What makes you flip political allegiences?
March 6, 2005 5:48 PM   Subscribe

What makes you switch sides? There's the old saying that if you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative by 60 you have no money/brain... but what events actually make people change? I'm pretty liberal myself and don't really see myself changing, but obviously people do. What event made you change, from one perspective to the other?
posted by rooftop secrets to Society & Culture (45 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Actually my Dad gave up on the Republicans at about 55/60 after a long time of being modereately Republican. I think it had to do with arriving at a retirement age and realizing he hadn't been able to accomplish as much as he'd like, and feeling that the upper class that pulls the strings on the Right is murdering the middle class (including him). He realized that he's the "little guy," and decided that the billionaires of the Republican administrations were not on his side after all.
posted by scarabic at 5:52 PM on March 6, 2005

Ah yes, just to clarify: I would like to hear stories from both sides, liberal->conservative & conservative->liberal.
posted by rooftop secrets at 5:56 PM on March 6, 2005

And I am especially interested in stories of people who changed at a young age, but please contribute stories with all ages.
posted by rooftop secrets at 5:58 PM on March 6, 2005

Firstly, just because there's an "old saying" (which, i believe, can be attributed to churchill) doesn't make it so. I think this cultural artifact is promoted precisely because it has such powerful sway; as one gets older, the pressure to conform gets stronger and stronger, and if you feel that you "should" become conservative, then you're inclined to switch that way.

that said, it all depends on what you consider conservative and liberal. the modern republican party are not conservatives, they are radicals, and the modern democrats are certainly not liberal, they're pretty fucking centrist.

i think that, if we unpack the phrase, perhaps you are more small-c conservative about, for instance, trashing your neighborhood because you have more of a sense of community. you own more so you're less apt to leave on a whim to travel. you're set in your musical tastes and less likely to try new music. in this sense, you want to conserve what you perceive to be the "right way."

politically, though, i think the phrase is bs. why should you support unions and environmental science and health care and then suddenly change? it's a total canard. why should you suddenly become more racist (as a capital-c Conservative) and warmongering?
posted by yonation at 5:59 PM on March 6, 2005

I flipped from Republican to Democrat when I went to college.

My dad went from Republican to 'disgusted with politics' with the ascension of GWB.
posted by goethean at 6:07 PM on March 6, 2005

There's probably lots of reasons why this is a common notion. I think this stereotype rests upon several assumptions, that the young 20-something who is a liberal really come from a conservative middle or upper-class family and eventually turns conservative as his or her goals are more at perserving the family and his or her finances.

The way I see it though, and this is perhaps very wrong, society is constantly moving more liberal and people rarely change views as their world becomes smaller and less diverse. With age we tend to become insular and more concerned with our immediate family and really isolated from those not like ourselves. We also see the drawbacks of some of the more radical spokes of liberalism and thus come to the centrist-conservative view popular with middle-America.

Caveat: obviously broad generalizations, but explains it somewhat.
posted by geoff. at 6:11 PM on March 6, 2005

As the abortion debate really began to heat up in the early 90's (not that it was not hot before), coupled with his heart problems and then 9/11, my dad went Republican. I think he is coming back now, however. He had a lot of patience with W, but it has all but run out now.
posted by oflinkey at 6:12 PM on March 6, 2005

Another one of those "old sayings" is this: A liberal is a conservative who's had a bad run-in with the police; a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged.

In RL it's more complicated than that of course but IME that does explain a lot of the switching.
posted by localroger at 6:13 PM on March 6, 2005

Ah, yonation, you were doing so well...

That old saw is pretty problematic semantically. But that's not your question, so I'll avoid the temptation to rip it apart (like, "having a heart means supporting abortion?") and instead discuss your actual question: switching sides.

I switched sides in my mid-30s from the more conservative to the more liberal. I do not affiliate with any political party. My switch was motivated by the parties, however, when I realized that I could not countenance corporate welfare, big tobacco, or the Religious Right. By and large, however, I am a fiscal liberal (I support all those programs that conservatives think make us a welfare state) and a moral conservative (on the issues of population control, gay marriage, and abortion, for instance. Save your flames; answer rooftop secrets' question).

