Is it normal to evolve your political ideology with age?
April 15, 2016 1:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 24-year old grad student who was raised in a very GOP household. I think I'm moving away from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party ideologically speaking. Is there something wrong with me? Is this normal?

I'm a 24-year old female 1%er based in a very conservative state within the US. As an undergraduate, I was extremely involved with College Republicans, majored in political science, and worked on several Senate campaigns and volunteered for Mitt Romney's 2012 run. My parents are major conservative PAC donors and highly involved in the GOP--I grew up attending donor dinners with my parents, and looking up to conservative leadership as the "de facto" correct party, never really questioning my beliefs until recently.

I feel a little guilty to say this, but I'm finding that I identify more with liberal policies international relations-wise, and am starting to become very disgusted with how unempathetic many GOP leaders come across in this presidential election as well as in general. I have much more respect for the rationality and pragmatism of the Democratic Party, but I'm so afraid of changing my political identification on my voter card, and "coming out" as a liberal, for fear of judgment by friends and family. Is it normal to have these kinds of thoughts? Am I doomed to be a RINO forever? Is it possible to be a very liberal Republican who disagrees with 99% of GOP issues, particularly those relating to the Christian-Right, abortion, and women's issues? I just can't take the lack of empathy or amount of misogyny within the GOP anymore.

This issue is even more important, because my boyfriend is a loud-and-proud Republican, and I find myself so disgusted with some of his Trump supporting comments, that I don't know what to do. It feels so weird that I'm growing and changing so much!

posted by aristotlefangirl to Human Relations (51 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You're growing up and finding your own way in the world. good for you. don't be ashamed to hold values that you're embracing from what you've learned or experienced, and don't be afraid to change even more as you mature.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:27 PM on April 15, 2016 [15 favorites]

Of course it's natural. You went to school to learn and broaden your mind, and that's exactly what you did.

There's nothing saying you need to hold the same political allegiances you did when you were younger, or that your family holds. I mean, it's not like changing sports teams...
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:29 PM on April 15, 2016 [14 favorites]

Totally common. Also, if watching some members of my law school class is any indication, it's also pretty common to go from left to right if you start working long hours and making a lot of money.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:30 PM on April 15, 2016 [14 favorites]


Often it goes in the other direction or appears to -- young progressive become old conservatives, either because they become more staid or because their personal politics never evolve as the world moves forward around them.

But if you're coming from a really conservative, entrenched upbringing, being exposed to the world and understanding more about how it works is likely to take you to a more middle ground, even if it doesn't ever make you a left-wing hippie.

There's a lot of denigration in political dialogue for flip-floppers. And it's true that people who consistently switch positions to whatever is politically expedient may lack moral character. But thoughtfully evolving your personal positions in response to new information is not flip-flopping, it's a sign of good character and growth as a person.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:31 PM on April 15, 2016 [26 favorites]

My goodness, this sounds healthy and normal. (I mean, obviously, as an extremely non-Republican person I would think it healthy, but that aside - !)

I think most people attain to a healthy shift away from their family's values about at least some significant stuff in their late teens through late twenties. That's part of deeply understanding yourself as a person separate from your family. I think it goes along with how many people from non-dysfunctional families tend to start thinking "you know, my parents made some mistakes, but I see them as individuals with their own challenges now rather than Giant Looming Mom and Dad who I must totally love or totally hate".

Changes I have undergone: my family is center-liberal; I'm an anarchist. My family is Lutheran; I'm an atheist. My family is very uncomfortable with drinking, dancing and drugs; I like to go dancing and sometimes even have a glass of wine or a cider. My family is very invested in the high culture of the 19th century as the best culture and the source of correct values; I am interested in the alternate reading of the 19th century - the Paris Commune, abolitionists, the revolutions of 1848, etc etc.

My feeling is that we tend to be very deeply shaped by our families in ways that are not always totally apparent in the moment, but that our conscious beliefs tend to evolve. I'm my family's kid, all right - we're all a bunch of weirdos, and I am weird in exactly the same way. This is true even though my family and I believe fairly different things at this point. I don't think you need to feel that you're drifting from your family merely because your beliefs are changing.

