Stacey Abrams’ Democratic Rebuttal to the State of the Union Is a Genius Strategic Move
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams was tapped by Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer Tuesday, January 29, to give the Democratic rebuttal to President Trump’s upcoming State of the Union speech — a move that’s both a genius party strategy and a call to action.
“At a moment when our nation needs to hear from leaders who can unite for a common purpose, I am honored to be delivering the Democratic State of the Union response,” Abrams said at the announcement. “I plan to deliver a vision for prosperity and equality, where everyone in our nation has a voice and where each of those voices is heard.” The State of the Union is set to take place next Tuesday, February 5, 2019.
Although the former Georgia state representative doesn’t currently doesn’t hold office, her valiant fight against voter suppression in Georgia during the midterm elections sends a clear message to the Republican party. Democrats are keeping an eye out for Republican attempts at extreme gerrymandering and the obstruction of electoral participation from Black and underserved communities throughout the US.
When Abrams finally ended her historic 2018 run for governor after initially contesting the election’s results, she did so in order to further fight for voter rights. Generally speaking, voter suppression happens when parties in charge either change the rules of who is eligible to cast a ballot or otherwise pose barriers to voting. The Center for American Progress reports that some of the suppressive tactics voters encountered during the 2018 midterm elections included voter record purges, stricter ID and ballot regulations, purposeful confusion, intimidation and harassment, poll closures, and malfunctioning equipment. The Center for American Progress also notes that “severe voter suppression” was “perhaps uncoincidentally” reported in states with “highly competitive political races,” including Texas, Florida, North Dakota, and, of course, Georgia.
After Republicans lost several key votes during last year’s midterms, reports surfaced that the GOP in at least four states was working to undermine voting rights in order to maintain power. Legislatures in states like Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, and Michigan have all approved measures that make it harder for people to vote, which could play a major role in the 2020 election cycle.
Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (who lost during the midterms) oversaw a series of voting changes that tilted the state’s elections toward the GOP. Just after he took office in 2011, Wisconsin state Republicans oversaw aggressive electoral redistricting that seemed purpose-built to ensure the GOP would maintain two-thirds of the state legislature’s seats. Walker also signed a bill that broke apart the state’s nonpartisan ethics and elections commission, replacing it with two separate bodies staffed by mostly Republican appointees.
In Ohio — a key swing state — Republicans won big in 2018. And in a state with a record of purging over two million names from voter rolls between 2011 to 2016, implementing strict voter ID rules, and cutting early voting access, voter suppression seems like a major possibility for 2020.
Nationwide, the GOP has defended these suppressive electoral tactics by arguing that such measures protect against voter fraud. But claims of high voter fraud are simply not true. In fact, a Columbia University study found that in the rare cases that fraud was reported, the culprit was “false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error.” Voter fraud is actually so rare that courts across the US have declared it virtually nonexistent, and efforts to cull it, purposefully discriminatory.
By tapping Abrams to deliver the rebuttal to Trump’s speech, Democrats are not only acknowledging the work that Black voters (particularly Black women) continue to do in the name of progress, but also showing the GOP that their key goal is to push for equality and voter rights, and that they are ready to fight.
“Stacey Abrams offers a welcome, stark contrast to President Trump’s politics of division and lack of leadership as American families are still feeling the impacts of his self-imposed shutdown,” said Senator Schumer. “Stacey Abrams is a present and future leader in this country. She is a dynamic, moral leader; she delivered results on the issues that matter most to Americans; and she tirelessly pursues fairness and justice for everyone in her state.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra will deliver the Spanish-language response to the speech.
(Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence)