State of the Union

Some Democrats Are Mad at Bernie Sanders for Daring to Give SOTU Rebuttal—After Stacey Abrams Gives Hers

"Why is he talking over the black woman our party chose to speak for us?"


Abaca Press/Douliery Olivier/Abaca/Sipa USA/Newscom

For each of the last three years, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) has delivered his own response to President Trump's State of the Union speech. Tonight he will do the same.

But this year, some Democrats have a problem with it. That's because the party chose Stacey Abrams, who recently lost her bid for governor of Georgia, to deliver the official Democratic response.

"Stacey Abrams is a great choice to deliver the Democratic response," said Sanders in a statement. "I'm very much looking forward to her speech. For the third year in a row, following the Democratic rebuttal I'll be on Facebook Live, Twitter and YouTube to respond to Trump."

Sanders giving his own response, after Abrams gives hers, should be completely inoffensive. And yet some in the liberal coalition think Sanders has got some nerve: He's a white man, choosing to speak, even though party leadership has chosen a black woman to speak. (Doesn't he know it's Black History Month? For shame.)

#Resistance conspiracy theorist Louise Mensch was apoplectic on Twitter. "We already have to listen to one old white male traitor advance the Kremlin's interests, we don't need two," she wrote.

Mensch, of course, does not speak for sane Democrats. But a more respected voice, MSNBC's Chris Hayes, predicted Sanders' commitment to doing the rebuttal—again, something he does every year—"will grate/alienate." It appears he was right: Many on social media dragged Sanders for daring to speak out of turn.

"Why is he talking over the black woman our party chose to speak for us?" asked the feminist author Amy Siskind. (Again, Sanders is not talking over anyone.) "This is disrespecting black women, the most important and reliable part of our base. He can speak another night. This is Stacey Abrams' night. She was the one the party chose. Nope. This is not his night!"

This all sounds strangely familiar. Sanders, of course, was attacked by many of the very same people for seeking the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and delaying Hillary Clinton's coronation. One might have expected these ill-feelings to have dissipated after Clinton's embarrassing loss to Donald Trump—a contest Sanders plausibly might have won—but if anything, they seem to have intensified.