Back before New York was on lockdown—before the coronavirus outbreak had taken over our hospitals, our towns, and our conversations—I went to a comic book store to hang out with Samantha Bee and Stacey Abrams. Okay, hang out might be hyperbole; I walked into Manhattan’s Forbidden Planet to watch a taped segment of Full Frontal With Samantha Bee featuring Abrams, the politician and voting rights advocate who famously became the first black female major party nominee for governor in 2018. Since then, Abrams has been a mainstay in political conversation, often the subject of rumors around the Democrats’ 2020 pick for vice president.
Currently, Bee is filming the show from her own home with the help of her husband. But back then, when Bee and Abrams were happily standing less than six feet apart in front of a wall of comics and graphic novels, the two dissected the 2020 election, which now seems both like an afterthought and more relevant than it’s ever been.
As you can see in the exclusive clip above, when Bee asks Abrams, "What's at stake in this election?" she replies plainly: "Democracy, humanity, and whether or not we die."
After the taping, I asked Bee how she combats feeling fatigued or apathetic about politics. “I have the luxury of getting to talk to people like Stacey Abrams, who just completely re-energizes that part of myself,” she said. “That’s why we do a lot of this type of content on the show—to keep people going, to remind them how important it is.” However, both admit to having their own means of distraction and recuperation. “I feel like a super dork saying this, but I love Call the Midwife,” Bee said. “It’s pure escapism for me.” As for Abrams, as the comic book setting would hint, it’s all science fiction: “I love Star Trek. As soon as I can, I’m going to watch Picard, and I love the Doctor Who series.”
In the segment, Bee and Abrams discuss the best way to bring people back into the Democratic party and out to the polls this November. “I want to remind people that this is the beginning of taking back our country,” Abrams tells me post-show. “For a lot of folks, it feels like we’ve been in this process for four years, but this is the time when we can win. And we begin by not letting that wear us out.”
That also means joining the ticket, if asked. “I refuse to say no when I get the question, ‘Would you like to be vice president?’” Abrams says. “My obligation as a woman, my obligation as a person of color, and my obligation as a woman of color is to say that we want to serve, and not to pretend out of some false notion of coyness that I wouldn't want to help make our country stronger.” And a future female president? Abrams thinks we’ll see it one day. “My belief is that as long as we challenge the narrative that women can't win, and we continue to put up smart, strong women candidates, we will eventually get there.” (Earlier this year, she told FiveThirtyEight that she believes the country will elect her as president in the next 20 years.)
For now, Abrams is focused on more immediate issues, namely protecting the right to vote and promoting fair elections through her organization Fair Fight. This year, she’s also advocating for the 2020 census, a survey sent out to U.S. residents every 10 years. The U.S. government uses the results of the census to allocate funds and determine Congressional representation.
“If you are not counted, you do not count,” she says. After the census is completed, state representatives use the data to redraw political districts, sometimes resulting in gerrymandering, aka when officials manipulate district lines to favor a particular party. “Those lines are going to be drawn by who we elect in 2020. If you want to have more power and more say in your community, you want to fill out the census and you want to elect the right people to draw the new lines…If you want reproductive freedom, if you want the ability to take care of your family, if you want childcare, if you want access to education, if you want climate action, Congress and the presidency matter. But the state legislature, this is their power. They decide the lines, they decide the future of our Congress, and we have to pay attention.”
Watch the entire episode tonight on TBS at 10:30 P.M. EST.
Madison Feller Madison is a staff writer at ELLE.com, covering news, politics, and culture.