Democrats Disappointed Disabled Voters

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Erin Vallely


Summer 2019 is upon us and that means the next presidential election is well under way.  I have decided to follow the Democratic candidates and condense their information into a more voter friendly format.  From now until election day, I will be writing about the debates, candidates and anything else important in the race, with a focus on how candidates positions may impact individuals with disabilities. 

On June 26th and 27th the first Democratic debates took place.  The debate was divided into two nights because there are so many eligible candidates.  Despite each night having ten candidates, only about nine have the potential to be the primary Democratic candidate in the 2020 election.  My articles will focus on these nine candidates but will also provide sources where you can find comprehensive information about all the candidates.  Whenever I discuss multiple candidates I will list them alphabetically and do my best to remain impartial.  Let’s meet the nine current candidates!

The Most Likely Democratic Nominees

Joe Biden served as the Vice President during the Obama administration.  He supports tax reform in order to end current loopholes and putting an end to tax cuts for the wealthy.  Investments in education are also important and his plans include universal pre-K, tripling funding for schools with a high percentage of low income students, free community college for all students and freezing student loans if someone is making less than $25,000 a year.  Biden believes the best way to ensure affordable healthcare for all is to expand the Affordable Care Act, renegotiating medicine prices and holding insurance and pharmaceutical companies responsible for their actions.  On the issue of gun control, he calls for biometric measure requirement for any gun sold, among other popular measures.

Cory Booker serves as one of New Jersey’s senators (2013-present).  He believes economic improvements will only occur if we limit corporation consolidation and monopolies and by ending special interest’s influences in our government.  He explained how healthcare, or the lack of, influences every aspect of an individual’s life and well being.  He supports universal Medicare for everyone and believes we need to put an end to the war on drugs.  Booker believes it’s a mistake to criminalize immigration, mental illness, and addiction and believes we need to be proactive regarding LGBTQ+ civil and social rights.  He also briefly spoke Spanish during the debate. 

Pete Buttigieg is a former military officer and now serves as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana (2012-present).  He believes the key to a fair economy is to offer free college for low and middle income students because otherwise they cannot afford it and thinks individuals with student loans should be able to refinance them which would save money.  He also believes people have to have the ability to be successful in jobs that don’t require a college degree, if they don’t want to go to college.  While Buttigieg believes everyone needs health insurance, he supports both a public option and private options so people can choose what is best for them, with the ultimate goal of making the public option most appealing so we transition to a single payer system.  He also supports police reforms including bias-training, de-escalation training, and mandatory body camera policy because no one should feel unsafe around the police. 

Julián Castro served as the Housing Secretary (2014-2017).  In order to improve the economy he wants to pass the equal rights amendment and pursue equal pay for equal work for women in order to fix the gender pay gap.  He explained that in order for the country to prosper women in the workforce need be paid equally.  He also plans to cover abortion rights for women and trans men in his healthcare plan.  Castro has also introduced legislation that would reform our policing system and wants to ensure that everyone is treated equally no matter the color of someone’s skin.  Additionally, he supports common sense gun reforms.

Kirsten Gillibrand is an attorney and currently serves as a New York State senator (2009-present).  She does not think capitalism is inherently problematic but that the greed of individuals and companies is what causes our inequality.  She supports national paid leave plan, universal pre-K, affordable day care, and thinks publicly funded elections, and ending bailouts will help end the corruption in our government.  She thinks healthcare should be an earned benefit like Social Security and rates should vary based on someone’s income.  

Kamala Harris is a  lawyer and currently serves as one of California’s senators (2017-present).  In order to improve the economy she wants to cut taxes and give any family who makes less than $100,000 a year $500 a month to help ensure they aren’t struggling.  Although she didn’t have much time to speak about healthcare, she did point out that even if an individual has insurance they frequently can’t use it because the deductibles are too high.  Harris said that in order for real change in the United States to occur major reforms have to be made on Wall Street, with insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, the military-industrial complex, and the fossil fuel industry.

Amy Klobuchar is American lawyer and currently serves as one of Minnesota’s senators (2007-present).  She believes that the key to an equitable economy is to offer free community college, doubling Pell grants and making them available to anyone earning less than $100,000.  She also supports better childcare for all, improving public schools and ensuring people can retire without worrying about income.  Klobuchar believes everyone needs health insurance, she supports both a public option and private options so people can choose what is best for them.  She also wants to lower the prices for medications.  She supports criminal justice reform and believes economic justice needs to include all minorities, specifying people of color.

Bernie Sanders currently serves as one of Vermont’s senators (2007-present).  He calls for a political revolution to get rid of the special interests that influence both the economy and national politics.  He also wants to make public college tuition free and calls for the elimination of student debt.  He believes in a single payer healthcare system where each person can access any doctor or hospital they want to without restrictions.  Sanders says that it’s a woman’s constitutional right to control her own body and will only nominate judges who support this vision.  His plans would mean increased taxes, but we would get much more from our money than we do under the current system.

Elizabeth Warren was a law school professor specializing in bankruptcy law and currently serves as one of Massachusetts’ senators.  She believes economic improvements will only occur if we put an end to the special interests that influence our government and make companies prioritize people over profits.  She supports Medicare for all and wants to make people’s right to abortion law instead of the current supreme court president..  Warren also views gun violence as a health crisis and wants data driven reforms based on best practices in other countries. 


Not discussed in this article were candidates Michael Bennet, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Beto O’ Rourke, Tim Ryan, Eric Swalwell (dropped out), Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.  Although the debate gave us a lot of information on the candidates and their viewpoints on various topics, individuals with disabilities and the current concerns surrounding our community were not brought up at all during the discussion.  Not a single candidate mentioned disability as a specific demographic.  There was no discussion of subminimum wage when income inequality was discussed, nor was there discussion of the inaccessibility of our economy if you can’t work 40+ hours a week.  In the lengthy healthcare discussion there was no mention of fully funding community based resources for people with disabilities..  The fact that 20 candidates ignored the largest minority in the country, about a quarter of the population, does not instill confidence that our concerns are being taken seriously.  As Andrew Pulrang explains, including individuals with disabilities in debates and political discussions is not difficult.  If we don’t insist on being taken seriously, things will never improve.

I encourage you all to keep up with the candidates and get involved in any way you can with the campaign(s) you most support.  I hope you will find my articles and analyses useful in forming your own opinions on candidates and will vote in every upcoming election.  Voting can truly change our society and improve everyone’s life.  I cannot wait to learn more about the candidates and watch the campaigns progress and hope you will join me!  Politics is a wild ride we’re all on!

Sources for further reading

Night One Debate Video

Night One Debate Transcript

Night One Debate Fact Check Analysis

Night Two Debate Video

Night Two Debate Transcript

Night Two Debate Fact Check Analysis

Voter Guide to Whose Who


Erin Vallely lives with a rare form of muscular dystrophy and is a proud wheelchair user. Having graduated with a B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology with a Spanish minor from Wells College in Aurora, NY, she will soon pursue her Masters of Social and Public Policy at Empire State College with a focus on disability rights, advocacy, and healthcare policy. In her spare time, Erin enjoys reading about other people’s experiences, supporting other minority groups, and traveling.

Published on July 15, 2019