As presidential hopefuls vie for voter support during an election season, they usually focus on specific, although often overlapping, demographic groups, including people of color, suburban women, and middle-class voters. Until this election, candidates have mostly overlooked disabled people as a crucial voting bloc. But, the tides may be shifting ahead of the 2020 election, as some are recognizing the importance of the disability vote by centering disability rights in their platforms.
Last week, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro released a comprehensive disability policy plan as part of his platform, promising people with disabilities “dignified work, decent housing, quality education, affordable health care, to live independently and achieve self-sufficiency.” His proposal comes on the heels of those released by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) in late August, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who released a plan to expand disability rights in early November.
Other candidates, such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), former Vice President Joe Biden, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), and author Marianne Williamson, include disability rights sections on their websites and have mentioned people with disabilities to varying degrees in their other policy plans. No GOP candidates have similar plans listed on their websites.In May,Eric Ascher wrote at The RespectAbility Report:
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is running for President on the idea that he is a Democratic Governor in a red state who knows how to work with people on both sides of the aisle. But how does he fare on disability issues?
While running for re-election in 2016, Gov. Bullock completed the #PwDsVote Disability Campaign Questionnaire for presidential, senate and gubernatorial candidates put out by RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. In his response to the questionnaire, he focused on employment, independent community living, veterans with disabilities, education, healthcare, caregivers support and workforce development issues.
One of the key accomplishments he highlighted in his response was expanding Medicaid in Montana. He wrote:“At a time when partisan gridlock is paralyzing much of the nation, I’m proud to have passed the HELP Act in 2015, a bipartisan bill that expanded access to healthcare to tens of thousands of Montanans. We know that many of the people who now qualify for coverage under the HELP Act are individuals struggling with disabilities who may not yet qualify for Medicare or SSDI and home health care workers taking care of people with disabilities and until the HELP Act, couldn’t afford their own healthcare. We were able to get this important legislation passed because a bipartisan group of legislators was willing to come together and work with me on a compromise solution that put Montanans’ health above political ideology and partisan bickering.” From ongoing efforts to strengthen “public schools instead of privatizing them” to reimagining programs “to better serve Montanans with disability in living the lives they choose and deserve,” Gov. Bullock has been a vocal and active supporter of the disability community.