Editor’s note: In the final week, we’re going to be sharing a series of perspectives from Latter-day Saints on why they’re voting for Joe Biden. This is the first, from Kristine Napper and Russell Stevenson.
The COVID-19 pandemic incites debates and differences of opinion, and some can respond to all of it with a roll of the eyes at “politics as usual.” We, Kristine and Russ, are long-time friends and colleagues, and both working professionals vulnerable to severe complications from COVID-19. For us, there’s no room for “live and let live.”
COVID has posed an existential threat to our well-beings. Kristine was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and Russell with Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia. We know the terror of our lungs failing to do their part in keeping us alive. We have had panicky moments of wondering if our last gulp of oxygen would be our last gulp of oxygen. While we do not agree politically on all matters, we both agree: President Trump is the wrong choice for the welfare of those in our shoes.
While our medical traumas have left their mark, you wouldn’t guess it by reading our day planners. Kristine, a wheelchair user, is a middle school teacher of English Language Learners. Russ is receiving his Ph.D. in African history and recently carried out a Fulbright-Hays fellowship in eastern Nigeria. We have hobbies, responsibilities in our communities, and social lives. We pay bills and taxes.
Efforts have been made to pit protection of the vulnerable against protection of workers, but many of us are both vulnerable and employed. The truth is folks like us exist, and not in small numbers. The CDC estimates that 45% of adults in the US are considered at high-risk of complications from coronavirus, and that estimate doesn’t even include Americans living in population-dense institutional settings. As two vulnerable members of the workforce, we must consider our health and our finances. Much as we wish otherwise, we do not enjoy the luxury or the resources of just “riding it out.” Nobody should be forced to make impossible choices between life and livelihood.
Responsible leaders urge for preparedness and celebrate contingency planning: for our homes, our families, and our neighbors. Masking increases our freedom to move and earn our salaries. Any of us may or may not find ourselves faced with a home invasion by armed robbers; but we face an onslaught of pathogens waiting to take us down. Not only can you be the “good guy with a gun,” you can be the good guy with the mask.
We take note when those in the public trust fail to be a protector of the innocent. Over 250,000 Americans have died under President Trump’s watch. Both of us know personal friends and family members risking daily exposure in public institutions opened under pressure from the President. President Trump has downplayed the threat and played politics with life-saving equipment. It is notable to realize what he doesn’t talk about — us. While Americans with disabilities and health vulnerabilities are facing the greatest threat of our lifetimes, the President has had nothing to say about our situation. We, who constitute 45% of the population, remain invisible to this administration.
Neither of us voted for Trump in 2016, and we won’t vote for him in 2020. President Trump has failed to provide the kind of statesmanship required in a pandemic. We wish his administration had asserted the initiatives necessary that could have saved the lives of our friends, family, and fellow citizens. He failed to make the bold moves necessary to get the pandemic under control in the beginning, when some degree of containment was still possible. Instead, he shamed, attacked, and ridiculed those leaders and scientists committed to producing solutions for people like us. For him, this election is not about supporting virtuous solutions to support the public but rather, about him and his legacy. When the individual who serves as the chief executive of our country makes it his business to mock those struggling to keep Americans alive, it’s time for a new chief executive.
By comparison, Biden’s promised approach to handling Covid, especially his plan for supporting people with disabilities during the pandemic, demonstrates a measure of care and concern that has so long been absent from our public discourse and policy. His plan supports not only the needs, but the dignity, of disabled and vulnerable Americans. COVID continues to rage in our communities across the country. President Trump has chosen to “play it down,” while Biden’s plans follow the example set by countries where the numbers of cases and deaths have gone down.
Former Vice President Biden and Senator Harris are by no means perfect candidates; none is. Even the most lionized of presidents in our nation’s history have received sustained critiques from principled men and women. If there weren’t a pandemic happening right now, Biden’s disability policies would be reason enough to secure our votes. These policies would be life-changing at any point in US history, but in the middle of a pandemic, they could also prove life-saving.
Kristine Napper is an English as a Second Language instructor in Beaverton, Oregon. Russell Stevenson currently lives in Brigham City, Utah and is completing his Ph.D. in African History from Michigan State University.