My switch was pretty informal. I just woke up one morning and decided I was more at home calling myself by one name rather than another. No paperwork was filed; no official declarations. As yonation mentioned, it's all about what an individual considers liberal and what they consider conservative. Me? I'm a liberal, for now, at least.
posted by terceiro at 6:16 PM on March 6, 2005

My experience doesn't bear this out.

The friends of my parents who I grew up with, who have become my friends once I stopped stealing their booze, seem to have stayed the course and if anything, become more extreme in their beliefs. My mother, who was a Kennedy Democrat when I was a kid, has pretty much turned into Che Guevara and spends her days plotting the violent overthrow of the federal government.

On the other hand, after spending some time with my niece at NYU I was surprised to see the diversity of opinion on campus. Even NYU, a bastion of liberal thought if there ever was one, has an active and vocal conservative component. The children my oldest son goes to school with (middle school) are, in general, social conservatives and very anti-drug, abortion and would like nothing better than to nuke them Ay-rabs. These kids would rather cut their arms off than skip school to eat acid and drink wine behind the pizza parlor.

I think that on any side, as with most of these things, the squeaky wheel gets the grease and vocal minorities or those who spout pithy slogans get the attention. many, if not most, of us reach an accomodation with society when we realize tilting at windmills isn't the best way to provide for ones family. Not everyone is cut out to live in a bus selling jewelry at Dead shows or standing vigils outside prisons and nuke plants. It would be great to be all conscious and shit, but I need to work and marching on the mill ain't gonna pay my mortgage and keep my kids in Pumas. So, I do what I can in terms of campaigning for and contributing to candidates I believe share my values and actually have a chance. My money went to Kerry, not Nader. My Republican buddies donated to Bush, not Keyes.

However, once those kids move out and I don't have to work, look out corporate warmongering mediaopoly -- the worlds oldest and craziest anarchist is coming to mall near you -- in a Hummer chock full of tear gas, Scotch and meth.
posted by cedar at 6:28 PM on March 6, 2005

I grew up as a right-libertarian who supported Republicans until my mid 20's when I became more of a classical liberal. The catalyst? I moved from middle upper and rich upper class ivory-tower Whitey McCatholic land in central Connecticut to live off on my own in central Los Angeles.

A lot of the things I had grown up believing to be unassailable were clearly false when applied to the real world. The lack of available health care, the lack of attainable education, the lack of social services, the lack of good jobs, the callousness of corporations towards the environment and their employees were all absolutely stunning to someone who had grown up in a white corporate enclave. To make clear: BY NO MEANS are white corporate enclaves bad places. They're actually a lot nicer than Los Angeles is many ways. The people are often great. But they are so divorced from the experience of many Americans as to be a different planet, and living there warps your mind.

You want to become more liberal? Come live here for a while and see how the real world works.
posted by Justinian at 6:32 PM on March 6, 2005

Part of what geoff said points to a similar adage, attributed to Robert Anton Wilson, "It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea."

PS: Churchill didn't say the original quote, although he certainly seems to be the guy most people think of in regards to it.
posted by kimota at 6:41 PM on March 6, 2005

I guess I'm another one of those exceptions that prove the rule. I've definitely become more liberal over the last few election cycles. What bothers me is I'm not sure if I've been shifting more to the left over time, or if I've stayed the same and the lurch to the right that the US has made over the last 25 years has just put me into a different category.

GWB, Cheney, DeLay definitely put me over the top though. I can't imagine ever supporting anything related to the Republican party for the forseeable future.

