Everyone who knows me well knows that I am a Republican. I have been a Republican since 6th grade when I first volunteered at the local Republican headquarters. This despite growing up in Chicago, in a household where my father, who worked for the city, always had to support the Democratic machine. So today, it was with an incredibly heavy heart that I asked for a Democratic ballot and cast my vote for Hillary Clinton.
In doing so, I can’t help but think of my great, great grandfather, James Robert Mann, who came to this country from Marholm, England in the early 1800s. Of course, I never met him, but thanks to newspaper accounts during his life I do know that he was an outspoken critic of slavery and a leader of the then new Republican Party. Like him, I believe in the equality of all people. I believe that government should have a minimal role in people’s lives. I believe in freedom.
Much to my dismay, the Republican Party today no longer represents those beliefs upon which it was founded. Instead, we have party leaders and candidates for President who want to restrict the rights of gays, Muslims, women and others. They don’t want government interference in common sense areas where it is desperately needed, such as gun control or environmental protection. Yet they think they should dictate who is worthy of marriage and control women’s reproductive decisions. In complete contrast to the letter and spirit of our Constitution and the fundamental principles of the Republican Party, they believe in freedom and equality – on their terms only.
Our first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, gave his life to bring our great country together. Today, the leadership of the Republican Party and the Republican candidates for President are obstructionists and demagogues who have created a frightening divide in our nation.
As I watched the Republican debates, I was sickened by the ridiculous discussions among the Republican candidates. Topics not worthy of most mature adults, let alone the people who want to lead this great nation. There was no depth, no mastery of important issues. No real plans or policies. Just soundbites they hoped would lead the 24-hour news cycle. The latter was also true of Bernie Sanders. His plans don’t make sense. His numbers don’t add up. If he has his way, future generations of Americans will be bankrupt.
As I watched Hillary Clinton, I saw something I never expected. I was stunned at her depth of knowledge and her thoughtful, level-headed approach to many topics. Her serious, knowledgeable answers were so far removed from the hysteria, sound-bites and platitudes of the Republican candidates. Her positions on health care, trade and business were so much more sound than those of her “Socialist-Democrat” opponent. It became clear to me that she is far more equipped to be president than every one of the men still in the race.
I love this country and I have been proud to be an American every single day of my life. Our democracy has been the greatest and most successful experiment in freedom in the history of mankind. It is a promise that continues to attract people from all parts of the world.
Our capitalist economy is also something to be proud of. It attracted hard-working people like my grandmother, Mercedes Cervantes Contreras, who came here from Mexico. She didn’t come here for a handout (someone please tell Bernie that). She came her for an opportunity. She was an amazingly strong and strong-willed woman who came to America and literally scrubbed toilets as a maid at a hotel in downtown Chicago so that her children and grandchildren could have a better life as Americans.
I never met James Robert Mann. He died decades before I was born. I don’t remember my grandmother, who died when I was still a baby. But I know their stories and those of my own family. I know the history of the Republican Party and the many great Republicans who have served this country so well. And I know that not a single one of the Republican candidates today is worthy of the vote they sacrificed so much for. And that means they are not worthy of mine.