You’ll often here that the US Disability Community includes 1 in 5 Americans. That’s more than 66 million people and doesn’t include friends, families, and allies.
The National Rifle Association’s membership in 2018 as was 5.5 million individuals…
So, I’ve got a question for you –
who would you bet gets more of their legislation passed and issues answered at the federal, state, and local level?
I’m your host, Steven Davis and welcome to the second episode of Disability Democracy Radio. This weekly podcast is about practical actions we can take – that YOU can take – to make a difference in your community. The goal of Disability Democracy Radio is to accelerate the disability community revolution. Find out more at disabilitydemocracy.org.
According to a Rutgers University study, 14.3 million people with disabilities voted in 2018. That is almost 3 times the number of NRA members.
Yet, who gets listened to?
Now, I am one thousand percent in support of all of the “get out the vote” drives in the disability community. Really, every community. If you aren’t registered, do it. Right now. Pause the Podcast. I’ll wait.
But voting isn’t enough.
To be effective as a community, we have to act as a community.
We have to work within the existing system.
It’s not just get out the vote, its get organized.
It isn’t magic.
You’ve heard about “Dark Money” in politics.
(the Empire Theme from Star Wars… Dum Dum Dum Dum-de Dum Dum-de Dum)
The Koch brothers and others.
If you follow political news. You not only hear about PACs and Super PACs. you’ve heard about 501c4s.
But its not even hard.
lots of groups do it.
Not just the Kochs and the NRA, but the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, and AARP, … if you are a member of one or more of these groups, you’ll note that your membership is not tax deductible.
If its not deductible, it is probably so the group you support can be politically active… and that is a good thing (usually).
They are just different kinds of organizations that can lobby and contribute to campaigns in different ways.
We’re going to go into the details of this in an upcoming episode – maybe we’ll call it “DIY Dark Money” or something. But, basically, anyone can organize and lobby politically and it isn’t that hard. File some paperwork with the government to start. File some more paperwork each quarter or year…
If you can start a small business and open a bank account – you too can have a seat at our political table.
And you’ll start being taken seriously.
Just a reminder that full episode transcripts and additional resources are available at disabilitydemocracry.org. We welcome your comments, feedback, and suggestions. Let us know how we can make Disability Democracy Radio more accessible and actionable for you.
In February 2020 here in California, we had our big primary election.
Like you, I got a lot of election mail. Flyers, postcards. Letters. Brochures. Perhaps, unlike you, I’ve started really looking at what I get. If nothing else, it can be kind of fun. Like watching a baseball game. You should start really reading them. If you want to join in the game, you should definitely start saving them….
Anyway, this time one flyer really stood out.
Our local California state senate seat is open, so there were a lot of candidates. 6 candidates at least, I think.
And we got this flyer that was a real hatchet job on a candidate. Basically, it said “Vote for Anyone . ANY ONE – Except her”.
It was kind of amazing.
Who were these people? Why did they hate this candidate.
They must of spent thousands of dollars (flyers to every voter) to tell the voters in my district to NOT vote for one person out of 6… it seemed kind of crazy….
Especially when you read the disclosure (so you know who is up at bat…)… and it as from a Political Action Committee that seemly was made up of ……. Dentists.
Now, I have no idea what issue these dentists had with this candidate, but you can be sure that if they showed up to your local legislative office or your campaign, if you were a smart candidate or elected official, you would listen.
The organized Disabled Community consists of thousands (probably many thousands of 501c3 not-for-profit groups and grassroots organizations).
I love and admire you all for the work you do.
But we have few, very few, and very small PACs and 501c4s that I’ve been able to dig up.
We say “Not about us without us”.
We say we want a seat at the table.
Well It is time to ante up and play.
And it can be you.
Get out some cash.
The NRA’s budget in 2018 was over 175 Million dollars. That is 31 dollars per member.
To take them on, it would take us just 3 dollars per disabled person per year.
Less than you would spend playing penny ante poker with your friends (if it was safe to PLAY penny ante poker with your friends!). Way less than a fancy cup of coffee at Starbucks.
That would give us 198 million dollars a year for the disability community.
Would you be willing to give up one cup of coffee – IN A YEAR – to give the Disability Community superpowers?
If we were willing to invest just 30 dollars each a year, like the NRA does,we would have 2 Billion Dollars per year… CRAZY…
… and that would be just a couple of Venti Frappacinos or whatever it is that you drink… in a year.
So, go find a PAC that cares about disability issues. Or start one. Go ask your not for profit to set up a 501c4. Or start one. Go give to a political candidate and make sure to write “Disability Power” or whatever so that they know who you are, why you gave them money, and that you are watching them.
Then volunteer. Don’t forget to vote. Organize. If you want to change the game, you’ve got to ante up to play.
Share what you’ve done. Take a picture of that check. Post that you’ve volunteered and why. Definitely let everyone know if you’ve started a PAC, decided to run for office, or otherwise organized for change. While I’d personally love if you marked it with Hastag DisabilityDemocracy… just share it.
It is time for us to be not just the “1 in 5”, but the “Formidable Fifth”
This episode of Disability Democracy Radio was sponsored by Not Without Us. Not Without Us is a 501c4 mutual benefit corporation. Our goal is equality for all disabled adults and kids with disabilities. You can learn more about our work at notwithoutus.org. Our strategy is built on democratic action – whether it is providing support for disability organizations and allies through our directory at disabilitydemocracy.org, training aspiring local candidates for office, endorsing candidates, or directly working on issues.
We’d like to thank Josh Becker and Laura Croft for their contributions to Not Without Us. You can support Not Without Us with an annual, monthly or one-time donation at notwithoutus.org/join. If you have any questions or comments on this episode, visit disabilitydemocracy.org – you can email us, leave a comment, or even a voice message. I’m Steven Davis and on behalf of Not Without Us, we think that democracy comes not from a vote every two years, but from the actions we can take every day.