It's definitely easier to be a liberal if: you are in an urban area, if you don't work as a manager for a large corporation, and/or if you associate with other liberals. I think that environment is a big factor. Unless you are a political wonk and spend a lot of time reading and researching, I would guess that you probably get your politics molded by your environment almost exclusively.
posted by ensign_ricky at 6:57 PM on March 6, 2005

I don't think that aphorism has much basis in reality. People change based on their preferences and experiences (which are inherently unpredictable). Not to mention that it doesn't make any sense to me, I've met plenty of heartless liberals and brainless conservatives :)

To answer your question, I remember a history teacher of mine at my public middle school, who was a conservative Republican and evangelical Christian, rethink his stance on euthanasia after his father suffered from a terminal illness. A good friend of mine, a lifetime Democrat and a Clinton supporter, was turned off to Clinton because of the Lewinsky scandal and withheld financial support for a few years. Was either person changed, in terms of their political views? No, they were taken aback by an experience that pointed out a contradiction and generally left them confused until they could rededicate themselves to their original principles.

So to, answer your quesiton, I don't think that formula applies, there are plenty of anecdotes that show people making all kinds of changes for a host of reasons.

As for you're assumption that you'll never change, don't dismiss other views out of hand just because you call yourself liberal. That would be a bit close-minded.
posted by tweak at 6:58 PM on March 6, 2005

i've always interpreted this statement as a truism--as you get older you have more you want to conserve. its easy when you're young and have nothing to lose to be a liberal as you want. when you have 2 kids and debt is when a tax cut starts to sound real nice, for example.
that said, i kinda agree that the saying doesn't apply as much to our country's cultware war
posted by alkupe at 7:06 PM on March 6, 2005

Contacts with the real world, such as realizing how much taxes you pay; seeing how shitty government services are, despite the amounts of $ they get; experiencing how cynical and sclerotic European societies are; watching a democratic Presidental candidate insist the sky is falling (when it clearly is getting bluer, or at least remaining stable), and so on.

Also, discovering in college how many, if not most of the complaining liberal people (1) are in it because it's a good way to get laid; (2) really don't take anything in their life that seriously; and/or (3) are far more interested in wrecking the establishment than replacing it with something better; (4) because it's fun to attack the establishment.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:09 PM on March 6, 2005

I have tended to switch sides a lot through my teenage years and early twenties, and have only just begun to settle down in my opinion.

Things like abortion are emotive subjects. I can fully understand the against side, and the pro side, and can't come up with a definitive answer. Therefore, I say I'm against abortion personally, but that everyone else should and must make their own mind up about it. This is now where I stand on most issues. I have my own opinion, but do not expect my country or my peers to have the same opinions. I recognize that my flip-flopping was merely an open mindedness that let me see things from both sides, and I have now decided to collapse into the garden rather than sit on the fence.

Unfortunately, most people involved in politics seem to think that their view must become "the way." And, yes, as many liberals think like that as conservatives..
posted by wackybrit at 7:10 PM on March 6, 2005

I had mostly conservative views but some liberal leanings because of environmental issues as a teenager in the eighties.

Once I realized that the environmental issues were mostly propaganda, I became more of a republican, or so I thought. I couldn't stand most of the liberal politicians, and Reagan still seemed like a hero.

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights have always been important to me, and I've been concerned about the first, second, fourth and tenth amendments specifically. The Republicans seemed to share those views.

The more I got into reading about what was going on, the more I realized that the Republican party didn't stand for what I thought it did, and their politicians weren't much different than the Democratic politicians.

(As an aside, but at this point in the timeline - Clinton got elected, and all I can remember is one of my college roomates supporting Clinton because he looked better on TV. I can't help but think he got elected mostly because of this. I give him some respect in the Elder Statesman roll, much like Carter, but I think history will portray him in a much more negative light.)

Sometime in the mid nineties, I started reading more about the Libertarian party. It turned out that they were what I thought the Republican party was inititally. For smaller government, pro Bill of Rights, more socially liberal. They were the party I had been aligned with for most of my life without knowing it; thinking they were just hippies recruiting at colleges.