At the same time, I think you do end up negotiating a lot of stuff as beliefs change. I've had to have serious arguments with my family about stuff that is morally foundational for me, and funnily enough, I have observed my family to become a little more like me over time. It gives you a weird sense of power.

In short - yes, normal. Not necessarily a sign of disconnecting from your family, but you may still have some pretty serious conversations ahead of you.
posted by Frowner at 1:33 PM on April 15, 2016 [15 favorites]

It's absolutely normal to reevaluate the belief systems instilled in you from an early age once you're an adult and able to think more freely and come to your own conclusions. It's healthy!

Many people keep their political beliefs and activities to themselves, so there's no reason why anyone has to know how and why you vote a certain way unless you want to share it. However, for me, it would be a deal-breaker to be with a romantic partner with whom I didn't see eye-to-eye when it comes to issues that I think boil down to basic ethics and respect for an individual's civil rights. But, there are others who do manage partnerships with people who have very different values, I'm just not one of them.
posted by quince at 1:33 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I did basically the same thing when I was your age and in graduate school.
posted by 4ster at 1:33 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Of course nothing is wrong with you. Quite the opposite. Have you not heard the tale of the conservative kittens? Your eyes are open now.

(Full disclosure: I am neither left-wing nor right-wing but if I had to choose, I would be left-wing. I think that a lot of these polarized arguments, everyone is right to a large extent. But I say this with the benefit of age. One day you will be the same age as me, and then we will be equally wise and insightful.)
posted by tel3path at 1:36 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

As you get older, or really at any age, you get to decide what's right for you. Regardless of people around you or how you were brought up. In fact I think it's a very good thing when people decide for themselves through learning and experiencing what they want to believe in rather than just going with the status quo because Family.

For example I was raised in a private christian school and religious family. I realised I didn't think I fit in or believed in god starting around 7th grade. I'm now a liberal atheist. I've taken a lot of thought and care into the things I believe about religion, politics, and human rights. Yet I have family that thinks gay marriage is from satan and will ruin the world and their views literally disgust me.

You are your own person regardless of your upbringing. It's your choice what you want to believe and who you want to be.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:37 PM on April 15, 2016

Normal. But it's a little weird that you're worried about it and are seeking reassurance. There is nothing "wrong" with changing your mind or disagreeing with someone else. There is also nothing "wrong" with your family for holding the positions they hold and not changing their minds.
posted by SMPA at 1:37 PM on April 15, 2016 [11 favorites]

Also keep in mind that political parties are not carved in stone and immovable. The Republican party has moved very far to the right very fast in recent years. This has given the Democratic party cover to move farther right itself. Thus a lot of former moderate Republicans (like my wife) now find themselves outraged by the Republican party and angrily voting Democratic. My wife didn't change. The parties did.

So that could be part of what's going on with you too.
posted by Naberius at 1:38 PM on April 15, 2016 [36 favorites]

I can relate. Changing your mind is never wrong. I truly believe that the real problem to be worried about is avoiding change when you are presented with new information and/or start to feel differently about things.
posted by Shanda at 1:38 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Totally normal. You absorbed the information from your upbringing and now you are having different experiences and priorities so your perspective has changed. And I suspect it will change again and you move through your life.

My folks were conservative, I went to a lefty college and got more lefty. 20 years later, I've had a whole host of different experiences and lived all over the country and learned a lot more about politics and economics and society and I've changed again - mostly on the right side of the middle of the road. (I suspect than a lot people don't feel like their ideas and values with any one party so they mostly settle in the middle like me.)
posted by Beti at 1:38 PM on April 15, 2016

I think there are two issues; one is with the natural process that occurs when you leave home and learn more about politics and worldviews different than those you grew up with (which is what happened to me), and the other is the very real ugliness being displayed by the GOP this election, particularly for women. My own mother, who is 65 and has voted Republican her entire life, told me she doesn't know if she can vote for Hillary but she's definitely not going to vote for any of the Republicans this year, no matter who the nominee is, because of how she hears them talking about 'women's issues'.

