My Kid's Disabled, I Can't Vote Red Anymore

I have always believed that one's political views are the result of a compilation of his or her experiences.  I consider myself an independent because I simply can't get on board with all of the main pillars of either major party's platform.  Although I have leaned Republican in past elections (on foreign policy, military budget, states' rights, and fiscal conservatism), I have realized over the past couple of years that I can no longer vote for the majority of Republicans.  

Why not?  It's simple.  I have a disabled child.  And Republicans are doing everything in their power to make his life harder.  Before being immersed in the special needs world, I didn't know what I didn't know.  I didn't know how much families with disabled children are affected by legislative decisions and how life altering it can be when services are taken away.  Many of the state early intervention programs that got my autistic child to where he is today are now in jeopardy because Republican lawmakers cannot see the value in giving disabled infants and toddlers therapy now allowing them to reach a higher potential in the future.  The outpatient therapy that has helped him so much is consistently harder for families to access.  With the repeal of the ACA many families will lose their only chance at accessing life changing therapy for their autistic children.

The proposed cuts to Medicaid not only affect families who are in a specific income bracket; they affect future disability benefits that our children will need as they age out of the education system.  These cuts also impact families who have other insurance but use Medicaid to fill gaps in coverage for their disabled and chronically ill children.  How can these lawmakers look their constituents in the eyes when they are knowingly pulling the rug out from under their families?  And many Republicans are fighting against my son's quality of life so openly and so blatantly that I can only conclude they simply do not care.

As much as I understand the argument for states' rights, after living in states that could care less about educating or providing services for their disabled populations, I can't argue that federal oversight, protections and enforcement of those protections are absolutely necessary.  When you have entire states that care more about their high school football program than staffing their special education classrooms, one can't gloss over the disparity in special education from one state to the next.  Having lived in multiple states and having dealt with multiple educations systems, I can tell you that any time we are heading to a red state I cringe and I worry about what will be available and if my son will have access to a free and appropriate education.  

The new administration is touting school voucher programs as if they will be helpful to those in the disability community, but we have seen the results in states with robust voucher programs in use and they aren't good.  Charter schools are performing just as bad as public schools throughout Michigan and now public schools are even more underfunded than before.  Not to mention that a number of charter schools will not accept disabled children.  And most voucher systems for disabled children require parents to sign away their education rights and have no input on their kids' education.  What a joke.  As a country we have worked for years towards more inclusion of our disabled students and now our Department of Education wants to send all of the disabled kids to special schools rather than supporting them in an environment with their typical peers.  We are going backwards.

As a military spouse, I do not only worry about my disabled child's current access to education I worry about services after he ages out.  We have to decide where to retire at some point and as much as I love the people and atmosphere of many of the states in which we have lived,  I can't bring myself to commit to settling down somewhere that will offer him absolutely no support when we are gone.  Some of the states we love the most have done away with all of their mental health support and some specifically have said their residency programs will no longer accept autistic individuals.  I can't really wrap my brain around how archaic some states are when it comes to their disabled and mentally ill populations.  But the one consistent thing I see over and over again with lack of services, lack of appropriate education and lack of healthcare is RED.  Red state legislators are perpetually failing their constituents in these areas and they don't seem to care. 

Yesterday, the House passed the AHCA, a bill that would allow states to opt out of any mandated coverage for those with pre-existing conditions (pre-existing conditions that include everything from autism to pregnancy).  The bill also would greatly impact Medicaid funding for disabled individuals.  Every medical, disability and autism organization has expressed opposition to the AHCA and what it would mean for our most vulnerable populations.  And yet enough Republicans are okay with that that it passed the House and in doing so they made it perfectly clear to me that I can no longer vote Red in good conscience.  And for those Republicans who voted against this heinous bill, good for you, but your party is still disappointing so many of us.  

I have found that a number of friends in the disability community feel the same way.  Regardless of where we stand on other issues, we can't get past the Republican party's attack on Medicaid and education.  The AHCA now goes to the Senate and I hope against hope that I am pleasantly surprised and enough Republican Senators will stand up for my kid and vote NO.  But, sadly, I have lost hope that the Right cares about my kid at all.