I'm not 100% aligned with the Libertarians. My biggest issue is supporting the Bill of Rights, which neither major party does now. My belief is basically, "Don't hurt me, I won't hurt you."

rooftop secrets - There are more than two sides, and I hope I've answered the question.
posted by bh at 7:10 PM on March 6, 2005

Hmm, actualy I started watching Rush Limbaugh's TV show when I was kid (like middle school) when visiting my dad in texas. The show was funny and I started getting into it. Ended up becomming a big Rush fan and listening to the radio show, etc. And of course a big republican.

There was no pivotal moment when I turned away, but I wasn't able to listen to the show at school in Iowa so I didn't catch him very often. I remember being for Dole in '96, but by 2000 I didn't really care about politics at all. I registered as a Democrat in 2000 because the caucus site was closer and I thought it would be more fun to go to a democratic cacus then a republican cacus. I supported either Bill Bradly or John McCain. Hated Bush and Gore both.

(Side note, I did end up having fun at the cacus, a friend was on the bradly campaign, and we ended up driving from Ames to DesMoines to the campaign party (wich was pretty dull for us) with an amazingly hot blond chick we picked up)

I voted for nader on election day, as a "protest vote" but as the Florida Debacle played out I found myself rooting for gore.

And of course, I absolutly hate Bush. I was a Dean supporter this past time around, but if you look at his record, he's actualy pretty fiscaly responsible.

A big turn off for me from the republicans was their affiliation with the Religious right. I remember one conversation with a conservative that I sometimes point too as a "turning point"

We had been complaning about taxes, and then the guy turns to me and says "Well, you know why taxes are so high right, because of democrats like you."

"What, you think I'm a democrat because I'm black?"

"What, no, it was that evolution stuff you were talking about the other day."

That was quite a shock, and definetly made me reexamine my political outlook.
posted by delmoi at 7:10 PM on March 6, 2005

bh: I would definetly consider myself socialy libertarian, although not economicaly libertarian.
posted by delmoi at 7:13 PM on March 6, 2005

Most of the people I've known who've become more conservative (with or without becoming more Republican) have done so because they've gained more money, and started caring more and more about keeping what they had earned or received. Some others became more conservative as a response to Sept. 11 and the sense that maybe some things they thought were important were less so than they thought.

The people I've known who've become more liberal have done so because they read books and met people. There's no other way to put it. I grew up in a small, conservative town, and most of us were just by default a little bit conservative, and when we moved to the city and went to college, we realized our parents were kind of full of shit. It's anecdotal, but true.
posted by Hildago at 7:21 PM on March 6, 2005

When I was in grade school, I was liberal because everyone else was. Oooh, we must save the environment! Help homeless people! Fight evil corporations! Global warming will kill us all! Cuba is our friend! Ronald Reagan's grandstanding will provoke the Soviets and kill us all! (A little complicated for grade school, but I got it somehow.)

Then, starting in high school, my grandpa started challenging me at dinner whenever I'd go over for a visit. I'd say corporations were evil, he'd point out that without corporations, we wouldn't have things like cars, prescription drugs or the radio, CDs, etc. He forced me to think logically (instead of reacting emotionally) to current events, and he made me defend every belief or assertion I made. Even if he agreed with me, he'd play devil's advocate and argue against me, to help me strengthen my arguments.

Martin Luther once said that mankind is like a drunken man who, having fallen off of his horse, gets back on it and promptly falls off the other side. So of course, as High School progressed, I became a little Republican snot. Eventually I realized that I was arguing in favor of a bunch of things I didn't really believe in: I just thought I had to believe them because all of the popular Republicans did.

Now? I reject both party labels, and am wary about spectrum labels like "conservative" or "liberal". Am I conservative because I think government should be smaller? Or am I a liberal because I strongly believe we need to legalize pot?

In reality, I primarily care about economics and look at the world through an economics lens. In other words, I always look at proposed legislation with an eye to see what kinds of incentives will be created. No Child Left Behind, for instance, creates huge incentives for states to dumb down their curriculums as time goes on.