As for advice about how to discuss this with your family and your boyfriend, I don't have any advice about that. Perhaps others do. It's hard to find yourself growing out of an ideology you were raised to believe in, I know.
posted by stellaluna at 1:38 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

The only issue here is how you're going to deal with your family and your boyfriend. I, personally, wouldn't be able to maintain a relationship with someone whose political views disgusted me, but you have more insight into what it's like to be a conservative, so maybe it'll be fine.

For your family, I'd maybe tell them that you're taking a break from politics and don't want to participate in discussions involving ideology or whatever. I did the same thing with my dad about another issue, and 20 years later I finally felt comfortable and world-experienced enough to start telling him when I think he's wrong and why, and it's been polite and productive, which would not have been the case in my younger years.
posted by Huck500 at 1:52 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think it's normal to absorb your parents values as a kid and then maybe change them when you get older. It's also normal to have a simpler understanding of the world, like what we are taught in 8th grade civics class, and then develop a more complex view of intended and unintended consequences of policies. (The things that Trump says that aren't straight up gross are grossly oversimplified.)
posted by puddledork at 1:53 PM on April 15, 2016

This happened to me. I was dyed-in-the-wool conservative Republican in High School, College, and for several years thereafter. I was damn proud of that, too. I loved arguing with my friends about politics (for many years, I was surrounded by bleeding hearts, and I carried the conservative standard into battle with them).

A lot of things slowly started affecting me, though, and my ideology began to change: I married my wife, I converted to Catholicism, I began working in Parks and Recreation. It was an insidious process. I started out saying I was a Libertarian, and I held on to that for a long time, even after I recognized the truth in an acquaintance's assessment of that: "Libertarianism: the refuge of republicans who are getting embarrassed."

I was raised in very conservative Oklahoma, and though my family is full of registered Democrats, because that's what you do, they vote very, very Republican. I don't talk about politics with them much any more.

As for me? I think I may be a Socialist now. So don't fret. It has always been very important to me that I keep an open mind and try to understand other points of view. When I was in the most fervent stages of conservatism, I probably didn't do a very good job at that, but fortunately I was able to let some different thinking in. That may be what you're experiencing. You can still love your family and your friends if you think differently from them.
posted by Shohn at 2:05 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

It happens to all of us, actually: growing up and forming our own opinions, making our own decisions, not just parroting what we grew up with. This is neither good nor bad; it's just a consequence of learning to think for ourselves and deciding what we as an individual agree/disagree with and support/do not support, as opposed to a child merely repeating whatever his parents said.

Thinking things through for yourself can lead you to follow your parents' political opinions, totally reverse them or choose some middle ground; it can lead you to the same or different religious beliefs; it might take you to a similar education and career and lifestyle or to something wildly different --- but it's all good, and we all go through it.
posted by easily confused at 2:11 PM on April 15, 2016

Changing one's politics as one ages is so normal that there are many sayings about it: one is If You Are Not a Liberal at 25, You Have No Heart. If You Are Not a Conservative at 35 You Have No Brain.
posted by Carol Anne at 2:12 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was a self-described (at the time) "right wing asshole" in my 20s. Kinda, I identified as an Objectivist Libertarian, I think I've read everything Ayn Rand ever wrote for publication.

Two and change decades later I'm not sure I totally identify as "Progressive", but at some point in the intervening years I checked my premises, and found that my premises were wrong. People do not have a simple carrot/stick motivation. Systems have externalities. Inherited wealth leads to monarchy if not checked.

Nothing at all wrong with your beliefs evolving, it meas you're open to learning things from experience.
posted by straw at 2:22 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm also from a more conservative background but found myself becoming more radicalized in my early 20s (and have course-corrected a bit more towards Liberal Democrat from Revolutionary Anarchist in my 30s).

It is really typical to change, politically, once you become more informed on the issues or politically active. There is nothing wrong with it, or unusual, or flighty. You grew up, learned about the world, possibly your circumstances/way of seeing things shifted, and thus now here you are.