*****Added Edit*******

I shut down comments on this post for a bit because I don't have time to respond to every angry liberal in the world, but I would really much rather have a discussion. I have voted for Republicans, I have more often voted for Democrat or Independent candidates (even before having a disabled child).  Over the last few years the GOP's attack on the disability community has felt very personal and solidified my choice not to vote for them at any level, regardless of my stances on issues other than healthcare and education.  Perhaps, rather than jumping all over this post the left could see it as an opportunity to bring the insane number of people in the disability community still voting red into the fold?  I am very socially liberal and very empathetic. But there are a number of people who may not be and they need to see that their vote does affect THEM even if they are only concerned with their own family's situation. There are also a number of people who would never know the ins and outs of Medicaid funding and health insurance nightmares unless they are impacted.  Then there's a lightbulb, not just for their own family, but they realize many families are impacted by Medicaid cuts and an ACA repeal.  People are not going to agree with every part of every party's platform, but there are a huge amount of voters in the the disability community that are still voting red and this post is written to identify with them.  Perhaps from the title everyone is assuming I woke up one day with a disabled child and a sudden change of heart.  Not the case for me,  but with a different title and a different tone, it wouldn't have gotten the attention it needs.  And I hope others in the disability community will realize that voting red is voting against their kid and/or against themselves.  Even with the many many angry comments (that really aren't fazing me because most of them I didn't read and for the ones here on the blog they are based on a lot of incorrect assumptions) this post is still accomplishing everything I wanted it to accomplish as a number of people much more conservative than myself are messaging me "Wow, the GOP really doesn't support my kid's best interest so even if I am _____ (fill in the blank: Christian, Pro-life, Military), I can't vote red."   So, you're welcome.
   

Comments

  1. Thank you for your post. Well expressed.

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  2. Sure, now that you are personally affected by the republican menace you see the light. They have been making "life hard" for a lot of people for a long time. I guess I'm glad you finally woke up. How about an apology to those you've harmed by your republican votes?

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    1. Actually, in presidential elections I haven't voted Republican for a long time. There are a number of reasons people vote the way they do and most of them have to do with how their family will be individually impacted (everything from healthcare to economics). I won't apologize for voting for leaders who will act in the best interest of my family, but at this point that will no longer be Republicans at any level.

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  3. Typical Republican reaction. When something finally affects YOU, suddenly the empathy gene makes its appearance. You people have no concept of community and how your votes (or non-votes) affect others. Republicans have been making life harder for a lot of people, at least for the last 16 years so where were you then?
    Oh wait, the issues that didn’t affect you then weren’t so important were they?
    You can denigrate Liberals/Democrats/Progressives all you want but one FACT remains – Libs, Dems and Pros will want to help do things FOR you but Republicans will always do things TO you.

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    1. Yes, you seem like a very helpful and kind person. And not condescending or denigrating at all.

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    2. Typical internet troll reaction. Help me understand your way of thinking, please. Mandy assessed the information that she's consumed in ## years of life -- a spectrum of intimate experiences and superficial, and arrived at a conclusion, the premise of which (not voting Red), you clearly agree with. You took the time out of your day to insult her based on -- AGREEING with you. Your argument in doing so, is that she arrived at her conclusion in a different way, at a different time than you did. News flash, we all have our sets of experiences. It's absurd to me that someone who labels themselves a "progressive" has the fortitude to insult another based on the time and experience they navigated to arrive at the SAME conclusion. As a parent of an autistic little boy, who very frequently arrives at his conclusions in a drastically different ways and significantly different times than his "neurotypical" peers, I fear for where we're headed as a society if the self-proclaimed "compassionate, progressives" (or admittedly a fraction of a percentage of those there-in) are openly condescending, rude and dismissive of those they AGREE WITH, because the other person "agreed wrong".

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  4. I want to thank the author very much for sharing this with us, it couldn't have been easy. I myself have also noticed a tendency for right leaning voters to be less than sympathetic to issues that directly affect them and theirs. However, that does not excuse the lambasting the author has received. Would it have been better for her to have cared before she had a personal stake in the issue? Sure, but berating her for lost time does nothing but make the attacker feel smugly superior while redirecting her energies away from nobler tasks. It helps no one and may and fact serve to push people on the fence to the other side. After all how would we feel about the right mocking and dismissing the mother of a disabled child that had publicly opened herself up about her fears and concerns for her childs future and how those feelings had changed her views?

