Disability and Politics: A Brief History.
The relationship between disability and politics is lengthy and intricate. Throughout much of human history, people with disabilities have faced discrimination, prejudice, and exclusion from various aspects of society, including political engagement. However, the disability rights movement in the 20th century brought about substantial advancements in accessibility and inclusion. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in 1990, ensured equal access to public life for individuals with disabilities, including political participation. Despite these advancements, individuals with disabilities still encounter substantial obstacles to political participation. A study by Rutgers University revealed that a mere 14% of individuals with disabilities voted in the 2018 midterm elections, compared to 30% of those without disabilities. Furthermore, there is underrepresentation of individuals with disabilities in political office, with only 2% of elected officials at federal, state, and local levels identifying as having a disability.
The intersection between politics and disability becomes more complex with the introduction of the 25th Amendment. This amendment delineates the procedure for removing a current president from office if they are incapacitated due to a physical or mental disability. While this amendment is designed to guarantee stability and continuity in our government, it also prompts significant questions about the perception and accommodation of disabilities in politics.
The purpose of the 25th Amendment is to provide a mechanism for the removal of a sitting president who is unable to fulfill his/her duties due to disability or illness. The amendment gives Congress the authority to determine whether a president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”. But who gets to decide?
Section 4’s language has been criticized for perpetuating detrimental stereotypes about individuals with disabilities. The provision labels the president as “unable” to fulfill their responsibilities, instead of using more neutral terminology like “incapacitated.” This wording suggests that individuals with disabilities are inherently incapable of performing specific tasks, which is not necessarily true.
Moreover, the involvement of medical professionals in the decision-making process prompts queries about the influence of ableism. Medical professionals may harbor biases or misconceptions about certain disabilities, potentially affecting their evaluation of the president’s capacity to fulfill their duties.
Section 4 holds significant implications for politicians with disabilities.
It is important to note that the intention of the 25th Amendment was to provide a clear process for addressing situations of presidential incapacity, without explicitly discriminating against individuals with disabilities. However, the language and potential interpretations of Section 4 can inadvertently complicate the question of removing a sitting President and raise broader concerns about the perception and inclusion of individuals with disabilities in high-level political positions. The amendment does not define the term “disability,” and it leaves it up to the vice president and the Cabinet to decide what it means. This means that there is a risk that the amendment could be used to remove a president from office based on their disability, even if the disability does not impair their ability to serve.
The Role of Medical Professionals in the 25th Amendment Process.
Section 4’s most contentious aspect involves the role of medical professionals in the decision-making process. This provision mandates that the Vice President, along with a majority of the Cabinet or another body established by Congress, submit a written declaration to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, asserting that the President is incapable of performing their duties. The provision also permits the formation of a “body” to make this determination, which could potentially incorporate medical professionals. The involvement of medical professionals in the decision-making process raises concerns about potential ableism. These professionals may harbor biases or misconceptions about certain disabilities, which could influence their evaluation of a president’s capability to fulfill their duties. Moreover, the use of medical professionals might reinforce damaging stereotypes about individuals with disabilities being inherently incapable or incompetent.
Additionally, the provision lacks explicit guidance on the qualifications or expertise required for medical professionals participating in this determination process. This lack of clarity may result in inconsistent and potentially biased evaluations of the president’s capacity to fulfill their responsibilities. Moreover, the provision has faced criticism for its potential exploitation for political advantage. Critics argue that political adversaries could manipulate this provision to unseat a sitting president, even if the president is fully capable of performing their duties.
Disability Advocacy and the 25th Amendment.
Disability advocacy groups have expressed concerns about the potential implications of Section 4 for individuals with disabilities. They argue that this provision reinforces harmful stereotypes and could discourage political participation among these individuals. In light of these concerns, some advocacy groups have urged for modifications to the language of Section 4. For instance, certain factions propose the use of more neutral terminology such as “incapacitated,” instead of insinuating that individuals with disabilities are intrinsically incapable of performing specific tasks.
Moreover, some disability advocacy groups have advocated for enhanced representation of individuals with disabilities in political office. This could facilitate the inclusion of the perspectives and experiences of disabled individuals in policy-making decisions.
The disability advocacy groups have also called for changes to Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to make it clear that the amendment should not be used to discriminate against individuals with disabilities. They have also called for the creation of a new body to make decisions about presidential disability. This body would be made up of medical professionals, legal experts, and political appointees. The body would be responsible for determining whether a president is disabled and whether the president should be removed from office.
Section 4’s implications for individuals with intersecting identities are substantial.
The involvement of medical professionals in the decision-making process raises concerns about potential bias and discrimination based on these identities. Furthermore, Section 4’s language could reinforce damaging stereotypes about individuals with intersecting identities, portraying them as inherently incapable or incompetent.
Comparing the 25th Amendment to Disability Rights Legislation.The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a significant legislation that guarantees equal access to public life for individuals with disabilities. It mandates that public accommodations, including political activities, be accessible to these individuals.
Nevertheless, the 25th Amendment brings up critical inquiries about the perception and accommodation of disabilities in politics. While the ADA provides equal access to public life, the 25th Amendment questions whether individuals with disabilities are viewed as capable and competent enough to occupy high-level political positions. Moreover, involving medical professionals in the decision-making process under Section 4 could potentially lead to ableism and bias. Conversely, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) acknowledges the necessity of providing accommodations for individuals with disabilities, ensuring their full participation in public life.
In some cases, these biases can lead to the perception that individuals with disabilities, especially when combined with other intersecting identities such as race, gender, or ethnicity, are inherently less capable or incompetent. This perception stems from historical stereotypes and misconceptions that have marginalized and devalued people with disabilities, reinforcing the belief that they are incapable of effectively fulfilling high-level political roles.