I also think that Trump, himself, can throw a lot of this into stark relief. Because, firstly, someone who wasn't really thinking a lot about politics but just accepting received Republican Party wisdom might be shocked awake by the Trump candidacy. Also, suddenly the people around you are spouting fairly radical proto-fascist stuff rather than the usual "I'm a fiscal conservative" or "teach the controversy" lines you hear from relatively sane conservatives, suddenly you realize what you're actually dealing with. So go you for hearing that and realizing how fucked up it is rather than trying to continue the fiction!

I don't have any advice in particular, aside from following your heart and that you're not crazy. Also try not to talk politics a lot at home unless you LOVE getting into arguments.
posted by Sara C. at 2:29 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think you already know the answer — yes, your political philosophy can evolve as you age. That's what happens to the vast majority of human beings.

What you seem to be asking, and what you seem to be scared about, is what will happen if you stop labeling yourself as a Republican. This feels scary because our self-conceptions are highly entwined with the labels we give ourselves and the tribes we belong to. And in your case, this sounds like it will be a disruptive change both internally and externally. Certainly you'll stop campaigning for GOP candidates or attending GOP fundraisers, and if your social circles are full of GOP die-hards, then it's quite likely that you'll see those people less often as a result.

So, yes, this will have an impact on your social life. I don't know your parents, but if they would ostracize you based on political beliefs that you hold in good faith, then that's their lamentable decision. Based on how you describe your boyfriend, I'm not optimistic that you can change his mind about Trump or at least broach détente. So you'll have to decide: do you pull the band-aid off and deal with the fallout? Or do you come up with more and more convoluted ways of soothing your cognitive dissonance?

You ask: “Is it possible to be a very liberal Republican who disagrees with 99% of GOP issues, particularly those relating to the Christian-Right, abortion, and women's issues?” The answer is yes and no — mostly no. Certainly you can call yourself whatever you like, but I imagine it would cause you anguish to campaign for people and vote for people who share only 1% of your political views. (Unless that 1% was so very important that it dwarfed the rest, but if that were true I doubt you'd be asking this question.) So either you bear that anguish and let it abrade your soul over a matter of years, or you vote for Democrats. Otherwise the only difference is whose mailing list you're on and, depending on your state, which primary you are allowed to vote in.

You can probably guess what I think you should do. Don't make yourself small. Don't tell yourself that you have an obligation to go along with a coalition that doesn't address the issues you care about. Living a lie means wounding yourself in a way that never truly heals, because it's a wound that you aggravate in tiny ways every single day of your life.

If you like, you can recast yourself as an independent rather than throw in with a different tribe all at once. When your boyfriend says something about Trump, push back on it — don't blow up at him as though it were the last straw, but let it be known that you disagree. Vote your conscience and don't raise money for candidates you dislike. You don't have to have a “coming out” announcement; you can just change your behavior and give matter-of-fact answers once people notice. If your friends or family ask you why, or try to argue with you, you're free to tell them why, but you don't have to explain yourself if you don't want to. If anyone treats you worse than they did before, it'll be because they chose to do so, and in so doing they will reveal unbecoming parts of themselves.
posted by savetheclocktower at 2:34 PM on April 15, 2016 [12 favorites]

I think the only thing I would be cautious of is going directly from one position to the other without considering the middle positions - it sometimes has a pendulum effect, and people swing back. (I had one friend who went from Republican to communist to far-right Republican and it was weiiiiiird).

However, I will say it's totally possible to be a socially liberal Republican, especially as a woman and depending on your location, we sometimes have cookies.
posted by corb at 2:38 PM on April 15, 2016

I grew up something like mainstream Republican, and I started changing that view sometime in my early 20s (now I'm pretty lefty, but honestly at least some of it is that the meaning of "Republican" has shifted so far right that I just didn't fit anymore.. these definitions do shift over time).

I chose mostly to not talk to my parents about it, to the point that I think they only started to grasp just how liberal I am within the last couple of years (I am now 35). Part of how I managed this was by continuing to talk about the things I still agreed with - even and especially when I felt the Republicans didn't really represent those views any longer.

