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The perfect role for Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams speaks to supporters in Atlanta on

Stacey Abrams speaks to supporters in Atlanta on Election Day.  Credit: ERIK S LESSER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

It’s time to put Stacey Abrams in the White House.​

No, I’m not talking about the presidency — not yet, anyway. Her time will come for that. Right now, there’s no vacancy.

What I’m saying is that President Joseph R. Biden Jr. should create a new position, special assistant to the President for democracy, and make her its first occupant. Abrams is perfect for that role. She is stunningly brilliant, she knows all about the brokenness of our republic, and she knows how to fix it. The repair begins with making it easier for people to vote, not harder.

In the wake of the presidential election that Republicans lost, they are doing what they always do, using their power in state legislatures to erect more obstacles to voting. The Brennan Center at New York University, a vigilant voting-rights watchdog, reports that 28 states have put forward more than 100 bills to limit voting. We’ve seen this movie, and it’s always a horror film.​

Abrams knows all about the bag of tricks that vote-stifling Republicans use. Take the purging of voters from the rolls — the technique that was far more responsible than hanging chads for Al Gore’s loss to George W. Bush in Florida in 2000. Abrams experienced the Republican urge to purge painfully in her 2018 campaign for governor of Georgia. Her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, was also the secretary of state, the chief overseer of elections. He shamelessly used that power to purge tens of thousands of voters from the rolls, for flimsy, bogus reasons. Had he been, let’s say, state secretary of agriculture at the time, without the power to shape the electorate precisely to his needs, Abrams would be governor today.​

She also knows about the Republican lust to curtail early in-person voting and the availability of no-excuse absentee ballots by mail. She knows how hard Republicans like to make it for people to register, how they love to mandate forms of voter ID that are difficult for poor people to acquire. She knows the vote-suppressing effects of inadequate numbers of polling places and voting machines. She knows how Republicans work to make sure that undercounted people remain undercounted in the U.S. Census, then use the census data to draw legislative districts that keep them in power, no matter what the one-person-one-vote principle requires. To get a sense of her granular knowledge of this whole set of issues, all you have to do is read her book, "Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America."

Long before Abrams lost to Kemp, ​she had been focused on voting rights, and that election turned her attention even more pointedly to expanding the number of voters and making voting easier. And what a job she did! Without her spectacular organizing work in Georgia in the past two years, Biden would almost certainly have lost the state, and Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock would not be senators today. So Biden owes Abrams — big.

But this is not about old-fashioned political payback: "You helped me get elected, so I’m giving you a paycheck." No, it’s about saving the republic. In the aftermath of the big lie about the past election and the insurrection that it bred, think of this as a crucial time for the nation, a time when America needs to expand voting rights, not shrink them. This pivotal moment feels as intense as the bottom of the ninth inning in World Series game seven, with the home team clinging to a one-run lead. So it’s time to call the bullpen and bring in a Hall of Fame closer to seal the victory: Stacey Abrams. As Biden likes to say, "Come on, man!"

Do it, Joe.

Bob Keeler is a former member of Newsday's editorial board. He originally wrote this for his blog, the Gung-Ho Pacifist Blog.