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Friday, October 14, 2022

Campaigns and Prejudice Against People with Disabilities

In The Politics of Autism, I write about the everyday struggles facing autistic people and their families -- including casual prejudice against disabled people.

Mehmet Oz is a doctor who peddles dubious supplements and hosts antivaxxers on TV.  His Trumpist campaign for a Senate seat from Pennsylvania has attacked opponent John Fetterman for his speech problems following a stroke.  Alex Samuels at FiveThirtyEight:
The lines of attack used against Fetterman, many of which are ableist (meaning they convey prejudice, either overt or subtle, against people with disabilities), tap into long-standing stereotypes about people with disabilities and could affect voters’ perceptions of him. That’s because there continues to be stigma against people with disabilities, according to Lisa Schur, a co-director of the Rutgers Program for Disability Research. As a result, she said, political “candidates with disabilities have to work extra hard to ensure voters that, yes, I’m competent and capable of doing the job.” This stigma can be particularly intense for candidates with mental or cognitive disabilities — or even for candidates where questions are raised about their cognitive function.

To be sure, we don’t have enough evidence to say for certain whether candidates with disabilities have a lower chance of winning elections. We do know, however, that people with disabilities are dramatically underrepresented in government. That’s especially true at the federal level where just over 6 percent of elected officials reported having a disability compared with 12 percent at the local level, according to a study from Schur and her co-director Douglas Kruse.

It figures Oz is positively canine in his devotion to Trump.  In 2020, I wrote a piece for USA Today on Trump's contempt for people with disabilities:

He displayed that attitude long before he became president. As his niece Mary Trump recounts in her new book, “Too Much and Never Enough,” Trump cut off his nephew’s medical coverage after he challenged the will of family patriarch Fred Trump. The nephew had a baby son with a severe neurological disorder. A reporter for the New York Daily News asked Trump how he felt about coldly stopping health insurance for a disabled infant. “I can’t help that. It’s cold when someone sues my father.” The nephew and his wife eventually settled with Trump. Their son now lives with cerebral palsy.

Barbara Res, who ran construction at the Trump Organization, recalled Trump talking to an architect in a Trump Tower elevator. He asked the architect about the raised dots next to the floor numbers. When the architect explained that they were Braille, Trump shouted, “Get rid of the (expletive) braille. No blind people are going to live in Trump Tower.’

His contempt for disabilities spilled into national view when he mocked New York Times investigative reporter Serge Kovaleski. Trump made fun of Kovaleski’s arthrogryposis, a condition that limits the use of his arms. “Now, the poor guy — you’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don't know what I said! I don’t remember!’” Trump said as he thrashed his arms. Trump later denied that he was ridiculing Kovaleski’s disability, claiming that he did not remember the reporter. He lied.