The political conventions are behind us, ad campaigns abound, the debates have begun — this year’s presidential election is drawing near. Have you chosen your preferred candidate? How did you arrive at your decision? Were you able to find accurate and reliable campaign material? In this day and age of attack ads, overwhelming information, and numerous complex issues, making an informed voting decision is a challenge. Figuring out which are the most important issues and identifying the candidate who most closely reflects your views can be a difficult task. As we gather information from news coverage, rallies, and debates, some of us may be doing a little of our own “flip-flopping” between candidates. But for many in the disability community, the choice is seems clear: the John Kerry and John Edwards team.
For Deborah Whitman and Bob Freeman, two unwavering Kerry/Edwards supporters, the choice was so clear that they spearheaded the Minnesota Disability Community for Kerry/Edwards and began talking with like-minded community members over the summer. Whitman is the mother of a child with disabilities and Freeman has been a member of the disability community for the past several years.
“Our two main objectives are to ensure that Kerry/Edwards events are accessible and to get out the disability vote,” says Whitman. In addition to providing a vehicle for people to get involved in raising awareness of campaign issues and candidate positions, the group also informs the Kerry/Edwards campaign team about disability community issues. When Senator Kerry, Senator Edwards, or their representatives have visited the Twin Cities, they have met with members of the group to get a feel for local disability community needs.
As Minnesota is a “swing state” (i.e., a state whose population’s support is nearly equally divided among candidates), every vote counts. Therefore, the Minnesota disability community vote could have a big impact on the state’s election results. If a significant portion of the disability community voted for a particular candidate, say, Kerry, they could “swing” his share of the vote from 49 percent to 51 percent, helping him win our state’s electoral votes. In order to “get out the disability vote”, the Minnesota Disability Community for Kerry/Edwards has held several informational meetings in recent months to give information about the Kerry/Edwards platform as well as opening doors for us to get involved.
The Kerry/Edwards team has done an excellent job of helping people understand their position in more personal terms: their website is broken down not only by specific political issue, but also by demographic group. So whether you’re a mom, teacher, nurse, senior, member of a particular ethnic group, or an individual experiencing a disability, you can discover “what’s in it for you.”
The campaign website states clearly “John Kerry and John Edwards believe that all Americans, including those with disabilities, have an inherent right to be treated as first class citizens of our nation.” John Kerry plans to strengthen Medicaid and Medicare, fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and construct creative solutions for the transportation, technology, and housing needs of individuals with disabilities, all of which are programs assisting us to live more independently in our communities. Kerry believes that the government should not be investing in tax giveaways for the wealthiest Americans while IDEA is inadequately funded and Medicaid is in danger of being weakened. He states he will fight all efforts to undermine the Americans with Disabilities Act. Furthermore, Kerry will push for health insurance coverage for mental illnesses that is equal to the health insurance benefits covering all other illnesses, an issue that was close to the heart of the late Senator Wellstone.
For more information about the Minnesota Disability Community for Kerry/Edwards, please contact Mark Siegel, 612-305-0972 or [email protected]. The group’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 14th at 7 p.m. in the Communication Workers of America Local 7200 Building, 3521 East Lake Street, Minneapolis.
For more information about the Kerry/Edwards stance on disability issues, check out the Americans with Disabilities section of their website at http://www.johnkerry.com/communities/awd/
As Justin Dart said, “Get into politics as if your life depends on it, because it does.” GET OUT AND VOTE!!!