Why Do You Vote the Way You Do?

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Why Do You Vote the Way You Do?

By Dustin Rowles | Comment Diversions | November 8, 2012 | Comments ()

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Given the way our country is so evenly split down the middle, I've been thinking a lot lately about why 300 million people who grew up in the same country, surrounded by the same television shows, and exposed to the same national candidates would split so evenly. What, indeed, would shape most of our beliefs in such demographically friendly terms? I keep hearing about this majority coalition that President Obama put together to win the election, and I can't help but think how cynical and reductive that is: We have all been divvied up according to our gender, race, sexual orientation, and region like cattle, but then again, the math doesn't lie. People in the same demographics vote the same ways. We are statistics: Poll a random sampling of 1,000 people, and you know how the other 300 million think.

But why do we think the way we do? Many studies suggest that biology is behind the way we vote:

"An increasing number of studies suggest that biology can exert a significant influence on political beliefs and behaviors ... Biological factors including genes, hormone levels and neurotransmitter systems may partly shape people's attitudes on political issues such as welfare, immigration, same-sex marriage and war. And shrewd politicians might be able to take advantage of those biological levers through clever advertisements aimed at voters' primal emotions."

Some twin studies suggest that genetics may be behind our political beliefs.

Others studies suggest that it's not just education that shapes your political beliefs, but what you choose to study, linking college majors to your politics.

Most previous studies that look at the link between education and civic behavior simplyinclude a control for the amount of education a person has. This implies "being educated" influences a person's civic behavior, but it ignores the possibility that the content of what a person is learning might also influence behavior ... But our results clearly suggest there is more to the story than simply "being educated" - so that what people study in college, or what they choose to study, is associated with their civic behaviors many years after they graduate.

Your faith, television coverage, and the way your parents raise you, obviously, can all be factors in the way you think, politically, as well. But for many of us, there must be one bigger driving force behind the way we think, right? Are we all so predictable? Do we all fit into such neat patterns?

I'm trying to get a handle on why I am liberal, but I can't quite place my finger on it. My father was gay, but he was also an uneducated man, something of a racist, and listened to a lot of Rush Limbaugh. Judging by their Facebook posts, the rest of my nuclear and extended family would most likely align themselves with the Tea Party. It's possible, and quite likely, that my views were shaped by Bill Clinton, the one thing about my home state that I didn't reject growing up. I gravitated toward him hard, and he was likely the single biggest reason I chose to leave the state, attend law school, and reject the politics of my family.

Maybe that is what will happen to an entire generation of malleable people who have gravitated toward Obama: He will be the presence that steers their politics. There are worse things than a magnetic, charismatic, and intelligent man influencing the politics of millions of high-school and college students who are just now settling on a political ideology, but then again, maybe I only think that way about Obama because of the college major I chose.

So I put that question to the rest of you: Why do you believe the way you do? Can you identify the influences that led to the way you voted on Tuesday?

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • BierceAmbrose

    Fine, EE sent me here, again, so I'll chime in.

    I vote the way I do because I'm right, dammit.

    No, wait. That's not it. Um, I vote the way I do because I'm a soulless, evil troll seeking to live off small children's tears and despair. Well, it doesn't seem that way to me. Um...

    I really start with the machinery, this vast, creaking, mindless apparatus with unthinkable powers and inertia. How to let the Iron Giant be useful, without trampling everybody?

    I vote mostly to choose the way we'll be wrong - the failure mode - more than the particular promised "right." I do this because most things we try don't work. In engineering or product development we can unwind the mistakes. In politics not so much. None of these would be my preference, except that so many people essentially suck, and they vote, and the worst of them get into politics because that's the one mostly useless thing they can do at all.

    I vote the way I do because I think government is dangerous and easily hijacked, because I think individual people each have the best idea of what is important to them, that we're not nearly so clear on how to get what we want as we'd like to be (Damn that complicated reality!), and because when you work through government there is no "helping" one without harming another.

    I think government attracts people who think they know best for everybody, are consumed by power-lust (or a need to be loved), or both, then isolates them from the consequences of their decisions. I don't see a lot of Congress-critters evicted from the Fiscal Crisis, or living in tents two weeks after the not-a-hurricane-says-Christie. WTF?

    Really, I vote looking for what will cause the least damage in an otherwise malignant suck-ocracy.

    For us citizens, proles sheeple, I am deeply suspicious of the attractions of membership, and charismatic leaders. "I'm a Democrat / Republican / Communist / Green / Libertarian." makes me twitch. "I'm for Obama / Bush / Clint Eastwood / Tom Hanks" makes me twitch worse. Be for yourself & your fellow fodder first. These people are our agents, or should be.

