Sunday, February 8, 2015

Is disability possible in today's political arena?

Well, I couldn't make into class this past week because of weather issues.. so although I cannot offer my blog post as an extension of class, I can work from my own reactions of the book. There was a statement made at the beginning of the book that struck me and stayed with me throughout the entirety: "We also speculate on the extent to which disability today is much more dis-abling than it was during Roosevelt's years in elected office." (end of Chapter 1, sorry, my kindle book does not have page numbers.)

I asked myself the question, "would this be possible today?" when reading about the control FDR utilized and ability to make, and keep, secret all aspects he possibly could of his disability. And the answer I came up with time and time again was no.

In the last chapter, the authors seem to agree with me, in that they discuss things such as a reporter being so bold as to ask an aspiring President about his sex life, or - my favorite - a limo pulling up with the candidate inside and masses of media outside and the candidate's manager prefacing an appearance with "No pictures today," and expect such a request/demand to be acquiesced to. It seems laughable today that a Presidential candidate especially, or President, should have any modicum of privacy.

With that being said, I have to wonder if, given the inability to control or keep secret certain aspects of campaigning or his personal life, would FDR be elected given today's level of apprehension (or outright fear) of disability? One would hope that today's technology and learning curve, plus the strides we have seen in civil rights, would lead us to that "happy place" where someone's disability would not reduce them in such a way. However, I look at the first televised presidential debates between Nixon and Kennedy and really note that "improved" and more "in-your-face" technology helps some while it serves others rather poorly. Examples such as this show the increasing importance of visual appearance and imagery.

In this way, we saw FDR manipulate and utilize what he could strongly and to his advantage - ie: his fireside chats. But in today's age of constant media blitz and sensationalism, could he have manipulated it to his advantage? I'm not so sure. However, I think it would be interesting to see sensationalist criticism of a candidate or, heaven forbid, a president for a disability by Fox News or CNN... because you know someone would "slip up" eventually - and could the backlash work to the advantage of someone like FDR? It's definitely possible. After all, we are talking about the political arena, and throughout this book especially, our attention was called to FDR's incredible ability to play to the public's wants and needs (becoming the "doctor" for those affected by the depression), and completely controlling what the public had access to as far as his disability was concerned. I don't think FDR would be able to hide his disability with today's media, but he might be able to control the public's reaction to it.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think that I agree that disability is more disabling today than it was during FDR' time. I'll concede that we still have some work to do as far as implementation, but we are now in the era of the Rehabilitation Act, ADA, supported-decision making, etc. I believe that comment was one of those broad strokes people make to prove a point that is not based in fact.

    I do think that if FDR were to run for President today it would be difficult for him not to play the "supercrip" card. As a result I wonder if he would be end up being more of a detriment than an asset to the Disability Rights Movement.