Fear not, America—the women are coming to save you. If there was any one message that was coherent and all-encompassing to take from the spectacle of Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, it was that. The Resistance is real and meaningful, and it’s being led by women.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi performed with mastery from her seat behind and above the presidential podium, most notably with an epic clap-back that landed practically in the face of President Donald J. Trump, our pussy-grabber-in-chief. From her perch, she conducted her chorus of exuberant white-clad congresswomen like a maestro. All while saying nary a word.
Trump had apparently bet that in silence, the speaker would be robbed of her power. He couldn’t even bear to have her gavel him in, couldn’t stand to hear his introduction come out of the mouth of the woman who controls the largest federal legislative body. So as she stood with the gavel, poised to announce her honor and privilege in introducing the president of the United States, he launched into his speech. He’s lucky she didn’t rule him out of order—because he was. Despite having just endured such disrespect, Pelosi exercised her duties with a fierce grace that has already generated a viral meme.
The president’s speech was, as one might expect, a seemingly endless litany of people to hate, immigrants first among them; women next. And socialists, of course, in keeping with Trump’s 2020 campaign theme of the purported dangers posed by the party he describes as the “radical left.” (If only.) It took him an hour and a half to list all the things and people deserving of contempt. It took Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race, 11 minutes and 15 seconds to demolish most of Trump’s claims in the official Democratic response to the State of the Union message, and to do so in the uplifting language of “shared values.”
Delivering a well-crafted speech she reportedly wrote herself, Abrams spoke movingly of her parents—a librarian and a shipyard worker—and with equal passion of constitutional values, especially voting rights. Abrams famously refused to concede her recent electoral loss to the Republican Brian Kemp, who would not step down from his role as Georgia’s secretary of state—the official that administers the election system—even as he oversaw his own election to the governor’s mansion.
Along the way, the tactics used by Kemp to shape his own electorate through various means of suppressing the African American vote were exposed and challenged by Abrams, first in her guise as an activist, and then as Kemp’s election opponent. So when she lost her election by a mere 55,000 votes, she demanded that all the votes—the provisional and absentee ballots—be counted. When after that count, she couldn’t close the gap, she accepted the results, but refused to concede to Kemp, on account of voter suppression. It was a brilliant tactic, but one that could have easily failed in weaker hands.
In her Democratic response, Abrams’s call to America’s better angels may have soared, but her pointed criticism of Republican rhetoric and policies was decidedly earthbound.
Referencing recent remarks by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Abrams said last night, “We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a ‘power grab.’ … The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders – not where politicians pick their voters.”
Of the giant GOP tax cut for the wealthy and the party’s stinginess toward the ordinary, she pointedly said, “In Georgia and around the country, people are striving for a middle class where a salary truly equals economic security. But instead, families' hopes are being crushed by Republican leadership that ignores real life or just doesn't understand it.”
Where the president spewed lies about late-term abortion, Abrams spoke of the need for “reproductive justice,” a departure from the less-resonant rhetoric of large abortion-rights organizations, and an embrace of that more comprehensive term used by African American women’s rights leaders.
Where Trump mustered fear in a raft of untruths, Abrams stuck to proven facts with a delivery that was centered and grounded—that while at times imploring in tone never wavered in its projection of strength.
Stacey Abrams is many things: an attorney, a writer, a strategist, an activist and a politician. She is also African American. An African American woman.
Remember when, during the campaign, Trump complained that Hillary Clinton didn’t have “a presidential look”?
Last night, a blustery white man stood at a podium before the top legislative bodies of the world’s most powerful nation, wearing a crooked red tie and carefully arranged yellow hair.
His appearance was followed by that of a black woman in a tasteful red dress, natural hair and bearing the confident posture of a truth-teller.
Guess who looked more presidential.
As the Democratic Party takes on a face more reflective of the people it claims to represent, its ranks are being filled with talented women. And even so, Stacey Abrams is extraordinary. She may prove to be the most talented politician in America today, and she’s got the truth on her side.
Buzz is that Abrams is eyeing a Senate run. Mitch McConnell may just be resting a bit less easy after her televised national debut last night.