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Conservatives Missing Massive Voter Opportunity

Reaching out to Hispanics and African Americans is important, but there's an even larger group of voters the GOP shouldn't overlook.

by
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

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March 21, 2013 - 1:15 am
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America is dedicated to the principles of human liberty, grounded in the truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and endowed with equal rights. As Abraham Lincoln once said, these permanent truths are “applicable to all men and all times.”

Our founding fathers were steeped in the Judeo-Christian traditions. One of those is the belief that Moses, who had a significant speech impediment, led the Israelites out of Egypt to freedom. The Bible says that when Moses hesitated before God, saying that he thought his disability disqualified him for leadership, God indicated that Moses must serve. Such was our first lesson that people with disabilities who can work and lead should do so. Indeed, faith says that all humankind was created in God’s image. That is the basis of our equal rights. Aaron, Moses’ brother, helped him communicate. With teamwork, they led the Hebrews to freedom and the Promised Land of Israel.

President Ronald Reagan worked to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to achieve the American dream. Under his administration, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was founded. President George H.W. Bush signed it into law. This act enabled millions of Americans with disabilities to have a hand up, not a hand out, as they were able to go into schools, civic institutions, and the workforce to create a better future for themselves and their families.

Yet despite these proud traditions, CPAC speakers this past week and the RNC chair spent an extraordinary amount of time discussing reaching out to Hispanics and African Americans, yet did not say anything substantive about a larger group of voters — Americans with disabilities. According to the U.S. Census, 1/5th of Americans have a disability.

According to a poll of 1000 likely voters conducted by my firm, Laszlo Strategies, fully 51 percent report having a family member or close friend with a disability. Fifty-two percent of Democrats report that they or a loved one have a disability, and for Republicans a smaller number of 44 percent report they have a disability. Surprisingly, independents have the largest number of voters who say they have a disability, with 58 percent saying yes. This shows that swing voters with disabilities and their families are up for grabs.

Many Republicans can speak with legitimacy to Americans with disabilities. Sen. Mark Kirk, Sen. John McCain, and former Senator Bob Dole have disabilities. Rep. Pete Sessions, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Rep. Gregg Harper, former Governor Sarah Palin, and former Sen. Rick Santorum have children with disabilities.

There are a huge number of issues that impact people with disabilities which resonate with Republican primary voters but aren’t even on their radar screens. For example, approximately 90% of American women who find out they are carrying a child with Down syndrome choose to abort. People with disabilities can fall victim to others (including family members and supposed “care takers”) who push them into “assisted suicide”/euthanasia. At times, people with disabilities are denied access to needed organ transplants because their lives are judged less worthy than those of people without disabilities. These “pro-life” issues matter to conservative activists and many disability activists alike.

People with disabilities are more likely to be victims of crime. Thus, many voters with disabilities share a “tough on crime” perspective. Yet, because it was reported that the shooter in Newtown had Asperger’s, many voters with disabilities and their families are concerned about being profiled in such a way that their gun rights can be denied. They risk being judged as a discriminated class, not as individuals.

Educational rights and opportunities are critical to people with disabilities. Many parents of children with disabilities, who often face large medical and other costs, want vouchers so that they can afford for their children to attend private schools with additional support for children with disabilities.

As for all Americans, the number one issue in the disability community is jobs. During President Obama’s first term in office, unemployment for Americans with disabilities skyrocketed. The number of people collecting federal disability insurance has increased by 1,385,418 to a record 8,827,795, meaning a larger strain on the federal coffers and more people with disabilities living in poverty.

In short, people with disabilities are looking for new answers and policies.

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All Comments   (36)
All Comments   (36)
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If only it were so. The characteristics of the population qualified disabled has changed dramatically in recent years. Vague psychiatric disorders, ADHD, and other popular diagnoses have taken the place ahead of what most people would deem permanent, job-restricting, life-altering chronic illness and injury.

I'd like to see the disability community out the abuse in its own ranks. However, that's not only not the way advocacy communities work -- but in the case of this cohort, those most affected by serious illness or injury are often least physically and financially able to take on such a task, while those who don't really suffer serious problems or have made their own problems -- through lifestyle choices and self-abuse -- are often the loudest and most insistent voices.

That would be an excellent place for Republicans to work, though -- ensuring that the most needy and deserving -- and also those motivated to work -- are not pushed to the end of the line behind those who game the system, particularly those using diagnoses of children to access greatly expanded benefits.

"The Last Psychiatrist" blog has many interesting insights on this. The win-win is that by looking at how welfare resources have been re-branded as support for the disabled, we can solve fraud and make sure we are serving real needs.

But, enough with the identity politics. I don't necessarily expect a disabled conservative voter to choose to identify as a disabled voter at all.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"As for all Americans, the number one issue in the disability community is jobs."

