Monday, October 17, 2016

Q&A with DisabilityAdvocates2016.com Founder Maureen Graves

The website DisabilityAdvocates2016.com summarizes disability issues as they relate to the 2016 election, with a strong preference for Senator Clinton over Donald Trump. See my post about the site. I interviewed the site's creator, Maureen Graves, about her site and the importance of this year's election for people who care about disability issues.

Q: Why did you create the website?

A: I have been an active Democrat since before I was old enough to vote, starting in the civil rights movement and McGovern campaign in Oklahoma. As a grownup, in advocating in Sacramento on behalf of students with disabilities, I have seen the importance of bipartisan advocacy, and I have certainly seen that both parties need to be pushed on disability issues. But I am afraid that much of the disability movement has gotten stuck in a position of nonpartisanship. Politicians fill out our questionnaires, sometimes, but don't see us as a powerful bloc that will support those who support us, and vote out politicians who don't. Partly because of the cautious approach of organizations, individuals and families affected by disabilities tend to stick with the politics of their families of origin, often without realizing that despite the nice words of both parties, often one supports their interests and one effectively opposes them. This year, Democrats are on our side, and Republicans endorse policies which would be disastrous if Trump wins, and very harmful if Clinton wins but does not get the Congress  she needs to get things done.

Q: What kind of response or reaction have you gotten about the website? 

A: It's hard to tell. I have never waited for Facebook "likes" to roll in before and don't know what to expect. I don't know how much information is being passed along. Families are busy; lawyers and other advocates are busy. The electorate is very polarized, and disability issues are currently not a priority for many voters, partly because the differences are often hard to see. I've encountered little hostility so far. I think people know this year is different and that many centrists and conservatives realize that the "others" Trump is attacking includes people with disabilities.

Q: How is this election different from past elections for people who care about disability issues?

A: I've been following presidential elections with meaningful understanding since 1968, and I think this year is uniquely terrifying. Trump does not just seem to disagree with areas of bipartisan consensus on domestic and foreign issues -- he doesn't seem to have any idea what that consensus has  been. He is bringing kinds of bigotry that used to be on the fringe into the mainstream. His treatment of people with disabilities is part of a very scary movement.  

Q: What do you think is most important for people to know?

A: First, the problem is not just Trump. His economic policies except on trade are those of the mainstream of the Republican party -- cut regulations and legal protections, reduce taxes on the rich, cut spending to meet people's needs, etc. In fact, if elected, it seems he would turn over domestic policy to his running mate Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. That would be horrible for people with disabilities.

Second, this isn't going to be over after the election. Trump and people with similar views will continue outright attacks against people with disabilities, among others. "Traditional" Republicans will profess concern but vote for the wrong policies. We need a long-term presence that is not afraid to be partisan when necessary. Our community needs report cards on politicians, and we need to be seen as a group that can swing depending on politicians' campaigns and actions once in office.

Learn about the issues at DisabilityAdvocates2016.com.

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