Democrat Stacey Abrams Says Trump, GOP Leaving Middle Class Adrift

(Bloomberg) -- Rising Democratic Party star and former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams argued that President Donald Trump and Republicans have left the nation’s middle class adrift by abandoning the values of fairness and equality, speaking minutes after the president heralded the economy as one of his top achievements.

“In Georgia and around the country, people are striving for a middle class where a salary truly equals economic security,” Abrams said Tuesday night in the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union address. “But instead, families’ hopes are being crushed by Republican leadership that ignores real life or just doesn’t understand it.”

Abrams, a former Democratic leader of the Georgia state House and the first black woman to deliver the State of the Union rebuttal, called for a unity of purpose to restore the promise of “opportunity for all,” adding that “we are coming for America, for a better America.”

She called for progressive policies at odds with much of Trump’s agenda, including abortion rights, regulations to combat climate change, gun control, gay rights and labor protections.

Abrams, 45, is taking a prominent role for her party, which is counting on female and minority voters to help win the White House and Senate in 2020. Democratic leaders in Congress chose Abrams to respond to Trump at a time when the party is gaining ground in GOP-dominated states in the South. She lost a close race in November that could have made her the first black female governor in U.S. history.

Abrams took on Trump over the economy, after his address in which he touted an “economic boom” that he said has created millions of new jobs and lifted wages for many Americans. She said the 2017 GOP tax cuts have created a system that is stacked against the working class and aids the wealthy.

“Rather than bringing back jobs, plants are closing, layoffs are looming and wages struggle to keep pace with the actual cost of living,” Abrams said.

Abrams also castigated Trump over the recent 35-day partial government shutdown, calling it a “disgrace” and recalling how she watched furloughed government workers stand in line for food when she volunteered to help distribute meals.

“Making their livelihoods a pawn for political games is a disgrace,” she said. “The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people -- but our values.”

Voting Rights

Abrams and her allies have alleged the vote in Georgia that elected Republican Brian Kemp as governor was marred by voter suppression tactics, a complaint also made by Democrats in other GOP-run states. Abrams said voting rights will be another battlefront in 2020 and she intends to play a leading role.

“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,” she said. “We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a ‘power grab.’” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has used that phrase to criticize House Democrats’ bill intended to diminish the influence of big money in politics.

Top Democrats including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, leader of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, have been boosting Abrams as a potential 2020 challenger to GOP Senator David Perdue of Georgia, a Trump ally. Abrams said in December that she planned to run for office again after her 2-percentage-point loss in the governor’s race, but hadn’t yet settled on which position she would seek.

Presidential Contenders

The choice of Abrams eased potential conflicts among Democratic members of Congress who are running for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination or considering it. Still, Senator Kamala Harris of California, a declared candidate, made a “prebuttal” on Facebook Live. And Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who sought the Democratic nomination in 2016 and is a possible 2020 contender, offered his own response on Facebook Live, Twitter and YouTube.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in the Democrats’ official Spanish-language response that he’s prepared to challenge any declaration of emergency Trump may issue to fund a border wall “the moment it touches the ground.”

“The idea of declaring a nonexistent state of emergency on the border, in order to justify robbing funds that belong to the victims of fires, floods, hurricanes, and droughts, to pay for the wall is not only immoral, it is illegal,” Becerra said.

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