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Confessions of a Former Republican by Becky Schneider

I have admitted to a few that, yes, because of my conservative upbringing, for most of my life I voted Republican – not straight ticket, but for the most part, Republican.  My Dad was President of the Texas State Rifle Association, so I grew up with guns, and was a good Presbyterian.  The Republican Party I grew up with was a different party than it is now – not the arm-twisting party of “my way or the highway.”  Democrats were different then too.  More of them camped out in trees to save a forest, and did other bizarre things that “just weren’t fittin’” by Texas Panhandle standards.

The GOP transformation occurred with the Contract with America platform (nine points of which were never fulfilled).  My personal transformation took place when I was lobbying for Railroad Retirement Reform.  The changes to the GOP over the last 11 years have been so drastic that even ultra-conservative Dick Armey believes his party of ultra right wing conservatives have gone farther than any Democrat ever did while pushing through their Agenda.

It’s not about representing your constituents any more; it’s about achieving power in the Party.  If your constituents disagree, get new ones (ala Tom Delay in Texas).  My epiphany occurred when a Republican senator, who I consider to be a fair man, met with our group on the Capitol steps following the weekly Republican luncheon.  He said, “I have given you my support for your bill, and I will abide by that.  But I’ll tell you, they (party leaders) are making it tough on us to hang in there.  They have attached the energy bill, which is near and dear to me, and are trying to force me to choose between them.”  Right then and there, on the steps of the United States Senate, I decided I could no longer stomach a party that continually threatens its own members because a few in the leadership are opposed to an issue.  We threatened their house of cards by moving our $15 billion out of “surplus” funds, and they were not happy.  We prevailed because of the tireless efforts of everyone from the grass roots to the professionals.

That’s my story.  At that moment  when I realized what the GOP had become, I no longer wanted any part of it.  Unfortunately, most of our members have not had the opportunity to witness firsthand what I did.  They are too busy working for a living.

Too many Americans have become one-issue voters, voting against a party based on some single issue that is important to them.  I am not fully aligned with a number of issues in the Democratic Platform, but I am also aware that if I vote for the Republican candidates because of those issues, my lifestyle, freedoms, and financial security will continue its downward spiral.

Here are a few of the things we stand to lose should the GOP prevail in the November elections:

FELA – If the Republicans win, Orrin Hatch is already being pressured to file a bill in February 2005 to abolish FELA.  Has anyone checked out how crummy their state’s worker’s compensation is?

Amtrak will cease to exist as we know it, thereby putting Railroad Retirement in serious jeopardy.

Overtime Pay Takeaway will be engraved in stone.  Just like George Bush removed 10 years of work on Ergonomics Regulations, if elected, the Democrats can rescind  the new overtime regulations or call for a House vote (which the House leadership has refused to do). Bypassing the legislative process has eroded 100 years of work by labor for the benefits of working people.  This may not affect railroad employees under the current contract, but it does affect family and friends right now, and has the potential to affect future contract negotiations.

Health and Welfare Benefits will continue to decrease and/or become more expensive if the trend toward supporting insurance companies continues. Additionally, if the trend toward supporting pharmaceutical companies continues, the Medicare Reform disaster will likely get worse.

Jobs – America will continue to bleed jobs as more and more are outsourced to foreign lands, and the term “Made in America” will make its way into the history books.

Call me pessimistic; I don’t think this will be the half of it.  With a better balance in the Congress, and not all branches of the government being controlled by one party, more compromise will be required, resulting in better conditions for all of Americans, not just our members.

Lastly, despite the current picture being painted about Democrats, this ticket is not “whacko liberal.”  It is further left than the ultra right wing, but it is not far left.  It is more middle-of-the-road.  Ultra anything has no place in our government, however, common sense and moderate principals do.

Vote for John Kerry and John Edwards.  Keep your Democratic Congressmen, especially those targeted by the National GOP, and may God continue to Bless America!   Above all, VOTE!

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