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    1. Seriously, Jeremy? "How would we feel about the Right mocking and dismissing the mother of a disabled child...?" That's been EXACTLY the case for the past 30 years. Republicans have mocked and dismissed our neighbors of color and people of limited means by telling them they don't deserve a living wage, job security through unions and affordable healthcare, among many issues. Mandy deserves the mocking because she, like her Republican allies, have no compassion, no christian values, no decency... until it benefits them personally. I don't believe for a second that Mandy would have had this political epiphany if her child hadn't had a debilitating, expensive and lifelong condition that impacted her family's pocketbook. It took that impact to "convert" her to a progressive, compassionate, liberal view that yes, universal affordable healthcare is important and vital. Do I feel smugly superior or think that these appropriate responses "push people on the fence to the other side," no. Because the heartless republicans who continue to oppose affordable, universal healthcare won't let a little truth-telling get in the way of their continued opposition. Facts and science have never been part of their belief system. But bogus hypocrisy deserves to be called out. And sadly, the axiom of the Left being right about the Right all along is, indeed, true.

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    2. James, you might be surprised I let your comment through, but I'd love show how hateful and assuming so many of the comments are over on Huffpost. I shut down comments on this post for a bit because I don't have time to respond to every angry liberal in the world, but I would really much rather have a discussion. I have voted for Republicans twice in my life and it was at the state level. The social issues alone usually outweigh the Republican leanings I have regarding foreign policy and very few Republican candidates have ever gotten my vote. Perhaps, rather than jumping all over this post the left could see it as an opportunity to bring the insane number of people in the disability community still voting red into the fold? I am very socially liberal and very empathetic. But there are a number of people who may not be and they need to see that their vote does affect THEM even if they don't care about anyone else. People are not going to agree with every part of every party's platform, but there are a huge amount of voters in the the disability community that are still voting red and this post is written to identify with them. Perhaps from the title everyone is assuming I woke up one day with a disabled child and a sudden change of heart. Not the case for me, as I often voted both Democrat and independent long before having kids for a variety of reasons. With a different title and a different tone though, it wouldn't have gotten the attention it needs. Over the last few years the GOP's attack on the disability community has felt very personal and solidified my choice not to vote for them at any level, even if I like the person. And I hope others in the disability community will realize that voting red is voting against their kid and/or against themselves. Even with the many many angry comments (that really aren't fazing me because most of them I didn't read and for the ones here on the blog they are based on a lot of incorrect assumptions) this post is still accomplishing everything I wanted it to accomplish as a number of people much more conservative than myself are messaging me "Wow, the GOP really doesn't support my kid's best interest even if I am _____ (fill in the blank: Christian, Pro-life, Military), I can't vote red." So, you're welcome.

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  5. Mandy,
    I understand where you are coming from, as well as those who lit you up with anger. In Michigan, we tried for years to get autism, mental health parity, Asperger's covered, and while the Democrats were in favor, the GOP was opposed due to the increased costs to the insurance companies. Very frustrating for a father of a daughter with PDD/NOS that mimics autism, NVLD and aspergers, but is none of them completely.
    Our GOP Lt. Governor, Brian Calley, a tea party right winger, pushed for autism coverage and the GOP finally passed a bill offering coverage until age 18. Why do you think that was? Yes, he had a daughter who was diagnosed. My daughter had already turned 19, and I met him and asked why they stopped at 18. His response, that's all we could get through the legislature.
    Rob Portman, a Senator from Ohio, was unalterably opposed to LGBT rights. He changed his position after his son came out as gay. Portman didn't think the discrimination that he advocated and allowed to legally continue, now wasn't right.
    When these posters show anger at you, I think it's because they perceive you as going "left" only when you needed to for your own personal issue.

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    1. That anger I understand. Although it is based on incorrect assumptions, that I could have maybe made more clear about voting history before even having kids. I have voted for a lot of Democrats in the past (as social issues usually weigh heavier for me than some of the other things I mention) but there are a couple times I felt comfortable voting for Republicans at the state level. Over the last few years though, my personal experience and their attack on the disability community has solidified my choice to never vote red. We are a military family so a lot of this still would not affect us personally (the DoD runs our healthcare), but there are so many families in the autism community that will be affected and yes seeing it firsthand does leave an impression that those unaffected may not understand Regardless, I care a lot more about how this post is received by those in the disability community still voting red and hoping that they see how they are voting against themselves. Democrats can be as mad as they want about it.

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    2. Your bait and switch edits claims you only supported republicans at the state level, yet

      >I have leaned Republican in past elections (on foreign policy, military budget, states' rights, and fiscal conservatism)

      the reason you listed for leaning Republican are all national level policy positions.