Today I mostly don't talk politics with relations (mother included) who want to repeat talking points or reinforce their set world view. I *do* talk about specific issues with other family members (dad included, mom on a few things) especially when it's a discussion involving facts and reason as opposed to simple political noise. I try not to bring my own political noise, although I certainly have it (if my mood in political discussions were a soundtrack, it'd repeat "universal basic income" just below audible range basically constantly).

So for you- call yourself whatever you like, in your own head and to your friends. Call yourself a Republican who doesn't like where the party is going (you sure won't be alone) (If you choose this route do the rest of us a favor and work to change it, will you?). Call yourself an Independent who doesn't buy the horserace party-line nature of the US two-party system. Call yourself a Dem or a Green or a Libertarian if you like. You don't have to tell your folks if you don't want, although do be aware if you choose to donate to anyone you'll get mail related to it for the rest of your natural life. And in many states voter registration is public info.

It's completely normal, and I think good, to change your viewpoint when new information comes in. You weren't stamped at birth with an ideology -- good!

As for the boyfriend thing can't help you there; agreement on women's issues and abortion and religiosity is for me required for dating purposes.
posted by nat at 2:47 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Marxist child of Limbaugh-loving Republicans here. I'm "the one they went wrong with" and will always be, but we basically just avoid discussing politics (and many related issues) when I'm around. I live 5000 miles away from most of my family, so it's not a big deal in my daily life. I started becoming more liberal in the later years of high school, and by the time I was in college was a full-blown lefty protesting the Iraq war and walking picket lines with union workers. It happens, it's completely normal.

With family, I avoid all discussion of: the news, elections, sexism, racism, terrorism, LGBT rights, sexual assault, welfare, religion, education policy, childbearing/childrearing decisions, cultural appropriation, Israel, Obama, the economy, workers rights, etc. I will discuss taxes, but only because I'm a tax lawyer (and after 9 years of post-secondary education and nearly a decade in practice, they're finally starting to actually believe that I'm a reliable source on tax policy -- though they're still convinced I'll become a Republican any day now). It's hardest at holidays when the extended family is there and everyone is talking about news/political issues they all agree on and I'm just sitting there quietly eating mashed potatoes, but you get used to it - I spend a lot of time doing dishes or playing with my nieces/nephews or taking the dog out for a walk; basically separating myself from the convo as much as possible.

I would not be able to be in a relationship with someone who did not share my views with respect to social and economic justice. I know people who are in relationships with people who share opposing views on some issues though (gun control, for example) and still make it work. You'll need to decide for yourself whether this is a dealbreaker for you as your views evolve - this will likely depend on how accepting your SO is of your views. I would spend some time reading some of the MeTa threads where people discuss productive vs unproductive ways to discuss these contentious topics (e.g., cultural appropriation, sexism, etc.). The one thing I regret doing as a young 20s liberal was engaging in so many pointless arguments with people who were not really arguing in good faith (JAQ-ing off, derailing, etc.). The one I often get from my family is the paradox of tolerance.

One of the most valuable or freeing things I learned in my 20s is to accept that I can just choose not to engage in a discussion about Topic X with a person who disagrees with me. It's ok to not want to argue about stuff. It doesn't make your views any less intellectually rigorous. This will make it easier with your family as well. Feeling like I had to be the voice-of-all-leftists was really stressful (see also: the only woman in a room of men talking about sexism; the only POC in a room of white people talking about racism). Don't get tricked into "educating" someone who is not actually interested in learning.
posted by melissasaurus at 2:56 PM on April 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

You're fine. It's unusual to change your party ID, but only in the same way that it's unusual to, I dunno, be born in February.

By the same token you would not be a giant weirdo in the GOP -- in 2012 23% of GOP identifiers agreed that a woman should always be able to get an abortion, 20% favored same sex marriage, 55% weren't born-agains, 30% seldom or never go to church(etc). Your wing is just losing the battle for the party right now, is all.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:19 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

I mean, you're very normal and you shouldn't worry, but it is pretty funny to find someone asking this question on Metafilter of all places. Of course we're going to praise you for considering a move to the Democrats. It would be very interesting to see what would happen if someone posted a similar question but moving the opposite direction.
posted by crazy with stars at 3:36 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Two things.

