All my friends know me as a very strong (and somewhat opinionated) Conservative.  They know of my work on campaigns, have read my political articles and have seen my videos on Patriot Update.

But the inconvenient truth is that, like Dennis Miller, I’m what’s known as a “9/11 Conservative” and unfortunately it took a major tragedy to get me where I am today.

The only good thing about being a former Democrat is that I believe I have an insight few Conservatives have.  (At least that’s what I keep telling myself to keep from sinking into a guilt-induced depression…and yes, I have prayed for forgiveness at President Reagan’s graveside…)

I think my political brain first left my body at age 14 when I became enamored with Jimmy Carter.  Gas lines and a poor economy?  Eh.  I couldn’t drive anyway, and as long as I got my $5 per week allowance, life was copasetic.

My fascination with Carter began on a family trip to Disneyworld.   We took a side-trip to Plains, Georgia and stopped at the Carter family gas station, which is where I met my very first celebrity—the president’s infamous brother, Billy.

My sister and I posed for the following picture with him, Billy in the middle, grinning broadly with his arm around my sister and me clutching his Billy Beer.   (I apologize for the poor photo quality; our family had one 500-year old Instamatic camera which rarely worked…)

Because of this strange journey into Americana, four years later I couldn’t wait to use my brand-new voting powers to help get Billy’s brother elected to a second term.

I fought as hard as a fun-loving freshman in college could fight for President Carter’s reelection, arguing that Carter was a ‘beautiful, peace-loving man’ who had only the best interests in the US.

A few years later, I was a struggling and still politically ignorant young actress living in Los Angeles.  I continued voting for all-things-Democrat and I even participated in an anti-nuclear protest (which I later found out was led by ultra-radical Jerry Rubin).

So the question is, why?  I was a young woman with considerable intelligence and a very strong work ethic—so what was it about the Democratic Party that seemed so appealing, so ‘attainable’ to me?

I think the answer then is the same as it is today for all the blind Barack Obama supporters.  It basically comes down to one word:  Propaganda.  Really GREAT propaganda.

The media told us war was bad.  All I ever heard on the news was how horrible and pointless Viet Nam had been and that we had no reasons to continue building our war arsenals throughout the 1980’s.  They insinuated that if only the ‘big bad bullies of the US’ would stop building weapons maybe there would be peace on earth.

I believed it.

The mainstream media also continuously reported that Republicans = Rich/Elitist while the Democrats = The People.

Again, I believed it.  When I was in my 20’s the Democrats did seem to be more about ‘The People’.  I was working several jobs just to stay alive and I bought into the liberal premise that Republicans were rich, old people who had no clue what it was like to be young and struggling in America.

If I’d have looked a little closer back then, I would have realized that all the hip, liberal actors in Hollywood probably had just as much (if not more) money as all those ‘elitist Republicans ‘I had vilified.

Yet the Democrats simply seemed to be more about ‘The People’—and that’s what Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings kept telling me on the news.

My final political blunder came via Bill Clinton.  Bill was young, charismatic and seemed to be in touch with ‘the people.’  He had the same type of dynamic personality that I imagined someone like John F. Kennedy would have had (not to mention the same type of bad boy reputation).    I blissfully voted for Bill Clinton.  Twice.  (Which reminds me of a saying my 6th grade English teacher Mrs. Caton always told us:  “Ignorance is bliss—so don’t be blissful!”  I was scared to death of that woman, but I digress…)

Like all of Clinton’s other women, I think we all thought Monica Lewinsky would eventually go away, too.  Somehow I was able to put my personal moral values aside and turned a blind eye to his lack thereof.  I believed Bill Clinton’s sexual problems were between him and his wife.

But then he lied.

As soon as Bill Clinton looked me and all ‘The People’ straight in the eyes and said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” the love affair was officially over.  Allegedly cheating on his wife was one thing, but getting caught red-handed in the Oval Office and continuously lying about it until DNA evidence backed him in a corner was unconscionable to me.

I was happy he got impeached, and disgusted when he didn’t step down.

While the sex scandals were playing out I closely watched his vice-president’s reaction to everything.  I waited for Al Gore to step up—to separate himself from Bill Clinton.

I’m not sure what I wanted Gore to do or say, I just wanted him to do something.  He did nothing.

I remember standing in the voting booth that year, still unsure how to cast my vote for President.  I had heard all the stories—told to me by Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and the rest– about George Bush’s past issues with drugs and alcohol.  After Clinton, I didn’t want to discount potentially damaging personal problems ever again.

So in a panic, I did what I believe many thousands of Americans did that year:  I voted for Ralph Nader.

The media made a huge deal about the election being rigged that year.  They couldn’t imagine how someone like Ralph Nader would get so many votes and they claimed George W. stole the entire election—but I understood why he won.  I think many Democrats did what I did that year and threw away their vote in disgust.

After the election, I didn’t think it mattered who was president…but all that changed on September 11, 2001 when then the airplanes flew into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

I watched, along with the entire world, as America was forever changed into something completely different than it had been the day before.

I was frozen with fear.  What were we going to do?  How could we fight a type of evil that would crash innocent people into non-military buildings?

I was afraid for America and had no idea how President Bush would handle it until I saw his ‘bullhorn speech’ on TV.

Like a field general—or a father-figure—when President Bush yelled ‘I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon,” I felt safe.

I knew that George Bush was a President who would die trying to protect the United States of America.

And I knew in that instant why a man like Al Gore could never have been president after September 11, 2001.  Gore had been too cowardly to even speak out against Bill Clinton’s lies!  America needed a real man with backbone; a man who would unabashedly stand up for us; a man who could not only reassure Americans that we would be protected and safe but who would also send a definitive, unequivocal message to the rest of the world– whoever and wherever our enemies were–that bombing and threatening the United States would never be okay.

I became a Republican that day.  I literally called our local GOP office as soon as Bush’s speech was over, tears streaming, and told them I couldn’t be a Democrat anymore.

That little “gap” in my brain—the thing that separated “unicorn and rainbow wishes” with logic and reality, was suddenly bridged and everything finally made sense to me.

Since then, from that day forward, I consider myself a Conservative Reagan Republican.

I still understand why I was a Democrat on September 10, 2001.  I was an artist, a free-spirit who believed there really could be ‘peace on earth’—but everything changed the following day.

It’s a sad, cold thing to have to face up to–that peace will never exist as long as there are people like Islamic terrorists in the world.  But today in 2011, that type of blindness, of not wanting to see the bad in the world, isn’t an option anymore.

Bottom line, there are enemies out there who hate us and want us to die.  They hate us in sneaky, terrifying ways never imagined by the brave men who fought in World Wars I and II.  And our enemy in 2011 is out there, right now, plotting new ways to repeat the horrors of September 11.

I guess it takes some people longer to see the light than others.  It certainly did for me.  But the thing about the light is that once you’ve seen it, you’re a fool if you ignore it or try to pretend it away.  I’ll never be that person again.