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    3. Those are all things that matter to me. But as far as national elections go, the social issues have always outweighed those things. I might think Republicans have a better foreign policy and would budget better for military families and that matters to me, but that doesn't mean I can vote in an administration that wants to take away civil liberties and protections. At the state level, over the last decade, there have been Republicans I have been comfortable voting for due to their personal stances and voting histories. That's a mistake I won't be making again.

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  6. Thank you for this beautifully written piece. I am sorry that you could not muster the compassion for children who have suffered from the policies that conservatives and Republicans have imposed on our children until now. Had your child been impacted by the destruction of pre-natal medical and nutritional programs for low-income and working mothers, had you spoken up for children left fatherless by police violence or unjust incarceration, or been grateful when Obama insisted that all children must be covered by healthcare, whether or not you had children, or a child with disabilities, I think people would not react with indignation. You are courageous for writing this, knowing, as you must, that you would anger "liberals." But I think it is a natural response from those who have long been outraged by the suffering of children here in the US or abroad. The selfishness and corruption of this administration has been shocking to most, even those who expected things to be bad. It is difficult to understand why you have not spoken up for children long before this.

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    1. Please read the added edit and all of the above responses. I think you'll find a lot of that anger is directed at the wrong person. But there are an awful lot of people in the disability community that have voted red and are still voting red, and this piece is written solely to make them rethink that.

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    2. Their anger is not misdirected at all. I'm a 30-year-old man on the spectrum. It's the indignant attitudes of people exactly​like you that my life has been a hell of a lot more miserable than it needed to be. People like you are the problem and I only hope you're better as a mother than you are as a person.

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    3. Say I was a lifetime Republican (I've voted Democrat, Independent and Republican at different times for different offices....but from my article people assumed leaning Republican on some issues meant I always voted that way, which is fine I think it made it more effective)...so assume I was a lifetime Republican who started reading all of the posts regarding healthcare and education changes and realized those changes would affect my kids and many others negatively. So, I change my mind and decided to vote Democrat from now on. (I assume this is why Democrats keep sharing all of this information to persuade others that a Democratic vote is better for everyone).
      So then I respond with "Wow, I had no idea all of these years. I could lose healthcare? My friend's kid could lose early intervention? Are they really going to strip Medicaid, so many people would be impacted!"

      So you've effectively changed this person's mind, but then as soon as I announce I will never vote for Republicans again, I am attacked. Not by Republicans, but by Democrats for not knowing better the whole time.

      "I feel awful for your kids, you're a horrible person to have ever have voted Republican."

      "You and your kid deserve to lose healthcare, you voted for Republicans."

      "People like you have no empathy and don't care about anyone but yourself. You should suffer as you have made others suffer."

      Forget all of the irony in every one of these quotes (because apparently empathy is only reserved for people who have always agreed with you?). Actual quotes (and some of the nicer ones) ...not made up. How does this win anyone over? I would assume if Democrats want to win the next elections they want red voters to change their minds. But if a red voter changes their mind and is only met with self-righteous indignation and condescension I'm pretty sure they'll get so apathetic they would probably prefer to not vote at all.

      I understand the fear and the anger. And I get the "I told you so" to an extent (especially with the most recent election), but to what end? I would argue one of the reasons the Democrats lost was their inability to identify with a demographic other than their own. I don't see how further alienating that group when they start to see your point would be useful. I also wonder if Democrats are worrying too much about why someone would change their mind and start voting blue. If someone changes their mind because they think it would help their family, or because an actress tells them to or because even though they like their guns they worry about their grandma losing her food stamps...who cares, it's a vote for blue and would get in the leaders that support a Democratic agenda. Not everyone in our country cares about everyone else or thinks it's the government's job to care for those who cannot care for themselves, which is a shame, but it's reality. Typically undecideds are going to be more likely to vote in their own self-interest and aren't undecideds the ones Democrats need to sway? I don't know that cramming a "you should care about everyone just like I've always cared about everyone, what the hell is wrong with you" mantra down people's throats is the best way to do that. It seems like a better angle would be "Even if you only care about your family, these are the ways a red agenda can hurt you." or "Just in case you didn't understand, when Republican leaders are talking about Medicaid block grants, this is what it means for people in your community."

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  7. Michigan charter schools are not performing 'just as bad' as the public schools, they are performing far worse than public school by as much as 48%.

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