In the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, Stacey Abrams said Tuesday that while she is “very disappointed” by the president’s approach to the country’s problems, she is not wishing for him to fail.
“But we need him to tell the truth, and to respect his duties and respect the extraordinary diversity that defines America,” she said.
Abrams, who narrowly lost the November election for governor of the southern state of Georgia, called for a “renewed commitment to social and economic justice” as the way to strengthen the country.
“Because America wins by fighting for our shared values against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” she said.
Trump did not mention in his speech the record-long partial government shutdown that ended in late January with an agreement for Democrats and Republicans to work for several weeks toward an agreement on border security measures. The closure kept 800,000 federal workers from getting paychecks for a month while the dispute over Trump’s desire for a border wall lingered with no resolution.
Abrams said lawmakers of different parties need to be able to come together and called the episode a “disgrace.”
“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,” she said.
Trump has cited a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border as necessary for national security, said Democrats who oppose funding the wall favor having open borders, and in his speech Tuesday night he called it a “moral issue.”
“The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well being of all Americans,” Trump said. “We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens.”
Abrams responded that a bipartisan approach could result in a modern immigration plan, but that the Trump administration is instead pursuing policies that tear apart families of migrants.
“Compassionate treatment at the border is not the same as open borders,” she said. “President Reagan understood this. President Obama understood this. Americans understand this. And Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and borders.”
She also focused part of her address on voting rights, a key part of her gubernatorial campaign, saying the foundation of U.S. leadership around the world is in “free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders — not where politicians pick their voters.”
Last week, Democrats in the House of Representatives proposed a number of election reforms, including making election day a national holiday so more people could have the ability to get to polling sites. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sharply rejected the package, saying the measures would benefit Democrats and amounted to a “power grab.”
“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,” Abrams said Tuesday. “We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a ‘power grab.'”