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Why I Refuse to Vote Republican
February 14, 2002
by J. Carlos Jiacinto

This afternoon a commericial decrying the millions of Americans without health insurance caught my attention. Immediately my mind relived bitter memories of my freshman year of college. Back then (October 1996) I remembered vividly how, after suffering from severe health problems, I took my mother to a local hospital for a free breast exam. Against her will I insisted that she get a mammogram. It turned out that she suffered from breast cancer and needed immediate treatment. Ultimately, on the day of Clinton's second inaguration, my mother passed away after undergoing painful chemoetherapy and radiation treatments. They had caught the cancer too late.

This commericial reminded me of the plight that millions of Americans face today. Across the country many families lack the ability to pay for health care either because their jobs provide no benefits or they cannot pay their premiums. Meanwhile numerous unemployed Americans have lost their health benefits while still more fellow citizens hang by a thread, afraid that they could lose thier jobs. While the war on terrorism rages and the Winter Olympics dominate the news coverage, many Americans worry constantly about their future ability to meet their own basic needs.

My mother never told me how ill she was because she lacked adequate healthcare. My family was not poor and my mother always provided me with everything that I needed. My mother played by the rules and worked extremely hard so that I could afford to attend college. She never accepted a handout from anyone or any government agency. She sacrificed her own life so that I could complete my education.

Perhaps even if they had caught the cancer before it mestasized, she might still have died. It might not have made a difference at all. However, numerous Americans never get the chance to find out whether their relatives' illnesses could have been cured completely or at least allievated. In many cities and states families put their own health at risk so that their own children can wear clothing and attend school. Something is greatly wrong in this country when its hard-working citizens cannot receive a decent level of healthcare.

Back when I attended Dickinson, whenever my professors would debate social welfare programs, I often listened to my Republican friends - many of which came from well-off families - deride the "poor and the needy" as if they deserved to go without basic healthcare and other necessities (food, clean water, good schools, and health care) that they took for granted. They condemned and denounced the poor. My own Republicans friends often talked about the poor as if they were somehow "subhuman" and "lazy".

I listen to the Republicans on televisions talk about how the Democrats support "giveaway" social programs. The line that many Republican operatives use with relish is that the "Democrats want to spend money on welfare", usually with coded racial overtones. These statements are completely disengenous and completely judgmental. Although my Republican friends would scoff at this notion, whenever they brought up their arguments, I often refuted their points by saying that life changes in a matter of seconds. At any moment their parents could die; their homes could be destroyed by a natural disaster, a fire, or flood; their parents could lose their jobs; one of their parents could suffer a catastrophic illness that insurance refuses to cover; and that their parents and themselves could suddenly be paralyzed.

I then asked them whom they would turn to help. They always responded with the statement that "we've prepared" and that "it's the poor's fault that they did not prepare for their circumstances". But the point is that even the best preparations often fail to anticipate life's tragedies. As a society we should be concerned enough to help those individuals in need of temporary assistance.

In the aftermath of the Enron debacle, coupled with the conservatives' indifference to downright ridicule toward the employees and investors who lost money, the Republican line disgusts me. It sickens me to hear about how the wealthy pay "too much" taxes and how extending unemployment "will not improve the economy". The fact that they have the gall to propose budgets which provide America's largest companies with "welfare" and "handouts" while deriding those who can barely make ends meet disgusts me.

Watching that commerical reminded me why I am a Democrat and not a Republican. As someone who has endured difficult challenges I realize that life's unpredictable events can change peoples' circumstances quickly. Government should provide these individuals with basic access to these necessities as they rebuild their lives. The fact that so many of my Republican friends scoff at the working poor makes me wonder what they would do if their lives suddenly changed and they needed help from the programs they so detest. I am so glad that they think that their friends and their families would take care of them. However, I doubt that many of their friends would stick around. And then I wonder what they would do then when thier only option is to ask these social programs that they hate so much for "help".

J. Carlos Jiacinto (e-mail: jiacinto@hotmail.com), a graduate from Dickinson College's class of 2000 (major Political Science), lives in Washington, DC. He is currently working on a Master's Degree in International Politics and International Economic Policy at American University.

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