    In politics, parties take on their own lives, being about securing power for the party. Their positions are fodder. They promote membership as meaning to the gullible lost, and power to the corrupt. If you play along, you can be a rube, or a thug. These are your choices. They peddle charismatic "leaders" to make people not think. Keep you desperate, filled with emptiness and the God-King becomes a vehicle for delivering meaning you should be making yourself. (I don't care whether the flavor of hoodwinking is Greek columns at an acceptance speech or rallying unthinking enthusiasm to "Ammurika" and permanent war.)

    I am not a member of a party. I'm quite satisfied on my own. From politi-criters I want to know: What will you do? Does it make sense? Why should I believe it will work? and Why should I trust you?

    About all of this, I am right.

    - I'll vote Libertarian before Green. I think it's less dangerous to leave some good we could do on the table, than the unlimited empowerment sought by Greens, even for good causes.

    - I'll vote for "gridlock" because they're all lying sacks. The only chance we have of hearing what's really going on is with an opposition. I'd rather people talked sense, but since in politics they can't, I'll take the vicious mud-slinging of power-mongers on the other side to get things aired out.

    - I'll occasionally hold my nose and vote Republi-tard, if there's a candidate who looks like they'll be backed into doing sensible stuff because the other guys have staked out so much turf. In the US, the Republicans are self-serving, stupid and corrupt, so use with caution.

    - I less often hold my nose and vote for a Demo-gogue. Once in a while they have a candidate who's thinking, and one more rep / senator / county commissioner / whatever won't do too much damage. They are uncomfortably self-righteous, thinking the ends justify any means - they are self-serving, corrupt and stupid.

    - You'll never find me voting Labor Party, Communist, Socialist, or any of those variations. They seem too much aggrieved subgroups demanding their due to be any kind of sane bet.


    "The Zero-Sum Society" is a mostly brilliant book by Lester Thurow, an MIT economist & former Dean of their business school. I say "mostly brilliant" because the first 3/4 of the book lays out a meticulously constructed, footnoted, clear and testable theory for why 1) Government encroachment will always grow and 2) However it started, It'll mostly become wrong over time. He argues purely from the self-interest of the citizenry. His book would fall under "public choice theory" these days.

    Brilliant guy.

    The last chunk of Zero Sum amounts to "nationalize everything - that'll solve this", without any attempt at demonstrating *why* that would work. After chapters of tight reasoning I was shocked. I went looking for the missing section, Surely, the careful, methodical thinker I'd just read couldn't just leap to "nationalize everything." Nope. No missing chapters.

    It's no surprise that the panels and commissions running everything in the back end of Mr. Thurow's book are populated by people pretty much like him. He knows he's on the side of the angels, and can't be fooled. Knows as in feels. There's no evidence, as he's never run an economy.

    Here's the other kicker - What about people who know stuff you don't? Think like you can't? Prefer what you don't? I spent an amusing evening not long ago when a good friend learned I used to ride motorcycles. The risk is not worth any possible reward. (It bugs her that I ride bicycles in traffic, too.) But, I like it.

    Now, I expect any MIT professor and eventual Dean to think of himself as a Smart Guy(tm). I might even listen to that guy's theories. Yet, *thinking doesn't make it so* even when you're a very smart guy at MIT. I've known enough MIT grads. Their gift in my experience it to be conceptually pristine and pragmatically wrong. The MIT guys who do Great Things(tm) are the ones who can *also* grapple with reality. Maybe 3% of them.

    Politics seems to attract people way surer about how the world works, what's good for me, and what I should prefer, even than MIT guys.

    So, Lester, if you would do this, explain to me *why* this will work. Start by explaining why the ministers and functionaries don't themselves form an interest group with their own agenda, just like the bad actors in the first 3/4 of your book. Then, explain why, even if pure as angels in their own disinterest, they won't be subject to the same interest-group influence as elected government. Do we isolate them from all feedback from the sheeple? Choose them for being immune to human praise, accusation or pleading?

    Last, and this one's the killer, explain how the appointed Ubermensch will be smart enough and informed enough to make their sweeping decisions as anything more than guesses. If you want to run a comprehensive industrial policy, start by explaining how you'll see stuff like the internet coming. You'll have my attention when you can explain how this time you won't be surprised by compact florescents not lasting as long as advertised, oops there's mercury, of gosh darn it, smaller flushes leaves crap accumulating in the sewers.