These damaging stereotypes are not inherent in the language of the 25th Amendment itself, but rather reflect broader societal biases that may be projected onto the interpretation and implementation of the amendment. The concern lies in how these biases may influence the evaluation and judgments made regarding a President’s incapacity under Section 4.
Conclusion: The Future of Disability and Politics under the 25th Amendment.
The interplay between politics and disability is intricate, with Section 4 of the 25th Amendment having substantial implications for individuals with disabilities. This provision, designed to guarantee governmental stability and continuity, prompts vital questions about the perception and accommodation of disabilities in politics.
In the future, it is crucial to persistently scrutinize the implications of Section 4 for disabled individuals, striving to ensure equal representation and access to political office for them. This could involve enhancing the representation of individuals with disabilities in political offices and advocating for amendments to the language and execution of Section 4. In doing so, we can strive for a more inclusive and equitable political system for all individuals, irrespective of their abilities.
Discussions concerning President Joe Biden’s mental competence should be noted as not exclusive to him but have historically involved various presidents. These discussions can stem from numerous factors, including political disagreements, health concerns, or public scrutiny.
Public figures such as politicians, media personalities, and commentators have voiced diverse opinions on President Biden’s mental competence. Some have raised questions about his cognitive abilities, while others have defended his mental fitness. It is crucial to acknowledge that these discussions are subjective, often swayed by political biases or varying interpretations of the president’s public appearances, statements, and policy decisions. Some individuals have raised questions about President Biden’s mental capability; however, these inquiries have not originated from legal or governmental sources. Instead, they typically emanate from private individuals, media personalities, and political pundits. Consequently, the existing implications are solely based on unofficial discussions and speculation.
As with any discussions surrounding a president’s mental competence, these debates can be politically sensitive and are often mixed with partisan viewpoints. Therefore, it’s crucial to seek out reliable sources of information and engage in respectful and informed discourse when discussing these topics.
In the news…
A significant majority of Americans say they believe President Biden’s mental fitness is a real concern they have about his ability to be president, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
Respondents said so by a 62%-to-36% margin, rather than dismissing it as simply being a campaign strategy used by his opponents. Biden did, however, actually see a slight increase in his approval rating to 45%, up 4 points from last month. That indicates there will likely be a significant number of people who believe there are serious concerns about Biden’s mental fitness but will vote for him anyway.
The Week: The debate about Biden’s age and mental fitness.
Some critics argue Biden is too old to run again. Does the argument have merit?
President Joe Biden recently took a very public tumble after he tripped on a sandbag and fell while onstage at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation. This has stirred up renewed speculation about his physical and mental fitness due to his advanced age.
The fall comes months after he formally announced his bid for reelection in 2024. The president entered the race amid lukewarm support for his reelection bid in polls. An April NBC News poll indicated that a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024 remained unpopular among most voters. Biden’s announcement may have clarified questions about his candidacy, but questions about his mental competency and advanced age still loom. The president’s age remained a significant issue for nearly half of the respondents against him running for a second term.
President Biden wants to stay in office until he is 86, but a spate of struggles during recent public appearances, including forgetting answers and stumbling over sentences, have amplified concerns that he is too old for another term.
Mr. Biden, who at 80 is already the oldest president in U.S. history, will be 86 if he completes a second term. His age is one of his biggest vulnerabilities as he kicks off his reelection bid.
An NBC News poll released last month found that 70% of adults said Mr. Biden should not run again. Asked whether age was a factor, 69% said yes. Other recent polls revealed similar results.
iNews.co.uk: Joe Biden might laugh about his age, but cognitive decline is no joke.
Making jokey references to cognitive decline in a speech is all very well, but Biden’s and Trump’s advanced age absolutely should concern American voters.
Jokes about age are an age-old tradition among US presidents. During a 1984 presidential debate, Ronald Reagan famously quipped that he – aged 73 at the time – would not “make age an issue of this campaign”, by “exploit[ing], for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience”. His opponent, Walter Mondale, was 56 at the time.
At the weekend, having just announced his planned 2024 run for re-election, President Joe Biden – aged 80 – made a comic speech at the White House Correspondent’s Association Dinner with several cracks about his age.
He joked, for instance, that he’d been present as James Madison wrote the US Bill of Rights in 1790 – and pointed out that press boss Rupert Murdoch – now 92 – “makes me look like Harry Styles”.
Of course, much of the discussion (as it was for Reagan, Trump, and Bush) is highly partisan. Biden’s supporters barely ever discuss his age; his opponents continually make cruel comments about how he’s “got dementia”. But even granting that he’s showing signs of cognitive decline, this needn’t be the case. That’s because the average person will show cognitive decline even without any dementia. Cognitive aging is just a normal thing that occurs across our lives.
That’s what Biden is running on. Even though he’s a long way past his peak fluid ability, he’s asking us to believe that his crystallised skills are enough for the job. As he put it in his speech at the weekend: “You say I’m ancient, I say I’m wise”. But of course, being president involves both wisdom and quick reactions – for instance, to rapidly-developing incidents and emergencies. Given everything we know about the importance of cognitive decline, and how much it affects those fluid abilities, Biden is asking quite a lot of the US electorate.
Age-related cognitive decline is very real. It comes alongside all the other negative aspects of aging – physical frailty, lower energy, and a greater propensity for health problems. Making jokey references to it in a speech is all very well, but Biden’s and Trump’s advanced age absolutely should concern American voters – and, since the two are running for the most powerful job on the planet, it should concern the rest of the world as well.