One year later — there's so much more that we can do

One year later — there's so much more that we can do
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Today marks the first anniversary of the Trump inauguration, followed by the remarkable gathering of more than two million around the world to join the Women’s March in support of the values of justice, equal opportunity and civil rights.

A year has passed, during which millions of Americans have expressed their frustration as our constitutional rights have been eroded, critical and powerful positions have been filled by unqualified candidates, who then, frequently, were expelled or resigned, and little has been accomplished by this Administration despite Trump’s promises to “make America great again” within the first 100 days.

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This year has also seen the rise and expansion of so many movements and organizations-the Women’s March being only one example, as others, new or reconstituted, grass roots or national, have spring up to act.

 

It feels as though those first few weeks, where so many Americans asked “what can I do?” in response to the presidential election has given birth to a wave of momentum in defense of our civil and constitutional rights.

So now a year has passed, women across the country and perhaps around the globe prepare to commemorate last year’s powerful stand and we must ask, “What have we done? And was it enough?”  

The answer to that is that together, we have accomplished a great deal. Millions took to the streets the day after the inauguration, thousands more flooded airports to demonstrate support for immigrants, filed lawsuits to defend our constitutional rights, and historic elections resulted in run-off and special contests. We should be very proud of the hard work well done.

I am particularly proud of my own community, the 59 million Americans with disabilities, who committed to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We prevented repeal, marched, rolled in wheelchairs, protested again and again in the Capital, and braved arrest and restraint in order to protect health care for all.

The “Trach Mommas” of Louisiana, who are two women united in motherhood despite the fact that one is a Democrat and the other a Republican. They made their way with their fragile infants to show lawmakers the gentle faces of their precious children dependent on the long-term support services that stood at the heart of the dispute.

Repeal of the ACA would have meant certain death for their children. Future repeal of Medicaid and other children’s insurance benefits will threaten the lives of their babies. Despite it all, they stood together with the disability community and so many others to bring the very real faces of their challenges to the nation’s capital. This served as proof and as a push for what we all believe in — inclusion, tolerance and equal opportunity.

As we move into 2018, there is so much more that we can do. Already, we are witnessing more women candidates than ever seen before up and down the ballot. Regrettably, there are many fewer Americans with disabilities seeking political office, but there are some. The fact is, it doesn’t matter the race, gender, age or disability of these inclusive candidates — they are running and we can make the difference here by doing these three things:

1. Register to vote

We must help others in our families, networks, communities to register and fight suppression in every district in the nation. In 2016, Rutgers University estimated that 35.4 million people with disabilities were eligible to vote. We cannot, and politicians should not, underestimate the impact Americans with disabilities can have.

2. Be informed voters

We need to understand the position of each candidate we vote for-ensuring that newcomers support the constitutional values of equal opportunity and inclusion, and that the voting record of incumbents reflects these cherished values.

2. Get out and vote

From today until midterm elections in November, we need to take these movements to every street in every town to ensure that this year’s vote reflects the fair choice of each citizen qualified to vote.

Last year we proved beyond qualification our capabilities — across all borders and boundaries. Now it is time to put that organization, energy and commitment to work once again because the fight is not over.

Janni Lehrer-Stein is a disability rights advocate, served two terms in the Obama Administration on the National Council on Disability and currently serves on the Boards of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, Disability Rights Advocates, and the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Forum on Aging, Independence and Disability.