It took until the end of a long and winding rhetorical night, but some Americans did eventually hear a robust call for a federal expansion of voting rights during the primetime broadcast of the State of the Union.
The shout-out did not come from President Trump, who proposed nothing in his address Tuesday night that might fall under the category of "draining the swamp," but from Stacey Abrams, the loser of last year's race for Georgia governor who was tapped to deliver the official Democratic response.
After sketching the party's commitments to improving education and wages, combating gun violence, lowering health care costs, making immigration laws more inclusive, and confronting climate change, she declared that "none of these ambitions are possible without the bedrock guarantee of our right to vote."
She urged the country to "reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a power grab. Americans understand that these are the values our brave men and women in uniform and our veterans risk their lives to defend. 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."
Her "power grab" line referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has adopted that term to characterize the election overhaul and voter registration expansion provisions in HR 1, the sweeping political process overhaul legislation pushed by House Democrats.
"Let's be clear: Voter suppression is real," Abrams said near the finish of her 10 minutes of remarks, by which point millions who had watched Trump had turned off their TVs. "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."
Her narrow loss in November to Georgia's top elections official, Republican Brian Kemp, amid Democratic charges of ballot malfeasance and voter suppression, has prompted her to start Fair Fight, a group advocating for expanded voting rights. She is also being recruited by D.C Democratic leaders to challenge GOP Sen. David Perdue next year, hoping her candidacy would energize fellow African-Americans and make Georgia competitive in the presidential race.