Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of high functioning autism that includes a deficiency in social skills. It’s something that I have. My goal in this post, however, is not to complain about my life or offer a full-fledged description of Asperger’s. As I’ve promised with a lot of topics, I’ll save that for another day. What I want to do here is discuss Asperger’s and politics.
When I lived in New York, I was part of a support group for people with Asperger’s. Most of them were either liberal Democrats or liberals who thought that the Democratic Party was too conservative. One one level, they were probably liberals because they lived in one of the bluest states of the nation. But they also seemed to believe that liberals would be more accepting than conservatives of people with autism. For them, liberals embrace those who are different. They are more likely to sympathize with people who have problems. If liberals were to rule, the government would provide autistic people with more assistance and services. In the minds of most in the support group, conservatives have tendencies that are Social Darwinist (to say the least). “You have social problems?” they could envision conservatives saying. “Big deal! Learn some social skills, get a job, and take responsibility for your life.”
As I’ve surfed the Internet, I have learned that not everyone associates Asperger’s with political liberalism. As a matter of fact, there are conservative Aspies who feel that liberalism actually makes life more difficult for those on the autism spectrum. Liberalism has rules about political correctness. You have to be especially delicate about how you phrase things around a liberal, since you can easily be accused of insensitivity or bigotry. Well, people with Asperger’s were not exactly born with the social graces that most neurotypicals take for granted. You can imagine, therefore, why some Aspies may have unpleasant memories of their interactions with liberals. Because of political correctness, some Aspies manage to step on more toes than usual (which happens a lot).
Whom do Aspies or advocates for autistic people support for President? It varies. Dr. Kristina Chew of Autism Vox seems to like Hillary Clinton, since she is one of the Senators who introduced the Expanding the Promise for Individuals with Autism Act. The Act would increase the number of services for children and adults with autism, and it would provide job training for autistic people who are about to enter the workforce. This appeals to me because there are many with Asperger’s who have difficulty getting or keeping a job (although there are also many who have found their niche and are successful). Whose Planet Is It Anyway? hates Hillary Clinton and endorses Barack Obama. Its author contends that Obama is open to neurodiversity, whereas Hillary has stated that her goal is to prevent and cure anything along the autism spectrum. There are Aspies and advocates for autistic people who see hints of genocide in this.
And there are Aspies who like Republican Ron Paul. Autism Facts gave him the highest grade of all the Presidential candidates, since he supports research into autism and allowing lawsuits against companies over mercury poisoning, which some believe is a cause of autism. And a mother of a son with Asperger’s likes Ron Paul’s stance on home schooling. She says that she took her son out of a public school because it didn’t stop the bullying that he was experiencing. Her son is now thriving through home schooling (see An Open Letter to Home Schooling Parents on Behalf of Ron Paul by Georgia Clifton). Some see government as the best way to provide opportunities for people with autism, while others prefer freedom from government as a better option.
What interests me is that concern for autistic individuals spans the political spectrum. In the Senate, the other author of the Expanding the Promise for Individuals with Autism Act is Republican Senator Wayne Allard, a friend of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. In the House, a similar bill has been introduced by Chris Smith and Chip Pickering (and others). You’ve probably seen Chris Smith on news shows, specifically when abortion is debated. He is a fierce advocate of the pro-life position. Chip Pickering is the son of Judge Charles Pickering, one of Bush’s judicial nominees whom the left tarred and feathered. And on Autism Bulletin, a responder said that an extremely supportive Republican Senator from Pennsylvania was voted out in 2006 (see Where Do Autism Services Fit in Your Views on the Presidential Race?). I assume he meant Rick Santorum, the legendary conservative Senator who is now a pundit for Fox News. So Hillary is not the only politician who wants to help autistic people. Even people on the right are supportive.
Why is there a bipartisan desire to do something about this? My guess is that both conservatives and liberals know someone who is on the spectrum. Joe Scarborough is an ex-Republican Congressman and a conservative pundit on MSNBC, and he has a son with Asperger’s. People tend to be sensitive to certain issues when they impact the ones they love.
So I am a conservative, a Republican, and a person with AS. Tomorrow, I’ll comment on Asperger’s and religion. Have a nice day!