Final Thoughts Before Voting

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Andrew Pulrang

If you are already excited to vote and have your candidates all picked out, you’re going to be fine. The following points are mainly for those who are still uncertain or feeling sour about the whole process:

  1. A bit of perspective …

If you live to be 80 years old, you will have the chance to participate in 15 General Elections in your lifetime. 15 General Elections ago, in 1956, a Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower won reelection in a blowout against Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson. Eisenhower was a moderate Republican who might be a conservative Democrat today. Stevenson was a liberal, and something of an intellectual, but the seven states he won were all in the rural, racially segregated South.

15 elections before that, a pro-business Republican, William McKinley, beat a charismatic, populist, anti-imperialist, anti-evolution, pro-prohibition Democrat named William Jennings Bryan, in a somewhat close election where the biggest issue was whether to base the U.S. currency on gold or silver. Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma didn’t count, because they weren’t states yet.

A lifetime before then, in 1836, (almost 30 years before the Civil War), Democrat Martin Van Buren beat three Whigs and an Independent,in an election that for the first time included the two newest states, Michigan and Arkansas.

The point is, politics do change, even when it seems like they don’t. It always takes too long, but you will almost certainly see a lot of political change in your lifetime, for good or for bad. For even more perspective on politics than you can handle, look through all past Presidential elections at the website

  1. If you don’t like the people running, forget them for a moment and look at their proposals …

Voting for “the lesser of two evils” isn’t fun, but it’s pretty normal. Maybe once in a lifetime, you get to vote for a Presidential candidate you really love and admire. The rest of the time, it’s a practical choice based on your philosophical beliefs, the kind of outcomes you want, and the kind of outcomes you don’t want.

Both major party candidates and both “3rd party” candidates have websites that outline in some form what they want to do as President. It’s not hard to find out what they stand for; just click the links:

Hillary Clinton (Democrat), Donald Trump (Republican), Jill Stein (Green), Gary Johnson (Libertarian).

  1. There is nothing wrong with basing your vote on disability issues …

Disabled people make up a large chunk of the electorate. We as a group could easily sway the outcome of the election. This year, at least a few of the candidates have realized this and started to address our concerns … disability-specific problems that most voters don’t even know about, and even some professionals don’t fully understand. Some of the attention we’ve gotten has been unpleasant, and not all of the positive attention has been exactly the kind we would all like. But the big picture is that our influence in politics is growing and becoming more visible. That is significant. That is a good thing.

It’s important to take all issues into account when you vote. However, it’s perfectly fine and natural  for disabled people to focus more on disability issues. Look at it this way. Disability is a minority experience, something most of your fellow citizens aren’t familiar with. Those of us who have disabilities are in a unique position to help politicians, policymakers, and civil servants design and deliver better disability policies and services. Who knows better than us what we need and what works best for disabled people? It would be irresponsible to keep silent about it or ignore these issue when voting!

Click here for the American Association of People with Disabilities comparison of Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s disability issue positions.

  1. Treat voting as an essential obligation …

As disabled people, we reserve the right to stay home, give things a miss, or take a self-care day when we’re worn out or frustrated by the barriers we face every day. It’s a legitimate strategy to preserve our energies for only the most important tasks. Whatever you think about this year’s election and the candidates, voting is one of those most important tasks. It’s not a thing you skip. It’s a thing you skip other things to be able to do.

Plan your Election Day voting trip the way you would for a can’t-miss appointment, not like a trip to the movies you can cancel if you don’t feel up to it at the last minute. Facing lots of transportation barriers? All the more reason to plan ahead for them. Will it take you all day? Then plan to take all day. Voting is a do what you gotta do, don’t take no for an answer situation.

It’s a cliche, but also true … People have risked their lives and died for the right to vote. Don’t throw it away because it’s inconvenient, even if it’s extra inconvenient because of your disability and society’s ableism. Don’t skip it because you’re just not feelin’ it this year. Don’t blow it off because you “don’t trust politicians.”

The good news, or bad news depending on your point of view, is that the struggle for a better country and the fight for disability justice will continue after the election. No matter who wins, we’ll have more work to do. If nothing else, voting gives you ownership of the struggle. It’s the most meaningful investment you can make in your future and the future of our community.

So tune out the news. Review what the candidates and their parties say they want. Check you own priorities, knowledge, and guts. Then go vote!