President Trump’s proximity to sleaziness and/or lawbreaking (e.g. Paul Manafort, an illegal immigrant hiring racket, the National Enquirer, a foundation closed down by New York state, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen, more than 100 contacts between his campaign and Russians, a host of disgraced and departed aides and Cabinet officials) turns our stomachs. His administration more resembles a mob operation (complete with a Don who talks like a movie mobster) than a presidency.
In short, Americans have ample grounds to despair about the state of their government. And yet we were reminded this week that some public servants can appeal to the better angels of our nature, express outrage at corruption and wrongdoing but also optimism about democracy’s ability to self-correct, and explain the unique attributes of the American experience.
Stacey Abrams took a thankless job, providing the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union address, and turned it into an opportunity to restate our common values and lift up her fellow Americans. Here, amid the meanness and chaos and shadiness, was a decent person who understood that public service is noble and is a privilege. She aptly demonstrated that the greatness of the country is reflected not in its gross domestic product or the size of its military but in the kindness we display to one another and the devotion we exhibit to helping the most vulnerable Americans. Abrams did all that in response to the State of the Union.
Abrams is being urged to run for Senate or even president. She’s got a bright future and will have many options, in both the short and long term. She has already provided something dearly missed these days — excellence in carrying out one’s duties, grace in a high-pressure situation and decency rooted in values such as family, community and faith. For all that we can say, well done, Ms. Abrams.