Skip to content

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Why are disabled women so underrepresented in American politics?

Why are disabled women so underrepresented in American politics?

Sen. Tammy Duckworth is one of only three women among the 13 Disabled officials in the federal government.

Stefani Reynolds - Pool/Getty Images
Saxena, a former research intern for RepresentWomen, is a master of public policy candidate at Georgetown University. DeMarco, a former administration and development intern for RepresentWomen, is a student at the University of Maryland studying communication.

Authors' note: Some Disabled people use a capital D to denote community, the way one might write "Black person" or "Deaf person." In this article, we do the same where appropriate, so "Disabled" denotes a connection to the community, and "disabled" is simply an adjective.

Today, 25 percent of American adults experience some type of disability, and the Disabled community continues to grow. Research has shown the number of eligible Disabled voters increased by more than 10 percent between 2008 and 2016. Over the past few decades, the United States has passed many legislative bills supporting equitable voter access and signed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Despite this, the number of disabled politicians is a staggeringly low 10 percent of sampled U.S. elected officials.

Women with disabilities are even more invisible. Although the CDC has found disability is more prevalent among women than men, Disabled women experience roughly double the rate of electoral underrepresentation than their male counterparts. Why?

RepresentWomen's latest report answers that question and identifies numerous structural barriers that prevent Disabled people from participating in U.S. politics.

A 2017 report by the Government Accountability Office found that 60 percent of the 178 assessed polling locations had one or more barriers for Disabled voters. Meaning that, while the number of eligible Disabled voters is on the rise, they can't exercise their right to vote due to issues like the absence of a wheelchair ramp, an elevator or poll workers trained on accessible voting materials. This has serious negative impacts on their electoral representation.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

High unemployment within the Disabled community (82.1 percent in 2020) and low socioeconomic status are a significant barrier for Disabled candidates. The high cost of U.S. political campaigns can often dissuade Disabled people from considering a run for office in the first place. Political parties even use these financial constraints to justify inaccessibility rather than remove the institutional roadblocks that Disabled candidates face. As a result, Disabled candidates can become alienated from their political parties. They will often have to cover accessibility costs themselves, which forces them to rely on informal support, opt out of key events or both.

Disabled women face additional and unique obstacles tied to their "intersectional disempowerment," a term coined by Dr. Kimeberlé Crenshaw meaning Disabled women face discrimination related to their disability and gender-related hurdles such as competency bias, distorted media coverage and the male incumbency advantage. Many also experience more layers of difficulties related to their intersectional identities, such as race-related barriers. Then, it becomes less surprising that of the 13 Disabled officials in the federal government, only three are women.

So, how can we improve elected representation for the Disabled community and, more specifically, Disabled women? Our report believes that political parties are critical gatekeepers to elected office, but their inadequate engagement with Disabled voters and candidates has contributed to the underrepresentation of the Disabled community. To reduce the persistent turnout gap between disabled and non-disabled voters, political underrepresentation of the Disabled community, and the gender gap within that underrepresentation, our report suggests a myriad of action items for political parties to adopt, such as accessibility funds and recruitment quotas.

Disabled voters, candidates and officials deserve an equal right to political representation — let's move beyond promising equity and focus on enacting it.

Read More

Podcast: How do police feel about gun control?

Podcast: How do police feel about gun control?

Jesus "Eddie" Campa, former Chief Deputy of the El Paso County Sheriff's Department and former Chief of Police for Marshall Texas, discusses the recent school shooting in Uvalde and how loose restrictions on gun ownership complicate the lives of law enforcement on this episode of YDHTY.

Listen now

Podcast: Why conspiracy theories thrive in both democracies and autocracies

Podcast: Why conspiracy theories thrive in both democracies and autocracies

There's something natural and organic about perceiving that the people in power are out to advance their own interests. It's in part because it’s often true. Governments actually do keep secrets from the public. Politicians engage in scandals. There often is corruption at high levels. So, we don't want citizens in a democracy to be too trusting of their politicians. It's healthy to be skeptical of the state and its real abuses and tendencies towards secrecy. The danger is when this distrust gets redirected, not toward the state, but targets innocent people who are not actually responsible for people's problems.

On this episode of "Democracy Paradox" Scott Radnitz explains why conspiracy theories thrive in both democracies and autocracies.

Your Take:  The Price of Freedom

Your Take: The Price of Freedom

Our question about the price of freedom received a light response. We asked:

What price have you, your friends or your family paid for the freedom we enjoy? And what price would you willingly pay?

It was a question born out of the horror of images from Ukraine. We hope that the news about the Jan. 6 commission and Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination was so riveting that this question was overlooked. We considered another possibility that the images were so traumatic, that our readers didn’t want to consider the question for themselves. We saw the price Ukrainians paid.

One response came from a veteran who noted that being willing to pay the ultimate price for one’s country and surviving was a gift that was repaid over and over throughout his life. “I know exactly what it is like to accept that you are a dead man,” he said. What most closely mirrored my own experience was a respondent who noted her lack of payment in blood, sweat or tears, yet chose to volunteer in helping others exercise their freedom.

Personally, my price includes service to our nation, too. The price I paid was the loss of my former life, which included a husband, a home and a seemingly secure job to enter the political fray with a message of partisan healing and hope for the future. This work isn’t risking my life, but it’s the price I’ve paid.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

Given the earnest question we asked, and the meager responses, I am also left wondering if we think at all about the price of freedom? Or have we all become so entitled to our freedom that we fail to defend freedom for others? Or was the question poorly timed?

I read another respondent’s words as an indicator of his pacifism. And another veteran who simply stated his years of service. And that was it. Four responses to a question that lives in my heart every day. We look forward to hearing Your Take on other topics. Feel free to share questions to which you’d like to respond.

Keep ReadingShow less
No, autocracies don't make economies great

libre de droit/Getty Images

No, autocracies don't make economies great

Tom G. Palmer has been involved in the advance of democratic free-market policies and reforms around the globe for more than three decades. He is executive vice president for international programs at Atlas Network and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

One argument frequently advanced for abandoning the messy business of democratic deliberation is that all those checks and balances, hearings and debates, judicial review and individual rights get in the way of development. What’s needed is action, not more empty debate or selfish individualism!

In the words of European autocrat Viktor Orbán, “No policy-specific debates are needed now, the alternatives in front of us are obvious…[W]e need to understand that for rebuilding the economy it is not theories that are needed but rather thirty robust lads who start working to implement what we all know needs to be done.” See! Just thirty robust lads and one far-sighted overseer and you’re on the way to a great economy!

Keep ReadingShow less
Podcast: A right-wing perspective on Jan. 6th and the 2020 election

Podcast: A right-wing perspective on Jan. 6th and the 2020 election

Peter Wood is an anthropologist and president of the National Association of Scholars. He believes—like many Americans on the right—that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and the January 6th riots were incited by the left in collusion with the FBI. He’s also the author of a new book called Wrath: America Enraged, which wrestles with our politics of anger and counsels conservatives on how to respond to perceived aggression.

Where does America go from here? In this episode, Peter joins Ciaran O’Connor for a frank conversation about the role of anger in our politics as well as the nature of truth, trust, and conspiracy theories.

Keep ReadingShow less