Disclaimer: Except where otherwise noted (phrases appearing in blue are links to information that corroborates my statements), this post reflects my opinions. And we all know about opinions…
You are presenting me with a huge dilemma. According to the polls, I’m not alone, as many of my fellow Americans are holding their noses at the thought of voting for either of you.
Mr. Trump, when you read from a prepared speech, you almost have me…but then you go off on a tangential rant or send tweets that make you sound like a school yard bully. You are definitely not a slick, teleprompter politician, which probably explains your appeal to millions of Americans.
Mrs. Clinton, you lost me back in 1992 with the “cookies and tea” comment and cemented my distaste when you “stood by your man” throughout his sexual exploits. You even went so far as to criticize Monica Lewinsky, a 22-year-old young woman who, had she been working in corporate America, could have charged her boss with sexual harassment and had him fired. Even worse in my mind, you are a career politician, someone who has lived on the government dole your entire adult life. That in and of itself makes you untrustworthy, to me. I think it’s highly doubtful that you would have ever been successful in the private sphere…or maybe you would have been the CEO of some huge corporation only to end up being charged with embezzlement or insider trading or some other scheme to defraud average folks.
Being stuck between two distasteful choices, I’ve come up with a challenge for you. Whichever one of you is able to tackle this challenge just might earn my vote, and the vote of millions of Americans who have been left out of our political discussion for far too long.
What is this game-changing challenge? One of you should reach out to the largest minority group in our country and win over their support. It’s surprising that neither of you has figured this out yet. I mean, come on…with all your highly paid operatives and advisors, how have both of you managed to miss the votes of this huge percentage of the population?
So I’ll be the one to break it down for you:
What minority group have you missed?
Yes, you heard me…19%. That’s 56.7 million people or 1 in 5 Americans. Add to that their families, their friends, their employers, their caregivers and more…and suddenly we’re talking about a significant portion of the US population.
And the beautiful thing about this minority group is that is crosses all other minority boundaries. Disability does not recognize gender or race or religion or sexual orientation or socio-economic group. Disability appears in poverty and in wealth, in black and in Asian, in gay and straight. If either of you can figure out how to bring this minority into your camp, you might win an election. More importantly, you could direct our nation’s attention to a minority group who could elevate the dialogue for everyone because they have the power to unite groups that might otherwise be divided.
To explain, take a look at this picture:
I have no idea what their political affiliations are, nor do I know what religion they practice, how they feel about gay marriage, what their opinion on immigration reform might be, how they feel about our nation’s trade policies or what, if any, minority groups they may belong to other than the obvious one of their race. What I do know is that they have formed a bond because of the minority box they both have to check…the minority of people who have a family member with special needs. I’m sure these women have firmly held political beliefs about all the above issues and they care deeply about public policies that could benefit all of us…access to public transportation, access to affordable housing, an overhaul to the Medicaid system and more. If you can convince them that you care about their children and the challenges they face then I bet you’d win their vote…and mine and the votes of the millions of other Americans.
Or take these two young men. They are both 22 and they have been good friends for about six years. And guess what, candidates? Both of them are planning to vote in November. Both of these young men will listen carefully to the advice of their parents before making their decision on who to support. Bill belongs to one minority group, while Decorian belongs to another but their minority affiliations are not mutually exclusive. Decorian may just be a friend to Bill but he has been profoundly changed by their friendship and takes the needs of people with disabilities seriously…and will take that concern with him into the voting booth. And Bill, because he knows what its like to be discriminated against, will carry his concern for Decorian into the voting booth as well.
Ever since I started working with people who have special needs, I’ve wondered why their voice doesn’t matter more and why we don’t hear about them. Where are the lobbyists who advocate for public policies that would benefit the disabled? Why don’t we hear Anderson Cooper or Bill O’Reilly talking about which candidate is ahead with disabled voters the way they tell us who is ahead with the black vote or the hispanic vote? Where are the pundits who ask questions like, “Would you support government programs that offer tax incentives to employers who hire people with intellectual or physical disabilities?” Where are the commentators who hold your feet to the fire on issues like the IDEA Act, the ABLE Act and other federal programs designed to improve the quality of life for people with special needs?
There was one recent politician who had a chance to bring this minority group to the forefront…Sarah Palin, the woman who, to paraphrase Robin Williams, seems to be the secret love child of Ronald Regan and Barbie. She has a child with Down syndrome and could have used her political clout to advocate on behalf of this huge minority. But alas, as most politicians, she just pandered to the same old insiders and operatives…Wall Street, big pharma, insurance companies…we all know the list. Will one of you be the politician who will finally give voice to the 19%…the forgotten minority? If one of you will truly and sincerely address this forgotten minority, you may find that you connect even more significantly with the minority groups you are already wooing.
There are so many vitally important civil rights issues that should matter to all of us but they become contentious when we put hashtags in front of them or associate them with one minority over another. For example, it isn’t just black men who have been brutalized by the police…it happens to people with intellectual and physical disabilities all the time. It isn’t just black and hispanic people who face institutional discrimination because it happens to people with intellectual and physical disabilities all the time.
All of the hot-button issues in this election cycle are issues that matter to the disabled…immigration policies, common core, unemployment, economic issues (by the way, 28% of Americans with a disability live in poverty), marriage equality and all the others.
But here’s the magic difference between the disability minority and the other minorities…once you’re a member of the special needs minority, that membership trumps (no pun intended) any other demographic group a person might identify with. And with the alarming rise in autism spectrum diagnoses, this forgotten minority will continue to grow.
So, which one of you will take on my challenge? Which one of you will care enough about the forgotten 19% to reach out to them and win their vote? If one of you does, then I guess I’ll know who to vote for. If neither of you does, then I will probably stay home on election day.