In a super-personal sense I'm probably more socially conservative than is good for me. But living in a pluralistic society means that I have to respect other people's weirdness if I'm going to expect them to respect mine. So I'm very much against abortion; just the thought of it makes me physically ill. But at the same time I'm glad it's legal. In other words, just because I believe something is right or wrong doesn't mean I think it would be a good idea to legistlate either for or against it.

I want to believe that unions have a net positive effect on people's lives in the 21st century in America, but I've heard far more horror stories resulting from union action (dozens) than positive ones (two), so I'm a bit down on unions.

To get back to your question, my grandpa's questioning did two things. Number one, it impressed upon me that I needed to have reasons for things that I believed, and that making things up on the spot wasn't going to cut it. And number two, (and far more importantly), that reasonable, honest, good people can be on both sides of contentious issues. This caused me to seek out other people's opinions and try to see arguments from both sides of the fence and make up my own mind, instead of letting my classmates or some academic wonk make up my mind for me.

(For what it's worth, I grew up dirt poor and even now I'm not rich by American standards. (By world standards I'm Donald Trump.) Lack of health care is a problem, sure, but is handing over control of health care to the government a good solution? Why not merge Medicaid and Medicare and then make the program cover poor people's medical costs? If the problem is that poor people can't afford medical care, then why not make the solution be "pay for poor people's medical care", instead of "pay for everyone's medical care"?)
posted by the_W at 8:09 PM on March 6, 2005

Same thing, in the reverse direction, for me, who grew up in liberal, Jewish-ish suburb.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:11 PM on March 6, 2005

I only know 2 people who switched from Dem to Repub (and they were because they lost people on 9/11 and got scared), and many people who have gone the other way throughout my life. I'll never switch.

Seniors often switch to Dem because they realize how much their life has been and is improved by Democratic social programs like SS and Medicare (or it's a selfish bread-and-butter thing for them, but i doubt it.)
posted by amberglow at 8:51 PM on March 6, 2005

As a teen I couldn't have been less interested in politics. Even today I seriously loath it. But I had an issue about pot. In 1975 it was very clear to me that far too much was messed up simply because of laws over weed. Thus, when the conversation came up with a prof. in college, I was easily recruited into the Libertarian Party.

In 1980 I watched Libertarians jump on the Reagan bandwagon. This bothered me a great deal and ended my direct involvement. A few years latter my partner then convinced me that, whatever value I still saw in libertarian ideals, the Democrats were going to be in position to do more for Gay rights. This brought my vote but I stayed away from personal involvement.

Another thing that pushed me leftward was the air traffic controllers strike. I had been largely anti-union because of what I saw as abuse, living as I did in General Motors land. But I was on the side of those controllers, and Reagan's action really pushed me hard.

The Clinton years gave me another 8 years of feeling comfortable ignoring politics, 'til the 2000 election. I'm quite serious in my belief in the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and basic democracy. I have been paying attention since, and the fake election drove me into the open arms of the liberals.

Since then, I have been indoctrinated/educated in leftwing values. I've always been socially liberal (mostly), but I've learned better understanding of economic liberalism too. I am fairly centrist, over-all, but I'll move whichever direction needs a push to bring things towards the center. I value both my libertarian influence as well as my new-found liberal understanding.
posted by Goofyy at 9:06 PM on March 6, 2005

Previous AskMe thread discussing something similar.
posted by invisible ink at 9:08 PM on March 6, 2005

I was a dittohead in high school (and, from conversations with people who knew me then, a real dick of a dittohead at that) and the VP of the College Republicans. Then I graduated, took some crappy jobs, was bedridden with whiplash for two weeks (no insurance). I took a job at a soulless corporation, and by 2000 was a fence-straddler; Gore seemed dirty, and Bush, while an idiot, had who I thought were good advisors (I voted for Nader). After the election, liberal members of an online music listserv started ranting and griping, and I tried to rebut them. Except, my words rang hollow even as I typed them - I couldn't defend a single one of my previously held beliefs. I did some research, and discoverd that Depression liberalism - taking care of people - resonated much more roundly in my personal belief system.
posted by notsnot at 9:52 PM on March 6, 2005

Me da was a libertarian and me ma was a Democrat. My schooling tended to the dippy liberal, but I sat next to a major dittohead in sixth grade (!) and my dad thought Clinton was a slimeball. (I have weird memories of me asking him for old National Lampoons, so he'd dig up Slick Willie magazine.)

