Today, I was going through the items in disability news that my Google alert for "disability" had picked up over the last few days. I found an announcement that people running in November Midterm Elections in Texas were speaking at a Texas Disability Issues Forum, and that the whole thing was going to be livestreamed.
Who Doesn't Love a Disability Issues Forum?
The article drew my attention for a few reasons:
- Past readers will remember that even though I was born in Canada and have lived here my whole life, I'm morbidly fascinated by US politics in general, and the US elections process in particular. Canada's election period, from the day the election is called to the day people vote, usually lasts six weeks, so the length of the US election period alone boggles my mind, but I'm here for it - I watch it all.
- I remember a federal Disability Issues Forum before Midterm Elections in 2014 (I think) but this is the first time I've heard about one at the State level. That doesn't mean, of course, that there haven't been forums of this nature in the past - I just haven't heard of them before.
- Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, was invited three times to attend the Texas Disability Issues Forum and chose not to. But Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic candidate for Governor, showed up, as did Susan Hays (Democratic Candidate for Agriculture Commissioner), Rochelle Garza (Democratic Candidate for Attorney General), and Mike Collier (Democratic Candidate for Lieutenant Governor.) Their Republican counterparts (Sid Miller, Ken Paxton, and Dan Patrick) didn't attend.
Good for Texas
Texas should be commended for creating this space for its political candidates to speak about what they will do for disabled residents, and for people to ask them questions. 3.4 million disabled people live in Texas - that's a lot of voters, even more if you consider family, friends, and allies of disabled people who will vote for the party that's going to make safer, more inclusive communities with quality, easy-to-access services for disabled people who need them. Other states should follow Texas' example, as 61 million adults in the US are disabled.
I have been telling people for years that any political party that ignores the power behind a population demographic made up of one in four people (approximately the same in Canada and the US for several years now, making disabled people potentially one of the largest voting blocks in today's election landscape) is simply taking a risk. Disabled people want to live full lives - to work, to volunteer, to travel and spend time out in the world with friends and loved ones. We want to know which candidates are going to do to help us reduce the barriers to fully participating in our communities and in larger society.
Disappointment at the Disability Issues Forum
So, when a political party doesn't even send even one of its candidates to a Disability Issues Forum, I don't see how the message to disabled person could be anything but, "These are such non-issues to us that we're not even going to send someone to try and convince the crowd that we care, on the off-chance that we convince a few people and maybe swing their votes our way. That's how little we care."
I can't vote in the Midterms in Texas, of course. But if I could, I certainly wouldn't give my vote to a party that, when handed an opportunity to learn about my community's needs, can't be bothered to show up.
Jon Stewart said once, "The Democrats may be feckless, but at least they're trying." I think there's something to that. And I hate seeing what the Republicans are doing to Texas (the whole US, really) generally. It hurts my heart.
Watch the recording of the whole Texas Disability Issues Forum, if you can. It's interesting - insightful questions, great answers that hopefully translate into effective action. The livestream is brought to us courtesy of REV UP Texas, a "Non-Partisan, statewide coalition working to ensure and empower people with disabilities and our allies to get more involved in electoral politics."
Let's hope for the best in November.