Closing Argument

Red white and blue Election 2016 sign with white stars

Assholes
Duncan Black, Eschaton - November 3, 2016

I wasn’t going post a closing argument for this year’s election, since I’ve channeled all my political attention into #CripTheVote and blogging for the Center for Disability Rights. But in this short post by my favorite blogger, I found a theme. So here it is. Please read it before you go on. It'll just take a minute.

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Assholes and Kickers can be fun and exciting. This is especially so when you think they might be assholes on your behalf, and kick the kinds of people and institutions you think are keeping you down ... or that just annoy the hell out of you on a day to day basis. However, disabled people who might be inclined to join "Team Kicking" on November 8 should remember something. Disabled people, in particular, never, ever benefit when Kickers are in charge. Also, Assholes like to befriend a disabled person now and then, and that can feel really swell, but they don't stay our friends for very long.

Donald Trump is both an Asshole and a Kicker, in a way that few other Republicans have been. Mitt Romney and John McCain, (to name just the last two nominees), had certain ideologies and prejudices, and advocated policies that might have done us some harm, but they were by no means either Assholes or Kickers. That would have been hard for me to admit four or eight years ago, but it's pretty obvious when Donald Trump is here to demonstrate what an Asshole and a Kicker really is.

What about Hillary? Well, what about Hillary?

First, a word about what it means to “mean well."

In social justice circles, you say someone “means well” or is “well-intentioned” when they are privileged people who think they are awesome, while having no idea of how wrong and problematic they actually are. It’s faint praise at best, at worst an insult. There's also the more concrete, practical truth that good intentions aren’t worth much if real-life outcomes are bad. This is one of the key concepts of progressive social justice … it doesn’t matter what you meant to say or do. What really matters is the results.

That said, right now is an excellent time to remember that good intentions are better than bad intentions.

Hillary Clinton almost certainly means well, even if we dispute whether she can succeed in making “well” happen. She means well, while Trump clearly does not. Donald Trump almost certainly does not mean well, except maybe for himself, and maybe for some definition of "regular Americans" he has in his head ... a definition that also happens to shift quite a bit when it suits him, especially when he's provoked.

Clinton wants to make things better for people, and yes, in particular, for people on Team Kicked, including people with disabilities. If she loses her way in this, we can use her good intentions to steer her back on course.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t even nominally care about making life better for disabled people. I'm not sure he wants to hurt us exactly, but he's made it clear we barely exist in his system of priorities. And he enjoys being a world-class Kicker. He’s proud of it. It’s part of his brand.

For about a minute, some disabled people might feel like Trump is in touch with their own resentments … with their own beefs about who gets to have nice things, who gets cut some slack in society, who is and isn't a true, virtuous American. Trump himself might even believe now and then that he truly cares about disabled people. But what he obviously cares most about is singling out people who are noticeably different for ritual public shaming and, if he becomes President, maybe worse. When lists are drawn up for who's to be publicly shamed, humiliated, and scapegoated, guess who's always on them? People with disabilities.

Hillary Clinton is unlikely to change the fundamental dynamics of disability life in the United States. It’s unlikely anyone can in the space of one Presidency and what is probably going to be another divided Congress. But she’s also unlikely to victimize us or undermine the progress we have made so far. With a bit of political luck, and dogged activism on our part, Clinton might even help push our policy agenda forward a little.

I’m usually all about policy, myself. I’m not used to voting based on personality. If policy is your thing, too, check this side by side Trump and Clinton comparison put together by the American Association of People with Disabilities, based on both campaigns’ answers to a disability policy questionnaire. There’s plenty there to make a solid decision. I’m just saying, this is one of those times where it should be easy to decide even if you don’t know a thing about the intricacies of disability issues.

The political empowerment of disabled people I have witnessed through #CripTheVote and the campaign itself has been impressive and exciting. But despite the significant progress we’ve made in this year alone, disabled people are still … and maybe always will be … part of Team Kicked.

This is not the same as saying disabled people are helpless, or inherently weak, or even that we are all horribly oppressed. It is simply an acknowledgement of social reality. Disabled people are charter members of Team Kicked. That is simply true, even for those of us who are privileged in other ways, even those of us who are doing pretty well, individually, and even those of us who don't think of ourselves as part of any "disability community." We are all on Team Kicked. We don't get a choice about that.

We are part of Team Kicked whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not. All other factors aside, Trump is Team Kicker. Clinton is Team Kicked.

We would be wise to vote accordingly.