Between all of this, it forced me to carve out a belief system from somewhat original materials, as there was no one strong influence to follow. So I considered myself a centrist until I found RAW, Noam Chomsky, and the Church of the Subgenius, and so forth, when I became convinced that politics is all so incredibly corrupt that the only way to live a decent life is to have as little as humanly feasible.

So I became something of a left-wing libertarian, stopping just short of anarchism. But, as I went through college, it occured to me more and more that, despite the corrupting influence of government power, certain controls were necessary evils - literal libertarianism is just as "theoretically perfect" as communism in that way.

So, now I'm a small government classical liberal, if I must have a label. Freedom and capitalism for all, with just enough controls in place to prevent the complete ass-rape of the masses.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:37 PM on March 6, 2005

Number one, it impressed upon me that I needed to have reasons for things that I believed, and that making things up on the spot wasn't going to cut it. And number two, (and far more importantly), that reasonable, honest, good people can be on both sides of contentious issues. This caused me to seek out other people's opinions and try to see arguments from both sides of the fence and make up my own mind, instead of letting my classmates or some academic wonk make up my mind for me.
- the_W

Wize words I can relate to.
posted by ruelle at 12:59 AM on March 7, 2005

That saying, to me at least, seems to just address the idealism of youth. Then as one has to fend for oneself, one must court the status quo instead of constantly fighting it.

I wonder if this is evolutionary. Always having younger people come out with new ideas and lots of energy to shake things up might be a good long term for survival.
posted by skallas at 1:03 AM on March 7, 2005

In my case it hasn't been a sudden switch, just a gradual drift. Twenty years of reading newspapers have moved me steadily towards the political centre. Having read so many doom-laden predictions that never came to pass, my inclination is to be sceptical of anyone who tells me the sky is falling.

Advancing age has also made me increasingly distrustful of people who try to sell me things. This has made me suspicious of consumer culture in general -- and that, in turn, has caused me to react strongly against the sort of free-market liberalism that allows consumer culture to flourish unchecked. (This post on Crooked Timber expresses my difficulties with liberalism much better than I could do myself.)

I also have a weakness for the company of young fogies, old reactionaries and religious traditionalists, whereas the company of religious liberals tends to leave me grinding my teeth with frustration. As a friend of mine likes to say: 'vote with the left, drink with the right'.
posted by verstegan at 4:24 AM on March 7, 2005

i think geoff. has a good point (society becoming more liberal), although i'm not sure that 's currently true in the usa.

as i have got older i think i've become more moderate, which you could argue means more conservative, but i think is better described as more distrust of extremes. i used to think extremists were necessary to give the center room to move. now i'm less sure. at the same time it's difficult to have much faith in consensus politics when you have a deep mistrust of populist polititians. bleagh.

i think perhaps, as you gain more experience in the world, you understand more, and a wider range of positions seem consistent (or at least comprehensible). i was just reading something on zmag and it made sense; but then so does something on the economist site.

trying again. i think my early more extreme left politics were based on a fairly shallow understanding of the world. as you get older, and see more of the world and how people are, you realise things are more complicated. that doesn't mean that you start believing in trite free market economics, but you start to understand that they show part of the story (perhaps abstracted in an unhelpful and/or misleading way). you don't throw away your initial compassionate ideas, but you realise that there's more than that. so you move to the centre, to some degree, which is to move rightwards.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:13 AM on March 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

Here in the midwest, we call this "Getting old and trying to get into heaven" syndrome (and I'm positive I've heard a comedian do a bit on this, but I digress.) I've watched my mother go from left-leaning moderate to right-leaning moderate in the last ten years or so, and it seems to me like she's looking for order in a chaotic world.

