Let’s Talk About Trump’s Ableism

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Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images

If there’s anything Donald Trump takes an equal-opportunity approach to, it’s hate speech. It wouldn’t be enough for him to be America’s foremost racist, or sexist, or nativist, or the best-known belittler of military service or the new, humane NFL concussion protocol. He also has a cringe-inducing history of ableism, or discriminating in favor of able-bodied people.

In a column out Monday in the Los Angeles Times, David Perry contends that Trump is “the most ableist presidential nominee in modern American political history.” There are countless episodes to cite: his play-acting a fainting Hillary Clinton to mock her, and the Trump campaign’s pushing of conspiracy theories about her health, and the new ad claiming that Hillary Clinton doesn’t have “the fortitude, strength, or stamina” to hold the Oval Office because of her health issues — which didn’t stop her from traveling 956,733 miles as secretary of State.

Indeed, Trump is such an ableist that when he mocked Serge Kovaleski, a New York Times reporter with a congenitally disabled right arm, his defenders said it was a general, rather than specific, insult. (As you may recall from last November, it went like this: “Now the poor guy, you ought to see this guy,” Trump said, before jerking his arms in imitation of the reporter’s arthrogryposis, a condition that impairs joint function. “‘Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!’”) In Ann Coulter’s estimation, Trump wasn’t mocking Kovaleski, “he was doing a standard retard, waving his arms and sounding stupid,” she writes in In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!, a book that actually exists. Relatedly, just last week, reports came out alleging that he called a deaf Celebrity Apprentice contestant “retarded.”

The opposite end of this is Trump’s belief in how (his) superior genes rule the day (and thus the country). “I’m a big believer in natural ability,” he told the biographer Michael D’Antonio. “If Obama had that psychology, Putin wouldn’t be eating his lunch. He doesn’t have that psychology and he never will because it’s not in his DNA … I believe in being prepared and all that stuff. But in many respects, the most important thing is an innate ability.” He passed it down, too, evidently. D’Antonio reports that his father, Fred Trump, taught him that the family’s success stems from superior genes, and his son Donald Trump Jr. told D’Antonio that he’d “like to believe” that he’s “genetically predisposed” to be better than average, that he’s “in the high percentile on the bell curve,” and that his father is even better endowed. “That’s what separates him from everyone I know.” Because of his certainty in his genetic excellence, D’Antonio reasons, Trump figures he’ll excel at public office just like he’s won everything else.

What’s frightening is that if Trump should win, then he’ll likely tear into the Affordable Care Act, which he’s promised a full repeal of. The ACA, as Perry notes, prohibits insurance companies from denying insurance to people with preexisting conditions, be it asthma or cancer or mental-health needs or physical disabilities. If that happens, a protection against the ableism that Trump embodies will be lost. But it does look like he’s going to lose.