Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams called out President Donald Trump for having used the American people as pawns during the recent government shutdown.
In the Democratic response to Trump's State of the Union on Tuesday night, the second one during his presidency, Abrams criticized him for the recent 35-day government shutdown, saying he used furloughed federal workers in a political stunt.
"Making their livelihoods a pawn for political games is a disgrace," she said. "The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the President of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people - but our values."
She said that the current administration is failing the nation's future by not investing in education and gun control, saying the White House has responded "timidly" to these issues.
"From now on, our leaders must be willing to tackle gun safety measures and face the crippling effect of educational loans; to support educators and invest what is necessary to unleash the power of America's greatest minds," she said.
Abrams then shifted her speech to address the Republican Party more generally, saying hard-working people are falling behind because of Republicans who don't know their constituents.
"Families' hopes are being crushed by Republican leadership that ignores real life or just doesn't understand it," she said. "Under the current administration, far too many hard-working Americans are falling behind, living paycheck to paycheck, most without labor unions to protest them from even worse harm."
The most damning part of her speech came against the Republican Party's unwillingness to support Democratic legislation to increase voter turnout by making Election Day a holiday.
She said we can do more to curb climate change and to defend civil liberties, but not without the guarantee of the right to vote.
"Let's be clear: voter suppression is real. From making it harder to register and stay on the rolls to moving and closing polling places to rejecting lawful ballots, we can no longer ignore these threats to democracy," she said.
Abrams was unsuccessful in her pursuit of becoming the first African American female governor in Georgia last fall against Republican Brian Kemp. However, she initially refused to concede the vote as Kemp faced accusations that he had attempted to suppress the minority vote in the race.
She said Tuesday night that while she has accepted the results of the election, she cannot accept efforts to undermine the public's right to vote.
"This is the next battle for out democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have their say about the vision we want for out county," she said, in reference to the Democratic bill.
Abrams, without mentioning the Republican senator for Kentucky by name, said that his cynicism against having more eligible voters vote needs to be rejected.
"The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders - not where politicians pick their voters," she said.
Concerning Trump's pursuit of funding for a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, an issue that the president spoke at length about during his State of the Union, Abrams was curt in her dismissal.
She said the Republican's mischaracterize the Democratic "compassionate treatment at the border" as "open borders."
"Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and borders. But we must all embrace that from agriculture to healthcare to entrepreneurship, America is made stronger by the presence of immigrants - not walls," she said.
Her roughly 10-minute speech concluded with a call for Americans to unite and stand up for the nation's values, to call out racism wherever it is seen and to stand up for the rights of others.
"So even as I am very disappointed by the President's approach to our problems, I still don't want him to fail. But we need him to tell the truth, and to respect his duties and the extraordinary diversity that defines American," she said.