Dr. Laura really appeals to her, because Dr. Laura doesn't have a middle ground- you're either right, or you're wrong, and when California mayors started marrying gay couples, she got frustrated because members of the government were breaking the law (the left side of her was still thrilled for the couples. She's an interesting collection of contradictions.)

Anyway, as I've seen it from the outside here, the older and less certain of her health she gets, the more she seeks absolutes in her environment. The left is more, "Well, it depends on the situation," and the right is more, "Look, this is how it is," so she slides rightward in tiny increments.
posted by headspace at 6:37 AM on March 7, 2005

Count me in the "gradual drift" category. Republican/conservative when I was about 18, right-libertarian at about 26, left-libertarian at about 29, and libertarian-pragmatist at about 32. I can't identify any single experience which motivated my shifts (and they were by no means sudden epiphanies causing a wholesale change from one philosophy to another, just gradual changes in views over time), although my move away from Republicanism did to some extent coincide with the time I lived in Madison WI, a more liberal city than any I had lived in previously, so that may be related. Or it could just be coincidence.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:39 AM on March 7, 2005

As my father worked his way up the corporate food chain I saw him get more and more conservative and he used to vote Republican when he could be bothered to vote. He grew up in a very midwestern Republican family who were fiscally quite conservative but socially more liberal in a "I don't care what you do, please keep it out of my face" way. I think this made life a bit lonely for him since most of our family friends were more left-leaning. Since he's retired, I've seen him get more personally liberal as well as supporting more Democratic candidates in spirit, though I'm still not sure that he votes. I think he's more like the "disgusted with politics" response that some people cited above.

We talk politics a lot and I think a few things brought him slowly around, mostly having nothing at all to do with me.

- watching Republicans and others go after Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal days. I think this offended him that someone's private life would become such a focus at the expense of spending time on substantive policy issues. Complaining to me about this was the first time I have ever heard my father use the term "blow job"
- George Bush's response to 9/11 bothered him and he saw the national-level response as being more based on fear and not facts, ditto the Iraq response.
- watching the elections and watching both sides talk more about nebulous terms like security, freedom and strength and less about definiable terms like literacy, poverty and health worried him.

From my perspective, I grew into an adult person with many gay friends some of who were people my father had known since they were children. They were trying to go through the complicated business of partnering and starting families and even though I think my Dad still has a bit of a leftover squicky feeling about homosexuality, I think he's coming to terms with the idea that that feeling shouldn't drive policy issues like gay adoption and gay marriage/civil union things.

I've probably gotten more conservative over time, or at least less fringe-radical-left as I've worked more and more with different sorts of people both at my job and in professional organizations [and even on MeFi honestly]. It's just like andrew puts it

I think my early more extreme left politics were based on a fairly shallow understanding of the world ... you don't throw away your initial compassionate ideas, but you realise that there's more than that.

Not that left-wingers are shallow by any stretch, but that holding any extreme position sometimes closes off things you might want to do. For me, working in public libraries, I have to get along with all the people in them. I still am aggressive in support of intellectual freedom and the right to read and anti-censorship, but I know how to talk to people who hold different beliefs without thinking of them solely as "the enemy" which is a change from the me-at-18 person I was.
posted by jessamyn at 7:45 AM on March 7, 2005

I wonder if this is evolutionary. Always having younger people come out with new ideas and lots of energy to shake things up might be a good long term for survival.

I knew there was a correlation with The Innovator's Dilemma in here somewhere!
posted by idontlikewords at 8:33 AM on March 7, 2005

What event made you change, from one perspective to the other?

