgia Project and Fair Fight, organizations committed to increasing voter registration and fighting voter suppression respectively, Abrams recruited young people to go into the community and build operations while also training them to run campaigns and think critically about policy.
Adopt a franchise model for organizing.
When asked how her work in Georgia could be scaled up to the national level, Abrams pushed back on the idea. “I think about it instead as a franchise model,” she said. “Scale is trying to build the largest entity possible. Franchising is taking the core of it and replicating it, but making it adapt to where you situate it. Unfortunately, in our country democracy differs based on where you live. The rules are different. Access is different. The needs are different. The responsible thing to do is to look at the states that have the opportunity to change engagement and to scale that investment.” Abrams identified three specific strategies for doing so:
- Create an organizing universe. “In Georgia, that meant LGBTQIA, communities of color, communities serving the poor, labor, environmental groups—it was bringing all of those groups together and creating an ecosystem, not where we agreed on everything, but where we all agreed that we needed more people in the process and more people who had stake in what we did. That can be replicated in other places.”
- Localize the work. While presidential elections turn out the highest number of voters, local elections produce a greater return on investment for most people, Abrams said. “It’s about making sure that the zoning decisions made by your county allow for affordable housing. And making sure your state legislature is not operating to strip you of the most basic and fundamental of rights. What I would say is take the organizing model, but also make sure you understand the needs of your people and localize that work.”
- Don’t expect results overnight. “Know that it’s going take time. If you promise instant results and you cannot deliver, people start to disbelieve you. I always under-promised—and sometimes I barely delivered—but I was always very clear about what we could or could not do.”
Motivate and mobilize young voters.
Noting that Georgia had the largest share of 18- to 29-year-old voters of any state in the country during the 2020 presidential election, Solomont asked Abrams about her strategies for engaging young voters. In addition to meeting young people where they are, she offered these tips:
- Invest in party infrastructure. “Sometimes we eschew the idea of political parties and that apparatus, but it’s an amazing organizing model,” she said. “I made certain that we were part of building an aggressive state party that was very much able to lead the charge through the organizing core that happens through the Democratic National Committee.”
- Hire young people in legislative and political spaces. “Over the course of my seven years as Democratic Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, we had more than 400 interns. We trained them on public policy during session, and we trained them on politics when we were out of session. And that created a whole cadre of operatives who could work within their communities to help other young people learn about politics and do the work.”
- Reach across young people. Abrams emphasized the importance of investing on college campuses and allowing young people to shape their own communication tools. She explained, “We put money into young people’s hands and said, ‘Tell us what you need. Tell us how you would do this.’” But she cautioned that political leaders must reach out to young people in all circumstances. “Not every young person is going to college. Not every young person is employed. There are some people who simply want to find a way to belong.” For Abrams, that has meant anything from attending music festivals and pop culture conventions like Dragon Con to communicating through streaming services like Spotify and Pandora.
Abrams also acknowledged the profound impact that the COVID-19 pandemic, economic hardship, healthcare disparities, and racial injustice had on voter turnout in 2020. “The ability to connect the dots between voter engagement and actual change had never been more real and more salient,” she said. “Like any other community, people vote when they know that voting can change their lives, and young people in the starkest reality saw what that meant and understood that that was true.”
But young people were not the only group to vote in record numbers in Georgia and many other states this election year. Solomont noted that women of color were crucial to Democrats’ success in Georgia, where exit polls show 91% of Black women voted for Biden. “Almost every societal ill, every social malignancy, every political consequence hits Black women, hits Black communities, hits communities of color,” Abrams explained. “We are often the receptacles of the trash of bad policy. We are the victims of bad decision-making and, worse, of intentional decision-making that dehumanizes and discounts our role and our responsibilities and our right to active engagement.”
The key to building solidarity among communities, said Abrams, is empathy. “What I’ve seen happen with communities of color and with women of color, in particular, is that there is always a sense of ‘How can I lift myself and others? How can I share my benefit?’” Following the deadly Atlanta spa shootings in which six victims were Asian-American women, she noted, “it was not simply Asian-American women standing by themselves. Black women, Brown women, Indigenous women—we all stood up and said, ‘Yes, we have to lift these women up. We have to center their story.’”
Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from Abrams is to never give up. Politics, she reminds us, is not an episodic instrument available only to elected officials. “When I did not become governor, we did not stop,” she said. “We have seen progress. It has been slow. It has been plodding. It has not been sustained. But it has happened. We are responsible for the next generation in a biological [way], but also in a cultural way. That means that we don’t have the luxury of just abandoning ship. We’ve got to keep going because we see the shore and we believe that there is space for us when we get there.”
Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say
When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.
“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.
“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”
Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”
Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.
“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.
He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”
Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.
Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.
Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.
“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.
She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”
What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.
“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”
Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.
Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.
“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.
For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.
“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.
Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.
At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”
Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.
One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.
“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.
“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”
Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.
“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.
After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.
“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.
“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.
McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.
The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.
In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.
“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”
Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”
McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”
“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”
Source:- NBC News
Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics
(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.
Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.
“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”
In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.
The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.
The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.
The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.
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