When asked in a recent Bloomberg poll what Trump gaffe, goof or bone-headed bungle bothered them most — out of a slew of controversies — likely voters picked one offense above all others:
When the candidate mocked a reporter with a disability last November.
Democrats have made sure the public has seen and heard about Trump's intolerant blunder over and over again. It has been played in ads created by the Clinton campaign, including a highly-circulated one involving children silently watching.
Bill Clinton even said in his convention speech that his wife "never made fun of people with disabilities. She tried to empower them based on their ability." ( implied criticism)
And Clinton surrogate Tom Harkin, a prominent voice on disability policy, said recently, "Democrats believe in working together and bringing people with disabilities in to develop policy. Donald Trump? He makes fun of people with disabilities. That's a throwback to a half a century ago."
As recently as July 29, Trump insisted, "I didn't know what he looked like. I didn't know he was disabled."
Kovaleski, who now works for the New York Times, has said, "Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years."
The Washington Post responded, "Much of what Trump says is 'Four-Pinocchios false.'"
This poll was conducted before Trump sparked furor with a comment about "Second Amendment people" that was interpreted by many as a veiled suggestion of violence against Clinton. You would think a death threat might replace the slur on disabled people as the worst offence. But, no. Given the lasting stigma upon people with disabilities and the easiness with which pop culture has mocked them over the years, the outraged reaction from the public is striking and encouraging.
"But one thing they don't want to see is people with disabilities being bullied," she added.
"The reaction to it, that so many people say it's the worst thing he's done, is indicative that we've turned a corner, where it's just not socially acceptable the way it was," said writer and activist Andrew Pulrang.
Still, he said he found himself wondering, "Why is this thing worse than all the other groups than he's targeted and insulted?"
One possible answer: "We're easy to feel more protective towards by the population. Part of ableism is a heavy dose of paternalism."
Those who are not equipped to fight for themselves bring the compassion and protective instincts out in other people.
Trump has never filled out a candidate's questionnaire.
"Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton filled it out in full, and spoke about disability issues at the Democratic convention, as did people with disabilities themselves," Mizrahi said.
For people who are used to condescension or outright erasure, Trump's behavior carries a certain irony.
"Inclusivity for people with disabilities is now a matter of presidential politics," wrote David Perry at the Atlantic. "That likely wasn't Trump's intention when he mocked that reporter months ago. But it's a satisfying result."
If people with disabilities become political pawns ... at least it is drawing public attention to the plight of disabled people. Any recognition is better than no recognition.