I did a search and failed to find any data to validatre the above statement. That said, there is a vast range of discriminations in the workplace for those infirmed and deemed a liability or otherwise not of economic value to the company or the position for a vast range of reasons.

I don't think the socalled base of todays GOP is willing to tread any further in support of legislated disabilities enactments. When you read the commenting even here on PJM from time to time, the aged and disabled representations seems to be sacrificial segements of our society -- useless, non productive and a drain on economic resources.

On the other hand there are currently 900,000 veterans and servicemen/women backlogged awaiting VA disability assessments. Likewise, there has been a significant increase in social security disability claims of more recent times.

http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/va-s-disability-claims-backlog-pushes-900-000-20120419

http://www.socialsecurity-disability.org/blog/why-are-social-security-disability-claims-rise

I don't think that todays GOP base is going to see this kind of data in any other light than abuse which must be reversed and curtailed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The GOP can out promise special dispensation, preferences, and out create government programs and benefits to special interest identity groups, and ride that to electoral success!

Yeah baby! Dem(b) and Dember.

We can outflank the Socialists to the Left and win elections! Woo! Hoo!

Victory and power at last. Power to create the Communist Utopia even faster than the Democrat Party!

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I knew a guy who was supposedly bi-polar and for sure a heroin addict. So was his wife. She worked, he never did. He told me right out he'd get on SSI and he did.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Addiction is a compensable disordedr under SSI. Lots of folks work it in cyclical fashion, sort of the way snow birds do FL seasonally. They go on the wagon for as long as inpatient treatment takes, then go back out and set to work "re-qualify for the program." But what the heck, it creates a sheer genius cohort of Dem voters.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The comments here miss the mark and don't reflect on the issue presented. The goal is not to expand hand outs. It is to make sure the programs that do exist exist to help people into the workforce and towards self-sufficiency. "America can’t afford financially or morally to pay people to stay home when support to accommodate their special needs can enable them to work and be independent." Any Republican should be able to see that this is a good thing that reduces dependence on government. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
But these are disabled people, and it's not feasible to enable such. It's a non-trivial cost just to install wheelchair ramps for the average business; many disabled face serious issues in working that cannot be helped easily. For many, direct subsidy is the most efficient way of helping them, and there's little to do to change this. You can't be in the workforce easily when blind, suffering from chronic pain or other conditions.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's a non-trivial cost just to install wheelchair ramps for the average business = Still Drifting

Bingo. How many businesses havent started up, because they cant hurdle all the red tape and regulations like these. A little introspection, indeed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What you are advocating is the "Better Manager" of the Welfare State version of small ball neutered conservatism....in which youve conceded defeat in the big game of ideas, and merely wish to convince people that you can do a better job of implementing and administering the Socialist Government/State Centered system of human interaction and activity. It is analogous of rearranging the deck chairs on the USS Titanic in a conservative manner.....while the Left goes unchallenged in their course and speed of the ship. That is David Frum "No Labels" territory, my friend, and I want no part of it. You can become the faux conservative Christian Democrat and Tory parties of Europe (Lefitst-Lite) if you want to. You wont be enjoying my support.

Constitution Party, here I come!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You don't supprort the approach of helping the disabled become more independent? Wow.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I do, in the private sector, where it belongs. But keep up the Leftist argument that if you dont support Government Programs to address human concerns, then you are a heartless bastard.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No no no. Enough! with this catering to identity groups meme. The dems own that turf. You will never take it from them. The GOP is at its best when it "reaches out" to the American people as a whole, while at the same time taking the fight TO the leftist divide-and-conquer grand strategy.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If we were to get rid of the entire "affirmative action" and "diversity" bureaucracy, and also repeal Obamacare, the economy would improve and we'd have all the jobs we need.

BTW, I'm a brain surgery survivor, so I know a thing or two about this.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ms Mishrahi apprears to be a liberal: she is asking for increased Government spending. Nowhere does she advocate eliminating any government program. She is pushing for some programs with the acronym of "TEAM".

Liberals have denounced Sara Palin (and rightly so) as a hypocrite for Ms Palin advocates smaller government but increased spending for the disabled.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) brought about the decrease of employment of the disabled (especially in small businesses who bear with difficulty the costs of ADA). Ms Mishrahi should talk about the curtailment - if not actual abrogation - of ADA.

Nearly all programs supported by either Liberals or Conservatives or both are being advertized to benefit the poor, the sick, the disabled, the children. Nearly all these programs claim to have clauses for accountability, for safeguarding of whistleblower, for promoting efficiency and efficacy. And they are all inefficient with administrators not being held accountable. The elimination of most (if not all) of these programs will - paradoxically - benefit the disabled and the able alike.

The author needs to talk to Liberal and Conservative disabled and get their views on the proper role of government for the disabled.

