In the latest issue of the National Review, Reihan Salam asks: “How can Republican ideas get a hearing among minority voters?” His article, A Party for All, devotes much of its space musing on whether Rand Paul and Chris Christie’s work on criminal-justice reform might garner more productive exchanges between black voters and the Republican party. In the end, Salam argues:
[T]he best way for conservatives to appeal to African Americans is not to emphasize racially specific themes on criminal-justicee reform or any other issue, but rather to offer a compelling message to middle- and lower-income voters of all races. The conservative-reform agenda . . . aims to reduce the intrusiveness of government and its tendency toward excessive regulation, yet it also recognizes the importance of making the public sector work for Americans looking to climb the economic ladder.
I sincerely hope that Salam and fellow conservatives recognize that racial minorities are not the only groups worthy of extra GOP attention. Comprising approximately 20% of the population, people with disabilities are a huge voting bloc, a bloc that tends to vote liberal. Many friends with disabilities believe that Republicans do not care about them, and the GOP has done little to counter these claims. Instead, we are swept up with the “takers,” forgotten as attacks on Medicaid are waged, and — I believe — are misunderstood.
Ironically, there are many policy areas ripe for collaborative reform between people with disabilities and Republican wonks. Union demands are wrecking havoc on people with disabilities’ ability to live independently; the Obama administration is doing away with the FLSA’s companionship exemption, meaning that many caregivers will have their hours cut and individuals needing care are scrambling to find new help. Bureaucratic interference and inflexibility prevent many with disabilities from using their Medicaid long-term care hours in an efficient way; for example, since unused hours cannot be rolled-over for emergency use, many ask for more “just in case” hours which are unnecessary. And, though many are capable and desirous of employment, 96% of severely disabled individuals are unemployed.
Someone from within the GOP ought to build a ramp so my disabled pals can join the party. I think, once inside, they’d enjoy it.