First, changing you self identity is really, really hard. If part of your self identity is that you're a republican then you should expect some discomfort if you realize that, ideologically, you're not. This has everything to do with our concept of self, independent of politics. It's the same thing for people who get laid off from a long-time job, or who come out as gay or trans, or whatever.

Second, recognize that the label is not the thing. You have beliefs that would probably still be there regardless of what political parties are current advocating. You should think along the lines of "This label is the best match to my beliefs" as opposed to "I am a member of the X political party, therefore I believe so-and-such." The map is not the territory.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 4:03 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

It would be very interesting to see what would happen if someone posted a similar question but moving the opposite direction.
I would encourage anyone to vote for what they think is right. It is not anyone's opinion who you vote for or why you choose to vote for one candidate over another, or why you choose your party affiliation, or whatever. People choose all kinds of crazy reasons to vote for someone, including liking their name or their gender or their stance on one policy without regard to any of their other stances. And this is a democracy, where everyone has the right to vote how they see fit.

I think it's a travesty that we must publically register our party affiliation. You may choose not to and abstain from primary voting if that is how your state works. Sure, primaries are very important, but most people abstain from them due to sheer laziness. It's OK to abstain because you don't want to register a new affiliation. Or you can register as independent and if anyone asks (no one will, but if someone with poor boundaries does), you can honestly say it's because you think your affiliation is private and shouldn't be registered with the government - a stance that would appeal to many people on both sides of the aisle.

You should do whatever you think is right for you. You don't even have to be honest with people about your votes. I never tell anyone how I voted because it is no one's business. It might become too hard to stay quiet, especially with your boyfriend, but it's OK to figure this out internally and deal with it however you want.

Also you ask if change like this is normal. Yes, as we experience the world more, we change. It's always good to question your core.

Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 4:29 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're getting a lot of generalized feedback on the concepts of identity change, personal development, etc., which is fine, but your question is also a specific one about coming to repudiate bigotry and moving politically towards empathy. In that way, yes, I think your change is not just "okay" but is terrific. I would not say the same thing to someone who used to be a social worker asking a similar question about increasingly considering campaigning for Donald Trump.
posted by threeants at 4:36 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Healthy and normal, though unfortunately, this kind of thing can also be painful. Finding out that your core values are not the same as those of people you love (or loved) can hurt. That doesn't mean it's not right; it just means that some changes are harder than others. Hang in there and keep growing.
posted by wintersweet at 4:46 PM on April 15, 2016

Agreeing with everyone else that this is totally normal, but do want to reinforce the caution that now is not the time to engage your parents/boyfriend in serious debate. These things can get way too personal way too fast. Perhaps spend some time just observing others perspectives, give yourself some time to see how you react to your relation's beliefs. Just like none of your left leaning friends could have convinced you to be a democrat when you were in college, you're not going to change the political orientation of your family and friends (and since you're newer to the opposing perspective will not be in a strong position to debate).
posted by lab.beetle at 4:51 PM on April 15, 2016

My parents are libertarian Objectivists. I'm a social democrat. I wavered back and forth between those two extremes through high school and college but landed firmly on the left by the time I was your age. For as much as we talk about teenagers rebelling, it's actually usually the case that teenagers still have the political beliefs of their parents and its usually in the twenties that children move away from the political ideologies of their parents. Which is just to say that you are totally, completely normal. And welcome to the other side of the aisle.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:52 PM on April 15, 2016

I think that discovering you were wrong about something and embracing that change is one of the most exhilarating things you can do as an adult. There is just something so liberating about saying "I was wrong." I've also been stuck feeling like I've painted myself into a corner and can't admit it was a mistake and that is a really shitty feeling, no joy in that whatsoever. Try embracing change, you'll like it. And if you then find you were wrong to change, you can always go back to the GOP, and enjoy the feeling of saying you were wrong all over again.
posted by HotToddy at 4:59 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, one thing I did want to say, returning for around of campaign calling, if your parents are super involved with the GOP, someone who is reviewing the voter rolls will in fact tell them you've switched your party affiliation. We're going over voter rolls right now, and it's pretty easy to see who is registered at the party and who's not. If you don't care too much about the primaries, you may want to just vote Democrat and leave your allegiance officially Republican for a while.
posted by corb at 5:07 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yep, it is totally normal to evolve your beliefs throughout your life. Just in this room there's a picture of my dad from LIFE magazine supporting Nixon during his college years, along with picture of him smiling and shaking hands with George H.W. Bush back in the late 90s.

