By Sharon Austin, Professor of Political Scieence and Director of the African American Studies Program, University of Florida. First published on The Conversation
In a brief, direct and optimistic speech about fighting immigrant scapegoating, racism and voter suppression, Stacey Abrams celebrated diversity in her Democratic rebuttal to Donald Trump’s divisive 2019 State of the Union address.
“We will create a stronger America together,” she said.
Abrams is the first African-American woman to deliver a State of the Union response in the 53-year history of this tradition. She is the first black woman to be nominated by a major party to run for governor. Before that, she was the first African-American ever to serve as House minority leader in the Georgia General Assembly.
Her State of the Union response has increased speculation that she is a rising political starwith a bright future in the Democratic Party.
By choosing Abrams to give the State of the Union response, Democrats were clearly reaching out to African-Americans and women, a key base for the party.
But Abrams’ speech also spoke to an often-overlooked constituency the Democratic Party may not have even thought about when they picked her. It’s a constituency Abrams has already cultivated: rural Southerners of color.
Abrams campaigned in both urban and rural counties last year, defying the logic of a Democratic Party that tends to court big city voters while leaving rural Americans to be won over by Republicans like Donald Trump.