Live from Atlanta, Stacey Abrams delivered the Democratic response to the State of the Union address, standing in front of a slowly swaying group of people in which women and minorities were notably represented. The former Georgia House minority leader and the Democratic nominee for Georgia’s governor in the 2018 election began with a story of her parents’ dedication to faith and education, and called for a “renewed commitment to social and economic justice.”
In a brief speech lauded by Democrats, Abrams succeeded in elevating an event that is often awkward and anticlimactic by nature. With a measured tone and her trademark working-class anecdotes, Abrams outlined a raft of policy measures, from the potential of Medicaid expansion in combatting infant mortality to the importance of gun control and immigration reform. But the high point of the speech was her strong and vocal stance on protecting voting rights. As the national face of the party for a few minutes on Tuesday, Abrams pushed the issue of the franchise closer to the heart of Democratic politics, and gave Democrats another rhetorical weapon against the Republican Party.
Abrams appeared on air shortly after President Donald Trump, who during his address to Congress appeared at times to seek bipartisan praise, while also sticking to his familiar stances on law enforcement, immigration, abortion, and foreign policy. During key moments when Trump talked about women’s suffrage, criminal-justice reform, and cancer research, members of both parties cheered. But for much of his speech, he sounded like the president who staged numerous political rallies last summer and fall. “Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards,” he said, admonishing Democrats for not agreeing to his demands for a border wall, which led to the longest government shutdown in history. “Meanwhile, working-class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal immigration.”