Trump and Disability: A New Ad from Priorities USA

When Donald Trump mocked a New York Times reporter who has a physical disability, he was instantly and roundly criticized from across the political spectrum. In a campaign marred by his sexism, racism, Islamophobia, and other hate speech, the disability insult picked up condemnation from people less concerned about Trump’s other remarks. Trump, of course, denied having insulted his disability and continues his pattern of claiming to have done more for <Insert marginalized group he’s insulted> than anyone else. Trump’s true record is here.

Now Priorities USA, the pro-Clinton superPAC, has released “Grace,” an ad featuring a family that includes a girl with spina bifida. Let’s watch.

Note: The family here are friends of friends.

This ad trades on a number of tropes about disabled children and their families that bother me in many ways. My son is not more precious to me than my daughter. Insulting disability is not more offensive to me than insulting Muslims, Mexicans, Women, or all the other Trump Targets.

However, disability – and specifically sympathy for disabled children – does occupy a particular place in American culture and discourse. There are presumably millions of white, moderate, voters who really don’t care so much about non-white, non-Christian, people, and yet who might care about disability.

I think it’s likely to be an effective ad, and it’s no more offensive to me than all the other political ads that leverage ideas about America in order to criticize an opponent. But it does show the ways in which ideas around disability remain very narrow.

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