In Search of a Different Option

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Emily Munson

After the first presidential debate, I imagine most voters’ concerns were reinforced. Forceful self-proclamations that Trump possesses a presidential demeanor weren’t very convincing. Alternatively, Clinton’s smug smiles didn’t endear her to anyone in my household. Not even moderator Lester Holt impressed; he largely left the two presidential candidates to fight it out amongst themselves. Given that so many voters are unhappy with the prospect of casting a ballot for either major party candidate, I decided to see where the leading third-party candidates, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, are positioned on disability issues.

Since women are widely projected to determine the outcome of this year’s election, let’s consider ladies first. Jill Stein is running as the Green Party’s 2016 presidential candidate. Stein graduated from Harvard’s medical school, which may suggest that her perspective is rooted in the medical model of disability. Nowhere does her “Freedom and Inequality” platform prong mention disability, despite mentioning women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, indigenous rights, and immigrant’s rights. The omission is glaring. On the other hand, several blogs report that Stein encouraged Washington’s Governor Gregoire not to challenge a Ninth Circuit holding that the state is out of compliance with Olmstead. This suggests that Stein not only understands the critical importance of the integration mandate, but also supports its enforcement. Stein also appears to indirectly seek the abolishment of subminimum wage, in that she plans to “oppose two-tier wage systems (e.g., for young people and individuals with disabilities).”

Another issue that links Stein to disability were comments she made about the Food and Drug Administration, including the approval of vaccinations. These statements led many to claim that Stein believes vaccinations cause autism. Stein has since clarified her position, stating that some vaccinations have value, but corporate influence must be diminished while protections for opting out of vaccination protocols must be maintained.

Finally, I have concerns about how Green Party Platform elements might negatively impact people with disabilities. For example, Stein supports “full access to contraceptive and reproductive care.” This seems to suggest that Stein supports a woman’s decision to engage in selective abortion. She writes that “America’s youth should not be put in jail for offenses they commit.” What about youth that commit hate crimes against people with disabilities, such as the two young men who recently dumped gasoline on a Texas boy and lit him on fire? Increasing fuel prices will also adversely affect people with disabilities, many of whom use public transportation or large vans that consume larger amounts of gasoline.

Let’s next turn to Gary Johnson, a former governor and the Libertarian Party’s 2016 presidential candidate. Johnson and Stein agree on a couple issues, including support for abortion and the elimination of mandatory vaccination. However, Johnson is against abortion after a fetus becomes viable, and also refuses to use federal money for fetal stem cell research.

Indeed, Johnson is generally against decreasing the amount of money collected and spent by the federal government. The Washington Post suggested in one article that Johnson’s frustration with federal education regulations included having to reserve substantial funds the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Johnson would also turn both Medicare and Medicaid over to states for experimentation. In August 2011, he stated that, in healthcare matters, states should have “carte blanche.” These sweeping authorizations may not maintain important non-discrimination provisions that protect people with disabilities today.

Nevertheless, there are considerable areas where Johnson and the greater disability community may find themselves in substantial alignment. For example, Johnson is a well-known supporter of the legalization of marijuana. For people with disabilities who use marijuana as a treatment for pain or other symptoms, Johnson is your staunchest ally on this issue. In fact, Johnson may even make sex surrogacy easier for people with disabilities to obtain. He has stated that prostitution is safest when legalized and regulated.

In conclusion, if you find yourself bored during the next “mainstream” debate, check out Johnson and Stein. If nothing else, you’ll discover an alternative. Whether or not it’s attractive is for you to decide on November 8!

Contact: Emily Munson