As US President Donald Trump and Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden sharpen their attacks on each other in the run-up to the US Presidential Election, they have resorted to words and statements that smack of ableism and present disability as incompatible with the projection of leadership. The ableism narrative has been once again brought to the fore by a now-viral rant by President Trump: “Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV”. In fact, last I checked, it was one of the most-searched entries on the internet.
It is not just Trump who is insisting on putting the issue of his own fitness for office right in the middle of the campaign. The Biden camp and Trump distractors have been ‘pathologising’ President Trump as a disabled toddler-in-chief. US Congressman Don Beyer (D–V.A.) compared the President to a toddler in a tweet.
A toddler who touches a stove will learn that the stove is hot and not touch it again.
Trump claimed coronavirus would "disappear" after the first cases in the US in February. 2.6 million Americans have gotten sick and he just keeps saying it.
Wishful thinking isn't a strategy. https://t.co/U6WlLZ41aL
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) July 1, 2020
Talking about Trump’s competence, political scientist Daniel Drezner has authored a book titled The Toddler in Chief: What Donald Trump Teaches Us about the Modern Presidency, whose cover carries the “Trump Baby” balloon image, which has become iconic.
Trump has been attacking Biden on the latter’s cognitive decline in a very systematic manner. In fact, there is an official campaign ad by the Trump camp where Biden is presented in scenes in which he seems “confused, disoriented, or at a loss for words”.
Last month, the coverage of Trump’s West Point commencement speech was overshadowed by his so-called inability to walk down the ramp. The incident was later used for an ad unveiled by the Republican-led Lincoln Project, presenting the President as “unfit” and “weak”.
Ultimately, as Byrd McDaniel and Paul M Renfro write, these attacks from both sides underscore what disability theorist Tobin Siebers has described time and again: “The pathologisation of other identities by disability… summons the historical and representational structures by which disability, sickness, and injury come to signify inferior human status.”
One the most troubling aspect of the US Presidential campaign narrative is that this line of public discourse not only reinforces the idea that disability is incompatible with ideal leadership, it also hijacks the agenda away from multiple crises that the US is facing with the coronavirus pandemic and the massive social collapse with protests against inequality and racial discrimination.
Note: Th article was originally published here.