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I grew up in a Democrat, union family. My father was a steel worker in the Pittsburgh area. Occasionally, Dad would be on strike, and there were times when he was laid off. No matter the circumstances, as a child I always felt very secure. I knew there would be food on the table at all times because Dad always found other work to do. My sister and I were taught the importance of self-reliance.

The first time I registered to vote, (I had to be 21 to vote) I proudly declared that I was a Democrat. How I reveled in President Kennedy’s words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!”

I married a man who became an Army officer. Because of a branch transfer to Armor, we went to Germany instead of him going to Vietnam. Older Germans in Bavaria would share with me their utmost prayer after  World War II. They wanted the American Army and not the Soviets to get to their towns first. It did seem odd to me since this was the early ’70s that such memories were still so vivid in their minds. Their psyches told them that America was where freedom prevailed and more importantly that Americans were fair.

Time marched on. My first memorable concern about our nation’s plight (even more vivid than Watergate) was the Iran Hostage Crisis. I will never forget those 444 days. When I awoke each morning, I would run downstairs and turn on the TV. The newscasters would begin by announcing the number of days that Americans had been held hostage.

Then there was the 1980 election. I knew that Jimmy Carter had been a failure as president, but how could an actor be qualified to be president of the United States? I turned to third-party candidate, Illinois Rep. John Anderson. Yes, I threw my vote away, but thankfully most Americans were more in tune than I was. As a young mother, I began to pay more attention to politics.

I just do not recognize the party of my youth. Let’s look at what the Democrat Party has accomplished in the name of compassion. In the year 2000, 17 million Americans received food stamps, and today it is 45 million. In 2000, 34 million Americans were on Medicaid, and today it is 54 million. Right now almost one half of all Americans do not pay any income tax, yet the Democrat Party and President Obama are demanding that the wealthy pay more — pay their “fair share.”

President Obama and the Democrat Party are creating an entitlement society. Fundamentally, they are creating a permanent class of people that will always be allegiant to the Democrat Party. One now learns, “I don’t have to worry. All is OK because the government will take care of me.”

Our current leadership makes it seem like there is a limited amount of success available, and when it is used up, the rest of us are out of luck. “I am doing poorly because others are doing well.” Dad, a staunch Democrat, taught me that success was the result of hard work, courage and individual responsibility. Self-reliance means that I take my situation seriously and work to change it if necessary. It’s what seems to have most changed about the Democrat party from when I was 21 to now.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the first Republican female Hispanic governor of any state, explains why she changed to Republican. Like many of us, it was her family’s heritage to register as a Democrat. Before she ran for district attorney, two Republicans invited Susana and her husband, Chuck, to lunch. She thought they would be asking for a party change, and she told her husband that they would be polite, enjoy a free lunch, and then say goodbye. They talked about policy and never once were the words Republican or Democrat uttered. They talked about many issues, like welfare, the size of government, the tax levied on families and small businesses. When they left lunch and got into their car, she looked at her husband and said, “I’ll be damned.  We’re Republicans.”

Without a change in leadership, how can we expect our economic situation to have a different outcome? I challenge you to study the platforms of each party. Which platform truly represents your values? Do not vote because of because of vague misinformation that you heard from somewhere. Be an informed voter.

This may at times seem like a dark hour for America but it is really “the dawn before we remember who we were.” Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan will show us once more how to be that “shining light on a hill.” We will become self-reliant people once again.

WILLEE COOPER is a former teacher and military spouse. A Hopkinsville resident, she is past president of the Kentucky Federation of Republican Women. Her column runs on the first and third Friday of each month. Reach her at willeecooper@gmail.com.

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