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Here's How a 2-Time Obama Voter Turned Conservative and Now Advocates for Guns

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NOTE: This is an edited transcript of a conversation between Antonia Okafor and Katrina Trinko on the May 22 The Daily Signal podcast. Okafor weighed in on her own journey to becoming a conservative, Kanye West, gun rights and school safety.

Katrina Trinko: Joining us today is Antonia Okafor, a political commentator and the CEO of EmPOWERed, an organization devoted to the Second Amendment rights of women on college campuses. You voted for Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012?

Okafor: Yes.

Trinko: Why did you vote for him and what since then has changed your mind on political matters?

Okafor: I grew up in a pretty traditional Democratic family. I remember when I was young my mom telling me that, “If you could vote right now, you would vote for Bill Clinton.” I remember that.

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I just thought I was a Democrat growing up and then I went to college. I was actually taking public policy courses and realizing … [that the polices] for the Democratic Party, I didn’t actually believe in.

Doing a lot more research and realizing that, you know what, my values that I grew up with that my mother taught me — working very hard, education is an equalizer for everyone, that traditional family and the nuclear family is important to success, and having a faith in Jesus Christ is important to success as well — really made me realize that I was in a party that did not reconcile with my values and I needed to change, particularly with the pro-life issue, but then later on, the pro-gun issue.

The only party that I believe that was really always consistently focused on those issues was the Republican Party.

After 2012, I’m [remembering] … voting for Barack Obama … but realizing that I will never vote again against my values and I would vote not for the Democratic Party because they weren’t doing what was important in that instance for my values.

Trinko: I think your story is particularly interesting because so many people go to college and actually come out liberal, or come out more liberal. Why do you think you were open to changing? Why was your experience so different than so many other college students?

Okafor: I think I was open because kind of like what’s going on right now — it’s because the media’s so focused on making Republicans look like racists, and sexists and misogynists and horrible people.

I just have this affinity to be around people, or to seek out information for myself. I remember I was like, ‘OK, if they’re really this bad I want to see for myself.’ Going out and talking to people who were Republicans and finding out that they weren’t bad people, in fact, they were amazing people and they actually share the same values. I mean, who would’ve thunk it that if you did your actual research, that you would find a lot of what people were saying is false.

That’s what happened to me and so a lot of questions ensued after that of what else I was just believing without actually doing my research and homework.

I think that’s what really spurred me onto being more open to finding out what my actual beliefs were and if I believe what they believe.

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Trinko: That’s interesting because that relates to Kanye West, [who] had a huge backlash when he didn’t even really say he supported Trump, just said maybe not everything conservatives say is the spawn of Satan, essentially. What did you think about the backlash?  

Okafor: Well, two things. Even with Kanye West, I think actually I’m more saddened about what Chance the Rapper said and the backlash that he got right after that. He said that not all black people have to vote for Democrats. He apologized after that.

I was like, ‘What are you apologizing for?’ Unfortunately with, I think, African-Americans … the media, mostly the left, has been able to monopolize the conversation and narrative when it comes to that, [making it] … that you’re black and these people are white and therefore, if you’re a black person, you should vote for the Democratic Party.

Only white people are for gun rights, only white people are Republican, are conservatives. They’ve done a great job of doing that for so long but, no, because you’re a black person does not mean that you have to vote for the Democratic Party. If anything, when I found out that 95 percent of African-Americans voted for Barack Obama and then 88 percent of them voted for Hillary Clinton, that’s more than any other demographic group and it’s an overwhelming proportion more as well. I mean, Latinos, they voted 66 percent for Hillary Clinton.

I think, for a long time the left has used this narrative that as a black person particularly, you are supposed to vote a certain way.

I think it’s good that we’re having a conversation anyway, to say that you as a person are independent and you can think independently and make up your own decisions regardless of your race or your gender.

I think people are sick and tired of people putting them in boxes. I know I was sick and tired of it.

Trinko: You’ve mentioned your support for gun rights. There was another tragic school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. You’re a Texan yourself. What do you think the response should be? How do you think we should handle all these calls from the left for gun control?

Okafor: Part of it is that, unfortunately, they always get to dictate when we get to talk about the whole issue, after [the shooting]. You know, every time we have a tragedy, to be honest, now it’s like [comedian] Chelsea Handler says something, that’s when it starts the conversation on Twitter, unfortunately.

She’s the precursor of when gun control and gun rights conversation [happens]. It’s a sad society, but it’s true. They get to dictate when it’s appropriate to start talking about that and we respond.

We shouldn’t respond anymore, we should be on the forefront, we should be leading the conversation.

That’s why I started my organization, EmPOWer, because I knew as a gun rights activist, as someone who was part of the organization that brought campus carry to Texas in 2015 … the movement is going to be pushed by young women.

I found that as a young woman that self-defense is important to us, particularly on college campuses. With the … gun control narrative, they don’t want people to see that. They don’t want to say that the strong, empowered woman, the college-educated woman [who] knows other strong, empowered, college-educated women who also happen to be pro-gun.

They want the narrative to be: If you’re a feminist, if you’re pro-female, then you can’t be pro-gun. That’s false. If anything, if you’re pro-female, you should be pro-gun, it’s one of the best equalizers that we have in this great country.

We don’t believe in [gun control] anymore and we want something different. This is our time to put out something different and to say that it’s not about the gun, it’s about the person behind the firearm that we should be focusing on.

Katrina Trinko is managing editor of The Daily Signal and co-host of The Daily Signal podcast. She is also a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors.

A version of this article previously appeared on The Daily Signal website under the headline, “She Voted for Obama Twice. Now Antonia Okafor Explains Why She’s a Conservative Who Advocates Gun Rights.”

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