Accumulation of wealth. The liberal viewpoint tends to share the wealth while the conservative one tends toward consolidation (protection) of wealth. I haven't accumulated enough wealth yet to become one of those conservative bastards.
posted by Doohickie at 8:35 AM on March 7, 2005

No particular events, really, but growing cynicism about people and their motives, and just about human nature, have made me..not neccessarily more conservative, but definitely less liberal, or at least less patient with zealots, dewy eyed naifs, and the hateful (and those types are present and vocal across the political spectrum, in fact I think they dominate it).
posted by jonmc at 9:02 AM on March 7, 2005

and on the parental front, my dad went from Kennedy Democrat, to cynic, to "Reagan Democrat," to Clintonite. He's also starting listening to NPR and descibing himself as a "liberal." When I was a teenager he used to listen to angry white male talk radio a lot (not Limbaugh, thankfully, but he liked Morton Downey.)

My paternal grandfather was a lifelong Roosevelt New York Democrat, up until he called the local ward heeler for help with some thing and was brushed off. The next week he registered as a Republican. This was in the 70's, I think. So sometimes it's not monumental events observed from a distance but everyday bullshit, too, that changes political paths.
posted by jonmc at 9:07 AM on March 7, 2005

As a youngster, I allied myself with the Democratic party because Republicans have always wanted to spend more money on big, shiny killing toys than I thought necessary. Later, I decided I was a Libertarian because they wanted to legalize pot and I think that's a grand idea. After learning a little more about economics, I got turned off by the "I got mine, fuck you" side of Libertarianism and headed back towards Democrat. Now the Dems have gone too far to the right, and I've moved even further left.

I may become more moderate if our country gets over it's fundamentalist kick and quits trying to kill the poor and limit my rights just because I have baby-making capabilities but I think that for now, to preserve the things that I hold most dear, I have to stay as radical as possible. Not that it's hard to be radical in the US anymore. My pro-union stance alone is generally enough to get me branded as a commie, and all that's about is making sure people earn enough money to pay rent and are provided with adequate training and safety equipment for the jobs they do. Crazy, nutty ideas, I know.
posted by jennyb at 10:26 AM on March 7, 2005

Within my immediate circle of friends and family, I only know one person who crossed over the fence--my ex, who was a preppie sorority-girl Republican in the 80s, but is now a trailer-park dwelling Wiccan. And I'm not sure what did it for her, but if I had to guess at one critical factor, it would be the GOP's contempt for the environment.

I do know lots of people, myself included, who have veered from middle of the road to farther off to one side. I think politics in the USA today is polarized and polarizing by nature, so it's simply harder to stay in the middle.
posted by adamrice at 10:45 AM on March 7, 2005

... I became convinced that politics is all so incredibly corrupt that the only way to live a decent life is to have as little as humanly feasible.

I second the motion. Ich bin ein Subgenii.

What makes you switch sides? ... What event made you change, from one perspective to the other?

September 12, 2002.
posted by airguitar at 11:18 AM on March 7, 2005

(What a charade that was)
posted by airguitar at 11:23 AM on March 7, 2005

Thank you everyone, some very interesting responses. And thank you for not getting bogged down in semantics and answering the question, since I only used the quote as an example of a switch and am well aware of the nebulous nature of the labels.
posted by rooftop secrets at 12:07 PM on March 7, 2005

Not that it's hard to be radical in the US anymore. My pro-union stance alone is generally enough to get me branded as a commie, and all that's about is making sure people earn enough money to pay rent and are provided with adequate training and safety equipment for the jobs they do. Crazy, nutty ideas, I know.

Reminds me of the conversation I had with a Costco employee yesterday. A customer was loading a heavy box into his truck as I passed by. I stopped to help, and at about the same time an employeed showed up. After getting the truck loaded, I walked over to my little kimchi burner with the "Texas Democrat" and "Kerry-Edwards" stickers on the back, and the employee said something like, "See even Democrats can be helpful sometimes."

I answered that I shopped at Costco and not Sam's Club because of Costco's support for the Dems and he countered that it was only one of the two owners that supported the Dems. I counter-countered by pointing out that Costco was also a union house which also made them worthy of Dem support. Game, set & match. ;- )
posted by Doohickie at 7:59 PM on March 7, 2005

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