In 2008 he voted for Obama.
posted by CarolynG at 5:33 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

You're fine. You are allowed to learn as you go along.

By the way, the liberal/conservative divide isn't a steep-walled canyon. All kinds of permutations happen here. Your family won't be the first to be bitterly divided by politics--this sucks, but civility barely works, and anyway it can't be maintained for long periods of time. Integrity is expensive, and sometimes it hurts.

Welcome to the club.
posted by mule98J at 5:54 PM on April 15, 2016

It is totally normal to be freaked out by the prospect of being judged by friends and family! After all, we're social animals. What may help you feel more confident is cultivating friendships with people whose politics resemble your current ones: being able to talk openly about what you really believe, without having to fear disapproval, can bolster your feelings of connectedness and security. You may also be interested in finding other people who have gone through a similar political journey, since you're likely to be able to share common experiences and can support each other.

If your relationship with your parents has been good up until now, I'd say that while things might get strained if you start being more open about your new political affiliation, it's likely that it won't irreversibly wreck your relationship (though you may have to put up with awkward holidays and a certain amount of well-meaning parental condescension). The situation with your boyfriend is tough without knowing more details. It's possible that this is something you guys can work out, but it's also possible it's a dealbreaker for one of you. There's no way to know for sure, though, without saying something when his comments bother you (e.g., "you know, I really disagree with that"). How he responds will, I think, give you a lot of information about how to proceed. There's also a great section on withstanding criticism in perennial AskMe fave Feeling Good that could also be useful for having these conversations (assertiveness training books also often have good suggestions for cordially but firmly disagreeing with someone).
posted by en forme de poire at 6:21 PM on April 15, 2016

I was VP of college Republicans. I voted for Jill Stein (Green Party) in 2012, and Bernie in the democratic primary his year. You are fine, better than fine actually.
posted by COD at 6:31 PM on April 15, 2016

Everything you said made sense to me. Tells me your paying attention.

Regarding your boyfriend and family? Well the family piece you don't really need to come out about (plenty of people disagree with their families on politics and just stay mum), but if you are disgusted by the things your boyfriend says remember he isn't really talking about other people (especially if he is referring to women) - he is talking about you. Whether you are comfortable being with someone who feels that way about you, is probably the next step on the contemplation train.
posted by Toddles at 6:55 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

There's nothing wrong with you, honey, you just grew a concience. Good for you.
posted by sexyrobot at 7:01 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

As a moderate Republican, allow me to make a case for you to remain a Republican. Whe I was your age, we still had a moderate wing of the party: Jim Jeffords, Lincoln Chafee, Arlen Specter, Chris Shays, Christie Whitman, et al. With the exception of the two senators from Maine, there's nobody really on the national stage like that anymore, and not coincidentally, the GOP has kind of gone nuts. There has always been a crazy wing, but we used to be able to balance them out. No matter where your (perfectly normal) ideological evolution takes you, I think it'd be nice for you to stay in the GOP to fight some of the Trump/Cruz/Paul Ryan types from the inside.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:43 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

It sounds like the above respondents covered most every point. It is also possible that you haven't changed that much and the Republican party has. Even Romney has been vociferously anti-Trump. Bob Dole has been outspoken against Cruz. That sort of thing didn't happen much in the past. (I'll claim ignorance, but maybe the last time it happened to this degree was when Teddy Roosevelt went full-throttle against Taft?)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:50 PM on April 15, 2016

This is such a common occurrence that it's basically a cliché at this point. I think it would actually be much more concerning if your views and opinions weren't changing at all while in college, to be honest. You're totally okay.
posted by palomar at 1:09 AM on April 16, 2016

I'm left-leaning though my family was and mostly still are conservative (one other family member has crossed over). We rarely discuss politics in the family, it's not worth it. Sometimes family members assume things about me that are really crazy, since they know me, and we have a chat about that. I am very close with the sibling I am most at odds with politically - at the end of the day, what counts is our familial love and care.
Mostly, I feel it is an advantage for me that I understand both sides. I am not directly involved in politics, but I am on a couple of boards which are politically charged, and I can often mediate and help find solutions. Conservatives trust me as a socialist they can talk with.

