How I Became a Republican
By Ronald F. Owens Jr.
August 1, 2017
I am the son of a United States Air Force sergeant who was born on an Air Force base near Tokyo, Japan. Raised in a Christian home, my mother and father transported my three siblings and me in our 1969 beige Volkswagen bus to three Sunday morning services. After lunch and afternoon nap, they took us to Sunday evening service. We attended Bible study on Tuesday, went to mid-week service on Wednesday, and sang at choir rehearsal on Thursday. On Friday, we had family fun night. On Saturday, we ate pancake breakfast in the morning and cleaned the house and worked in the yard in the afternoon. Then it was back to church on Sunday as we started that regimen all over again.
When we weren’t in the church, we attended prayer meetings, church seminars, and conventions. My parents exposed us to the some of the most prominent ministries of the 1970s, such as Corrie Ten Boom, Jamie Buckingham, Kenneth Copeland, Kathryn Kuhlman, John Osteen, Derek Prince, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart and David Wilkerson.
We read the Holy Bible as a family and had family Bible studies. We prayed as a family. We were also taught to read, study and pray individually. Secular music was unacceptable in our house. My mother even screened contemporary Christian music to make sure it was scriptural and spiritually edifying. We weren’t allowed to date or go to parties. And so I was scripturally literate and spiritually attuned to the things of God, but ignorant about politics and the Democrat and Republican parties.
The Republican Party was an unpopular party after the 1973 Watergate scandal and the August 9, 1974, resignation of President Richard Nixon (1913-1994). So consequently I, along with millions of others, voted for former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter for president in 1976. I had just graduated from Bossier High School in Bossier City, Louisiana, and the election between Carter and President Gerald Ford (1913-2006) was the first time I voted. Little did I know that would be the last time that I would vote for a Democrat candidate.
As a student in the mid-1980s at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS), majoring in government/journalism, I rejected the liberal ideology of my professors. When I tried to challenge them I was outclassed. (This was when I stuttered.) I sat silently as they ran down the United States and vehemently criticized our country. I remember writing a major research paper about the Nov. 4, 1979 to Jan. 20, 1981 Iranian hostage crisis, and regurgitating what the professor wanted to hear. Yes, Mohammad Rezā Pahlavi (1919-1980), the last Shah of Iran, was cruel and oppressed dissidents who opposed him, but that’s the only side I reported. I received an “A” for my academic regurgitation but after that I vowed not to ever be timid about expressing a different point of view.
My political epiphany began after a conversation with a Latino Democrat politician. One of the requirements of my major was to write for a newspaper. I became a stringer reporter for Rancho Cordova’s Grapevine Independent, a community weekly newspaper. I was assigned to profile Charles “Chuck” Pineda, a Rancho Cordova man who ran in the 1986 Democrat gubernatorial primary. Pineda was a Christian. He attended Capital Christian Center, the largest Assemblies of God church in Northern California.
After the interview Pineda and I talked politics. I shared with him my misgivings about remaining in the Democrat Party. I noted that the Democrats were becoming more of a pro-abortion party. (People may have forgotten that Rev. Jesse Jackson once railed against abortion and even former Vice President Al Gore was once pro-life! But Jackson and Gore and other once pro-life Democrats abandoned the unborn and sold out to Planned Parenthood.) I told Pineda that I was seriously thinking about joining the socially conservative Republican Party. Pineda pleaded with me to not leave the Democrat party. He said I needed to work within the party. I appreciated his advice but could see that the Democrats didn’t reflect my Christian, constitutional conservative core beliefs. So I eventually left the party and became a Republican.
Even though I voted for Carter for president in 1976 and supported Jackson’s run for president in 1984 — I attended two pro-Jackson Sacramento campaign rallies — I have always been a social and fiscal conservative who believes in a peace through strength American foreign policy backed up by a strong military.
I did not publicly exhibit my Republican conservatism until 1986, the second time George Deukmejian ran for governor of California against then-Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley (1917-1998). I got a lot of heat from my black Democrat “friends.” They thought I was a sellout. How could I not support Bradley, who was Los Angeles’ first black mayor, running for governor? I don’t specifically remember their calling me an “Uncle Tom.” (I was called that in junior high and high school.) But they certainly thought I was one. One chided me for wearing a blue and gold Deukmejian campaign button that I pinned to a pink sweater vest that matched my pink shirt. Another castigated me. He asked how could I wear that blue and gold Deukmejian campaign button with my pink outfit. My political coming out put me at odds with other blacks.
Since my college days, I have voted for Republican candidates in every federal, state and local election because I believe in preserving and protecting the United States Constitution. I believe that our country allows us to dream and affords us the opportunity to achieve those dreams.
I am a Republican because the Republican Party stands for the rights of the unborn, traditional marriage, religious freedom and supports policies that promote and foster strong families. The Republican Party is a party of limited government, small businesses, lower taxes, school choice, and peace through strength. For these and many other reasons I became a Republican.
(Ronald F. Owens Jr. is the author of “Noah, Preparer of the Ark” and “Judas, Betrayer of Jesus,” Bible stories about biblical people written in their own words.)
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