The message behind Stacey Abrams is clear: the Democratic Party will never be the same
The former candidate for governor of Georgia is the living example of the Democratic Party’s identity crisis after the results of 2016. Being the voice responding to President Trump's State of the Union address only underscores the profound political change that the country is living.
Nearly a year ago, Georgia made history by having its first Democratic nomination of an African-American woman for governor.
The former State House minority leader, Stacey Abrams is now an unforgettable face across the country.
In November, Abrams lost the election by a narrow margin in a campaign plagued by irregularities, among them alleged voter suppression, especially of black voters.
Her opponent, Brian Kemp, remained in his position as Secretary of State during the campaign, maintaining direct responsibility over the election, a move that raised suspicions.
Abrams ultimately conceded defeat to Kemp, but in the eyes of the country she emerged victorious in an entirely different way.
According to Vox, Abrams has devoted the months after her "defeat" to fighting for voter rights and "the political needs of communities of color," two issues that garnered significant traction during her campaign.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer's decision to select Abrams as the opposition's spokesperson to President Trump's State of the Union not only demonstrates the party's willingness to "contrast the [administration's] lack of leadership," as Schumer said, but to make clear that something has profoundly changed within the Democratic party.
"Abrams is the first black woman and the first non-sitting public official to give the rebuttal," Vox noted, pointing to "her growing influence within the party."
"The decision also highlights the party’s increasing acknowledgment of the power that people of color, and women - especially black women – have as voters and as political candidates, and the mounting demands for Democratic policies and politics to better reflect the needs of these groups,” Vox added.
Even though it is rumored that Abrams could consider launching her candidacy for a Senate seat in 2020, her profile represents a new strategy embraced by the Democratic Party to put forward young candidates of color with progressive policies such as Medicare-for-all, a Green New Deal and immigrant rights.
The decision to go with Abrams for the State of the Union response is also part of the Democratic leadership's strategy to counter the Trump administration's, such as the government shutdown and his never-ending push for a border wall, in addition to demonstrating Democrats' flexibility and willingness for significant political change.
For Jamila Michener, a professor at Cornell University, Abrams’ selection is "untraditional in all the right ways.”
As she said to ABC News, “considering that African-American women are the electoral bedrock of the Democratic Party, Abrams’ selection is almost a kind of ‘duh’ moment for the Democrats, and one it’s good they finally had.”