As a disability advocate it has been an ironic twist listening to republicans everywhere react to November's election results. One conservative tele-evangelist stated on the radio that he felt his concerns transcend politics and that his organization was going to have to find new ways to get that point across. Others lament that the Republican party "squandered opportunities" during their years in office. Still others decry the fact that many of the changes made over the last several years will not last in the current climate.
Interestingly, these are the same remarks that have been heard on the other side of the aisle for the past 12 years.
And there is a lesson to be learned:
For several years the party in power has been proclaiming the news that they were in office because of an "electoral mandate." They spun the story that their rise to power was "meant to be," even "deigned by God."
The urge to create a story like this is nearly irresistible--the mistake was that they believed it.
Acting on this belief those in power spent their tenure flexing their muscles and bulldozing their opponents.
Proposals that were made from outside of their power circle were met with derision, efforts that involved processes like cooperative solution-building were shut down, suggestions for compromise--or even discourse--were ridiculed. Politicians, businesspeople and talkshow hosts embraced arrogance and dispensed with even the most rudimentary courtesies. Why? Because they could.
And today the tide has turned--which it will again, and again, and again.
Today there are people in office who traditionally are more receptive to the needs and rights of people with disabilities. If we are to maximize our opportunity in this climate we cannot just jump into the seat of the political bulldozer and start crashing into things. If we are to have lasting impact and create sustained improvements for people with disabilities we must do better.
First we must maintain perspective. We must remember that when asked most people will tell you that they vote for the "lesser of two evils." There is no mandate and no excuse for hubris!
Then, with humility intact, and respect for self and others, we must expend the effort it takes to BUILD relationships, BUILD solutions and thus BUILD a legacy that lasts.
The rights, needs and lives of people with disabilities must not be sacrificed yet again to the whims of pendulum politics.
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