Many people would cringe at the thought of being called a "single-issue" voter. Most of us aim to have well-rounded beliefs and wouldn’t want to be seen as someone motivated to cast a vote solely around one issue, particularly one based on some aspect of our personal lives.
Yet, for many with chronic health conditions, being a "patient" consumes a great deal of time, energy and money. Finances, quality of life and limited capacities can all be heavily influenced.
Would you let a president who is a strong advocate for your condition change your vote?
The question is raised with regard to Ann Romney, who is a multiple sclerosis patient. Let’s be clear: She has not indicated that she intends to be a champion for the cause or would influence MS-related policy decisions based on her own personal situation. But if she should choose to take that position as First Lady, she could have a more focused impact on a specific condition than Michelle Obama’s broader campaign against childhood obesity or Laura Bush’s advocacy for literacy.
If Mrs. Romney were to take on MS policy – or neurological conditions, autoimmune diseases or brain research – as her "First Lady" issue, would that be sufficient reason for MS patients and their families to support her husband as a candidate? If people believed Ann Romney could influence her husband's decisions on funding for the National Institutes of Health or the future of stem cell research or if she could simply raise awareness of MS, would that justify becoming a "single-issue" voter?
If you felt your vote could change your life for the better or the lives of a friend or family member, could you be persuaded to step back from other political ideologies to support this single cause?
But let’s go beyond multiple sclerosis, a condition that affects only 400,000 Americans. What if your father suffers from Alzheimer's disease? What if your sister has rheumatoid arthritis? What if your best friend has prostate cancer?
Recently, HealthCentral’s MS Health Guide Cathy referred to a broad call to action in advocating for your condition. Does voting a particular way constitute doing your duty for the cause? How far are you willing to go?
Getting back to Ann Romney. Despite her tremendous potential to bring more awareness about her condition, MS societies around the country actually are split on Mitt Romney, the candidate.
On one hand, according to a New York Times article, Ann Romney has become a target for local chapters of the National MS Society for speaking engagements and fundraisers. On the other hand, some MS advocates are opposed to Mitt Romney's stance on health care reform, and feel that it may hurt the advances of MS research and care.
Officially, the National MS Society has stated, "To the degree that Mrs. Romney brings attention to the disease, that's extremely positive," while acknowledging that Mitt Romney’s platform may not be that helpful to the MS cause. In fact, the National MS Society objects to Mitt Romney’s commitment to repeal Obamacare.