I'm reading Hilary Clinton's "Living History", and she writes about this.
posted by mumimor at 3:29 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've found as I get older that political identity is not two-dimensional, that it depends not just on how far "left" or "right" one moves, but on a lot of different factors--other facets of one's identity such as gender, race and/or one's views on racial justice, one's ability to make sense of nuance, one's grasp of historical context--and...particularly as a result of this campaign...that ideological purity is not necessarily a virtue, and that uncritical acceptance is rampant across the political spectrum...not just the opposing side's part of the spectrum. I'm still coming to terms with that last one.

I used to think that political position moderated with age because, as one commenter above has put it, people become more "staid" in midlife and their politics don't change, and in some cases that may be true, but as one gets older one also realizes that the world is too complex for the kind of simple, one-note solutions that seemed so perfectly clear when one was a young adult, and also that relationships (among people, groups, entities) are just as important as (or more important than) abstract ideas.
posted by tully_monster at 4:23 AM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

You are fine, but may need to rethink that boyfriend if he is a Trump supporter. Republican is one thing, some of my best friends are Republicans:-) We live in a heavily Republican area, our town council has not had a Democrat even run for office in years. I had liberal leaning toward socialist parents as did my husband, we are like my parents left-leaning liberals and love Bernie. My kids range from not political at all, moderate Independent to very liberal, but nobody I know including conservative Republican friends can stand Trump.

As everyone else has said, college is the time to question and form your own values and what you are doing is totally normal. Also the current slate of Republican candidates, with Trump being the most extreme, are not what I remember the Republican party representing for most of my lifetime.
posted by mermayd at 4:41 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Me: Republican at 18, right-libertarian at 25, left-libertarian at 30, liberal Democrat (although perhaps not liberal by MetaFilter standards) at 40. So yes, I think it's normal to evolve over time.

(My standard joke: It's been said that anyone who is a conservative at 20 has no heart, and anyone who is a liberal at 40 has no brain. If this is true I have neither a heart nor a brain.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:07 AM on April 16, 2016

Without the ability to change our minds, we lose the ability to learn. You are learning. You will continue to learn throughout your life, and you will adapt to the information you have. This can be very uncomfortable but it is healthy.
posted by sadmadglad at 6:46 AM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I grew up super republican and was a semi-pro Republican right after college. I was already secretly waivering then and voted for John Kerry from within the closet (politically speaking). I'm still friendly with former co-workers, and some of them have subsequently come out liberal, too. It's a thing that happens. Not a big deal.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 4:34 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been there! You are getting very good insights above, but I just wanted to say, from a person who's been through it: I am sending you good thoughts from afar. I know it's hard and scary. The phrase "Oh, let's not talk about politics, it's a holiday! wherever did you find the recipe for this delicious pie?" is your friend.

I know it feels like you need to make a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT but you probably don't. You can just speak up quietly in the moment when someone says something you really object to ("No, Bob, actually, that's a really racist thing to say and I don't agree." "Actually, I don't think torture is something we should be trying to do more of, and I can't support a candidate who does.") and let them figure it out.

(Also, at some point, someone may say "OH NOES, you went off to college and became a liberal!" You will want to deny this, because you have grown up hearing that as The Worst Thing To Be, Ever. But it really takes the wind out of the sails of that argument if you just agree. "Sure did, Aunt Ida!" "Yup, that's me." "You know, I've learned a lot, and I don't always think the same as I used to, but one thing that hasn't changed is how much I love you, mom." Etc.)
posted by oblique red at 12:44 PM on April 19, 2016

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