Abrams offers progressive counterpoint to Trump in Dem response

Abrams offers progressive counterpoint to Trump in Dem response
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Former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) on Tuesday offered a sharply progressive counterpoint to President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE's State of the Union address, excoriating him for leading a country that she characterized as undergoing "a time of division and crisis."
Speaking in front of a hometown audience in Atlanta, Abrams castigated the 2017 GOP tax law, the administration's immigration policies and efforts to suppress the vote and toss out ballots cast legally.
"Families’ hopes are being crushed by Republican leadership that ignores real life or just doesn’t understand it," Abrams said. "Under the current administration, far too many Americans are falling behind, living paycheck to paycheck."
"The Republican tax bill rigged the system against working people," she added.
In a stark departure from precedent, Abrams, who is African-American, said the country needed to hold accountable those who harbor racist sentiments, whether those sentiments come from "the very highest offices [or] our own families."
Abrams narrowly lost the race for governor last year in what has been a solidly Republican state in recent years, but her response Tuesday sounded more like a progressive presidential candidate speaking to liberal grass-roots activists than a red-state Democrat intent on winning over cultural conservatives.
In what may stand as a preview of the Democratic embrace of its more progressive wing, Abrams defended the Affordable Care Act, called for new gun control measures and swift action on climate change — issues that will dominate the coming battle for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
"Stacey is truly the heart and soul of the Democratic Party," Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) told The Hill late Tuesday. "It was great that Stacey, from a red state, was talking about issues that are so fundamental."
Republicans cast Abrams as too liberal for her home state, and as an emblem of a party that is too liberal for the country.
"Abrams’ speech for a national audience replayed the same broken ideas that capsized her failed campaign," said Ellie Hockenbury, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. "While President Trump outlined a unifying agenda to advance America’s progress, Democrats are still living in the past, mourning Abrams’ loss."
Most pointedly, Abrams — who declined to concede to her Republican rival after allegations of voting irregularities — said Democrats would take up the cause of ensuring the right to vote.
"Let’s be clear: Voter suppression is real. From making it harder to register and stay on the rolls to moving and closing polling places to rejecting lawful ballots, we can no longer ignore these threats to democracy," Abrams said.
"This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have their say about the vision we want for our country. We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a power grab," she said, an implicit criticism of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' McConnell alma mater criticizes him for 1619 comments McConnell amid Trump criticism: 'I'm looking forward, not backward' MORE (R-Ky.), who used that term to describe a Democratic bill to overhaul election procedures and campaign finance rules.
"I found Stacey Abrams's speech to be focused on the American journey and focused on economic opportunity, and the president's speech was much more sort of cafeteria style, flitting from one issue to another," Van Hollen told The Hill. "The president really did not have any kind of meat on key issues that he ran on. He gave two lines to modernizing our infrastructure."
Delivering the minority party's response to a presidential address is a politically perilous moment, one in which the downside risk is far more significant than the potential upsides. Recent history is littered with examples of those who made high-profile flubs, while those who deliver successful addresses are rarely remembered.
Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHow to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs On The Money: How demand is outstripping supply and hampering recovery | Montana pulls back jobless benefits | Yellen says higher rates may be necessary Senate Democrats announce B clean bus plan MORE (D-N.Y.), who alternates with House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July Rural Democrats urge protections from tax increases for family farms Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women MORE (D-Calif.) in choosing someone to give the Democratic response, asked Abrams in mid-January to give the address. Schumer and Democratic officials are trying to persuade Abrams to run against Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) in 2020.
"I couldn't think of a better choice. We were sitting around thinking about this three weeks ago, and her name came up," Schumer told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week. "Immediately, everyone in the room said, 'Let's do it.' "
Abrams prepared for Tuesday's speech by watching prior opposition responses, according to one aide. She has said she will decide by the end of March whether to challenge Perdue or run for some other office.
"I hope she will get into that race," Van Hollen said. "She really showed what a strong leader she was in her very close race for governor, and I think this evening she again showed her mettle and her spirit."