It was a line in Stacey Abrams’s recent writing that irked Fox News host Tucker Carlson more than anything she said in the Democratic response to Tuesday’s State of the Union.
“By embracing identity,” she wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine last week, “Americans will become more likely to grow as one.” That means, Abrams wrote, finding a better way forward for those marginalized throughout U.S. history: Women. Native Americans. African Americans. Immigrants. The LGBTQ community.
That message was on full display in Abrams’s Democratic response, with her standing in front of a multicultural group of people and rebuking the policies championed by President Trump. The 24 hours following her speech were littered with praise from Democratic heavyweights who talked about how the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate welcomed the diversity of the American identity in a way that Trump often rejects.
Carlson, however, likened the Democratic rising star to a demagogue, suggesting she wants to “overthrow” one unnamed group not included in that list of marginalized people in her Foreign Affairs article: white men.
“Unity is definitely not what Stacey Abrams is interested in — just the opposite,” Carlson said on his Wednesday show. “What she’s selling is bitter division.”
The assertion comes amid a fresh wave of criticism from the GOP, conservative media, and even Trump himself against the rising Democratic star, whom the Republican Party this week labeled “SourGrapesStacey” in the lead-up to Abrams’s response, a reminder of her unsuccessful campaign against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) last year. That contentious race ended bitterly, with the candidates accusing each other of voter suppression. Shortly after Abrams ended her bid, a political organization backed by the candidate filed a federal lawsuit challenging how Georgia’s elections are run.
Citing her Foreign Affairs article, titled “Identity Politics Strengthens Democracy,” Carlson highlighted the former state legislator’s argument that it’s essential to identify the laws and rules in place that “proscribe, diminish, and isolate the marginalized."
“The marginalized did not create identity politics,” Abrams wrote, “their identities have been forced on them by dominant groups, and politics is the most effective method of revolt.”
Without saying it outright, Carlson, who has previously debated the merits of diversity, made a not-so-subtle insinuation that Abrams was referring to white men as the dominant group that has made it harder for marginalized people. (Abrams did not make direct mention of white men in the article.)
“The dominant are everyone who is left, so do the subtraction,” Carlson said. “That’s only one group. You know exactly who they are and so does Stacey Abrams. She says these people, these unnamed people, are responsible for the suffering of everyone else, and we need to overthrow them. She uses the language of violence and war to describe what must come next. ... People get hurt in revolts. That’s the nature of revolts. Stacey Abrams knows that. She wants one anyway, she doesn’t hide it."
The Fox News host argued that Abrams and Democrats are “inventing a common enemy that everyone can oppose,” accusing them of telling Americans to “hate their neighbors for the color of their skin.”
“We’re in this together, we’re all Americans,” Carlson said. “That’s the most important thing, really the only important thing. Stacey Abrams doesn’t see it that way, neither do the leaders of her party." He concluded: “No election is worth the hatred and the division of identity politics, not if you plan to live here anyway.”
The right-wing criticism of Abrams this week started even before she made her 11-minute response Tuesday. In the time leading up to her address, a barrage of tweets and videos from the Republican National Committee, GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and other related groups tagged the “failed" Abrams as “SourGrapesStacey,” a nod to the nicknames often given by Trump to his political adversaries.
Abrams’s response also got the attention of the president himself. Trump told a group of reporters at the White House on Wednesday that he didn’t think Abrams could unseat Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) if she chose to challenge the first-term senator next year.
“I think it’s a mistake for her to run against him because I don’t think she can win," Trump said on Wednesday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “David Perdue is an incredible senator, if you remember, and will be very hard to beat.”
But Abrams was widely praised for her performance on Tuesday by Democratic leadership, presidential contenders, and possible presidential contenders. Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser for President Barack Obama and co-host of the liberal podcast “Pod Save America,” went as far as to say that Abrams “should run for President.” But perhaps the most notable praise came from former vice president Joe Biden, another possible 2020 contender.
“Stacey Abrams achieved in a matter of minutes something Donald Trump failed to do in over an hour,” Biden tweeted, “to embrace and give voice to the spirit and core values that make America great.”
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