Note about handicap parking decals: people with congestive heart failure are deemed handicapped so externally (many are obese) they have no physical defect. Yes, there is a lot of abuse with the handicap decals. I live in Oakland, CA and often see 4 cars in a row with handicap decals (no need to feed the parking meter).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You actually believe there are no people unable to work through no fault of their own? You actually believe we ought to return to the days of the leper on the ground. Walking by Lazarus is not a conservative principle. If it is, expect no supporters to any conservative candidate. You are breaking your own legs politically, but if that is the position, live with the consequences. As our country will with continued voting in of Obama like persons.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Churches are for charity and caring for the weak and infirm. And there is also disability insurance in the private sector.

The "heartless bastard" ad hom never goes out of style, it would seem, though. Circular firing squad indeed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Have you ever really taken a good look at what most churches are about these days? Paying their ministers, pastors, etc. very lavish salaries, building very fancy & expensive sanctuaries & sending their choirs off to Europe. Charity work is, for most churches, waaaay down the priority list below the things I mention above. For the most part, organized religion is just a vehicle for social gatherings & wasting huge sums of money.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Totally wrong, Ms. Cat.

Try reading up on statistics regarding giving -- not to churches but by the churchgoing for poverty programs.

Unfortunately, churches also become part of the government bureaucracy encouraging dependency. But that comes from too much involvement in social services, not too little.

Sending choirs to Europe? Geez, try a little harder?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What's left to do, now that the Government has taken over these endeavors with tax money forcibly collected from the population?

The Churches are becoming irrelevant and the Government is becoming God. The Socialists are doing a fine job of advancing their agenda.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You can't get disability insurance at any affordable premium if you're born with a disability. It's the same pre-existing condition problem that exists with health insurance. That's why young healthy employees are strongly encouraged to apply for disability insurance while they are still healthy enough for the premiums to be affordable.

In my grandma's time, someone who was born blind or had a spinal cord injury and who didn't have a wealthy family to take care of him, ended up a beggar, shuffling down the street with a tin cup, begging.

No charity is going to be able to afford the medical treatments for someone with a spinal cord injury. If you or a family member ever needs major hospitalization, take a look at the medical bills and then ask yourself if your local church could afford to pay them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This has long been the province of the Church. The Catholic Church in particular funds and operates and has long funded and operated orphanages and hospices and hospitals and mental institutions....from the tithing of their membership.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I am not at all sure you understand the philosophical foundation of the constitution and your own civil rights. It is precisely as the author noted: All men created equal, endowed by their Creator, etc. This country is a society. No man is an island.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I certainly do understand the philosophical foundation of our system. Classically Liberal Christian. In that system, the Christian Organizations provided charity works, which wasnt a purview of government in general and the Federal Government in particular. This is the way our society was organized...although it would seem that Government has become the Church and the Christian organiziton of society is being jettisoned.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We're more like minded than I thought. Please excuse me if I was rude. I agree that would be ideal, but can we really expect the amount of tithing and church-goers it would require in this day and age? Again, I get your point.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The State will provide all for everyone....and their will be no room for anything or anybody else. Worship the State and Pray for it's Blessings to be Showered Upon You.

People, the Totalitarian State is coming one (seemingly harmless when taken by itself) Program and Benefit at a time.

You can either reject it, or embrace it. The choice is yours.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The government ONLY steps in when the chruches and the people step out of their chairitable responsibility or can't sustain such social support on the scale needed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Government hogs all the resources and leaves less and less approaching zero for other entities to participate, much less effectively. It's feedback loop...which ends in a totalitarian state.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As I read this, I was trying to recall any claims of discrimination due to a disability that came BEFORE the employee got in trouble; couldn't think of one. For that matter, I'd be hard pressed to think of any claim of discrimination that came before the employee got in trouble.

I had a temporary disability last year; I broke my heel and couldn't walk without crutches for several months. Never could seem to get a handicap parking space before the fat ladies got them. If you aren't missing a part or have a part that demonstrably doesn't work, I'm going to be hardpressed to consider you disabled.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"...before the fat ladies got them."

That is exactly the kind of discrimination that renders "fat" people, ugly people, bodily deformities, etc., disabled in the workforce unless they want to change bedpans with a BA/BS, Masters or PhD.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The author is absolutely right. So many people agree with conservative principles but feel utterly unwelcome by the conservatives themselves. You are losing a huge voting bloc. The hate on the left is as alienating as the hate on the right and that is why those sympathetic to the disabled are largely independents. Certainly there are those who take advantage of the benefits with bogus disabilities. But those start out looking to take advantage and find a disability. Most have a disability and have to depend on benefits to survive. The majority of these would love to work. Stigma makes this very difficult. I have been around the disabled all my life. It is a myth that Obama cares anything for the disabled. He has done nothing for them, while Bush was firmly on the side of children with learning disabilities. One thing that virtually no one knows is that if a person receiving SSI works they are penalized with the loss of half their pay and may end up with less to live on by virtue of working and loss of medical benefits. This should be addressed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How about we reach out to people who want to be free and not live off the work of others?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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