Senator Bernie Sanders, ever the lightning rod for controversy, has once again found himself in hot water. For the third year running, Sanders will deliver his own response to the president’s State of the Union address. This response will be separate from the Democratic Party one, to be delivered by Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, in a move many consider upstaging.
Abrams is hot off the heels of narrowly losing a governorship to Brian Kemp. However, the race was pockmarked by what some call a rampant abuse of power, as Kemp retained his powers as Georgia Secretary of State while campaigning for the governorship. Because the SoS has broad power concerning voting registration, Kemp waged a full-on assault on voting rights, improperly purging, by one investigation’s estimate, 340,000 voters from Georgia’s voting rolls.
In light of the injustices that Abrams faced on the campaign trail, the Democratic Party chose Abrams to deliver the Democratic response to President Trump’s address. Her presence and words are sure to highlight the struggle millions of Americans still face when demanding that their right to vote be protected and respected.
Considering these facts, Sanders’ announcement left some … displeased. Some contended that upstaging a black woman’s speech was a bad look.
Bernie Sanders is doing his State Of the Union response to speak to all the white people who are uncomfortable watching Stacey Abrams' SoTU response. 😏
— Ragnarok Lobster (@eclecticbrotha) February 4, 2019
Others pointed out that one of Bernie’s biggest challenges to winning Democrats is that he isn’t one.
And yea, I know Sanders gave a SOTU response in 2018 too… People can do what they want obviously, but it probably isn't a great idea when a major charge against you is that you aren't a Dem… and you're giving a response separate to the Dem response.
— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) February 5, 2019
And finally, others noted that as a sitting senator, Sanders has more ways to push his agenda than Stacey Abrams, who lost, and Sanders should avail himself of them.
Sanders could be on CSPAN every day pushing a small s socialist agenda from the Senate. Some of us want that message out there. But instead he's going to obscure the speech of an inspirational black woman giving the Dem #SOTU response.
Why? He won't say anything new.
— Victoria Brownworth (@VABVOX) February 5, 2019
Sanders himself tried to diplomatically create a friendly bridge, but some say it doesn’t hold water:
Stacey Abrams is a great choice to deliver the Democratic response. 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. https://t.co/4xOCjkNwtF
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 4, 2019
Further, in 2016, Senator Sanders lost the primary to Hillary Clinton by nearly 4 million votes. In a Democratic primary season increasingly focused on credible female candidates (some of whom don’t share nearly the same “baggage” as Clinton), his path to the nomination looks increasingly slim. He was even targeted by a Vermont newspaper that “begged” him not to run for president.
Between his high unfavorables, his upstaging SOTU response, and his own backyard pushing against his candidacy, Sanders early primary days do not appear to be going well. His latest foray is not likely to help. An increasing amount of Americans are coming around to the idea of Bernie Sanders not being the best person for the job. And if he were the best person to deliver the SOTU response, perhaps he would’ve been chosen to do so.