Watching former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams deliver the Democratic response to Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, you would think she was speaking of a different country than the one depicted by the president.
Trump’s America is a nation on the rise. The president recited all the facts on the booming state of the economy, the five million new jobs created since he took office, record low unemployment among women, blacks, Hispanics, and people with disabilities, a doubling of the nation’s GDP, and five million people liberated from food stamps.
…the America described by Abrams is in a far more perilous state.
But the America described by Abrams is in a far more perilous state. She began by saying she and her allies “are coming for America” and followed with a heartwarming tale of her father helping a homeless man. But she then descended into darkness.
Abrams, a controversial figure after publicly burning the Georgia state flag in 1992 but thought to be a rising star in the Democratic Party, wasted little time in going on the attack. She slammed Trump on the recent partial government shutdown, calling it a “stunt” that “abandoned our people and our values.”
She never acknowledged or disputed any of Trump’s facts about the economy and jobs, instead painting an impressionistic portrait of an America plagued by children under constant threat of gun violence, by crippling student loan debt, by a rigged tax system, by widespread layoffs and stagnating wages, by children held in cages by a heartless chief executive and families torn apart at our southern border.
Abrams sketched an image of impoverished souls forced to choose between prescription drugs and rent and of black mothers risking death to give birth. She described a nation replete with racist words and deeds, and where LGBTQ individuals are under constant attack. She decried Trump’s refusal to act on climate change. And she restated the Democrats’ long-held position on abortion, in response to Trump’s blunt denunciation of the new law in New York State lifting virtually all restrictions on late-term abortion, which incredibly was greeted with a standing ovation by New York lawmakers.
But Abrams betrayed her greatest passion, and saved her harshest attack, for the issue of voting rights. It’s hardly a wonder, given that Abrams lost by a slim margin in the Georgia governor’s race and claimed loudly and repeatedly that her victorious opponent — and secretary of state in charge of elections at the time — Brian Kemp had actively suppressed the state’s black vote.
Remarkably, even though Abrams painted a dystopian portrait of an America riven by poverty, racism, sexism, and homophobia, she smiled throughout.
The question arises: Why was Abrams chosen to deliver the Democratic response? Well, considering that as many as a dozen current and potential challengers to Trump were present in the House chamber, it seemed the selection of a rising star from outside the large field of candidates was a natural. However, Abrams’ speech was anything but uplifting, and it is difficult to conclude that she succeeded in advancing the Democrats’ case against Trump and the GOP.