Ableism, Trump and Biden’s stumbles

I cannot believe I am doing this, but I write in defence of Donald Trump.

In the last week, my Twitter feed has been filled with endless mockery of Trump walking gingerly down a ramp and struggling to drink from a cup. Apparently, these minor stumbles of a seventy-four-year-old man are not only laugh worthy, but more evidence of his incapacity to be president, more so when compared to scenes of Obama and Biden jogging around the White House.

And so we discover again that ableism is alive and well, as much among the left as the right. Ableism is a term that describes prevailing assumptions about the way bodies (a term that includes the brain) should function. It is an imagined standard or norm that defines the essential humanity. Any deviation from that norm makes a person a diminished human, someone to be laughed at and kept out of harm’s way. God forbid that a man who needs help walking down a ramp should earn a second term as president … His decrepitude is surely a sign of his unfitness for office … or so the ableist argument goes.

A few months ago I received in my inbox a video of Biden’s stuttering over his words, which went on to insist that a man suffering from cognitive decline should not be elected president. More bloody ableism; the presumption that speech that fails to meet our standards of normality disqualifies a person from leadership.

Let me be clear. I despise Trump’s politics and everything he stands for. As an Australian, I do not get a vote, but if I did there would be no contest. No thinking moral person could choose Trump over Biden.

But enough with ableist videos. Surely there is sufficient material in the hateful content of his speech and policy to get Trump out of office.

The forthcoming campaign is likely to be gruesome; full of lies and hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia. If my current Twitter feed is anything to go by, I fear that people with disability and the elderly will also have nowhere to hide.

Note also Trump’s defense is ableist through and through.
About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on


  • Robyn Causley
    June 24, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Thank you! I completely agree. Like you I cannot support Trump in anyway and find it truly bizarre that anyone does BUT I cannot understand why his appearance or whether he stumbles etc should be up for poking fun at. Not ok. Challenge him on the myriad of legitimate reasons why he is unfit to be in any type of leadership!

  • robnicho
    June 24, 2020 at 10:19 pm

    Yep. Spot on Shane. I had the same thought and, as I’m only weeks away from 70, identified with him and felt the cruelty of the comments.


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