    I would like the fine folks proposing solutions to explain *why* their solution will work with test points - what to look for out in the world, to see if it's working as we intended. I'd like to understand how to shut it down if it doesn't work. This last is the pivot of Thurow's argument - any program will produce constituencies deeply invested in the program, while the rest of us are not so interested. Played out in politics, committed minorities will dominate what happens even when that's opposed by everybody else, but just a little. Wash, rinse, repeat to build institutions, ever larger and ever more dysfunctional.

    There's a similar take in Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s "The Cycles of American History." These two guys are kinda-left and pretty damn left, respectively. These are not "conservative" critiques.

    The folks who propose solutions with the force of law give themselves a pass on *why it will work* every time. And when something doesn't work, we'll just try harder! Bigger armies! More TSA / Border / War On Drugs! We can't control the costs of Medi-Care/Caid the way we want, so we need to control more of the medi-sphere!

    When your scheme fails it is time to reconsider your premises. The world just told you it doesn't work the way you think. If you don't formulate a new theory, you're doomed. People just scraping by get this. Our political problem is too much surplus, which allows us to be persistently stupid. yet survive.

    I get particularly offended when good and generous impulses get hijacked to create more constituencies, living off patronage. A "health care" law, grounded in the impulse to take care of people out of work or with a major condition becomes a rake-off-ocracy. Why is there a tax on device manufacturers but not drug companies who incidentally supported the bill's passage? (Could it be ... Satan?!) That mess was the product of bargaining patronage for support. They didn't even wait for the program to bet established before it was hijacked! It's a hijack-ocracy from the get go. Sheesh.

    Do not get me started on the "financial reform" bill.

    As a soulless evil troll & etc. I'd rather face the hard reality that what we're doing isn't working than paper over big problems by punting them to institutions. We owe it to the big issues to be effective.

    We can be more effective by starting from the idea - one nearly as solid as natural law - that most people suck. People attracted to politics double-plus-suck. Build political systems or programs starting from that, and maybe we stand a chance.

  • peeps

    All this "I have a vagina" nonsense is driving me up the wall here. Many of you have bought into this war on women leftist propaganda, all of this is scare tactics intent on driving you to vote for the guardian of the vag, Emperor Obama.

  • peeps

    I find it a bit hypocritical for people wanting government out of their lives, but wanting the taxpayer to fund their birth control and abortion. Me, I prefer no interference and no subsidizing lifestyle choices at the same time. I was once a neoconservative and now find myself a libertarian, big difference, some of my view could be looked at as liberal, very liberal in fact, some of the ultra-right. Is this genetically predetermined? Is it nature or nurture that determines my views, individuality or collectivism?

  • Strand

    I suppose I'm a liberal mostly because I have a very laissez faire attitude with most things. As long as you're not hurting someone or something, I don't feel like I have the right to be outraged. As such, it annoys me when social conservative types want to dictate what others (aka not white/christian/straight/male/old people) can or can't do. My heterosexuality isn't affected by gay people marrying.

    I'm reasonably educated, so everything the fundie faction says insults the intellect. It scares me that some people believe that shit in 2012 and that they could come within a hair of the presidency. I don't know why this fact doesn't terrify the apathetic more. If you don't care about economics or welfare, fine (I guess?) but you could have a psycho who thinks he'll meet Jesus within his lifetime, and the world is 6000 years old, with his finger on the nukes.

  • I was raised Catholic. While I hold no religious faith, I can appreciate the Catholic view of required good works as opposed to Sola Fide of Protestants which seems to me just a blanket excuse to act like a total asshole to human beings while claiming its all kosher since Jesus is in their hearts or some shit.

    My childhood was spent in hospitals, with a specific amount of time in one run by Jesuits. That pretty much began my love of science and questioning everything around me. I also grew to appreciate that no person is alone in society and we have a responsibility to our fellow man. I believe that the priest that made the greatest influence on my perspectives at that time was kicked out of Central America by the Church for espousing Liberation Theology which I assume is unique to most Catholic kids.

    I ended up in the military for six years because the Navy has lax as fuck standards and I didn't want to end up huffing gas for the next 20 years as entertainment. That ended up exposing me to the HUGE discrepancy in education across the US. I had guys that worked for me who could not read and write or who had clear learning disabilities that went un-diagnosis but somehow had a high school degree. I also learned how the border issues with Mexico is full of shit. Seriously...if it wasn't for Hispanics, we wouldn't be able to make manning rates for the Army, Marines, and Navy. Look at the KIA reports...it reads like a work schedule for a taco stand. I proudly went to numerous naturalization ceremonies for my fellow vets.

    I also learned first hand how Don't Ask/Don't tell was a fucking joke. The sad thing was the DoD had to drag Obama to his decision. Under the UCMJ, oral sex between a married couple is the same a fucking a dog carcass which is what happens when you have a moral code written from back when Keelhauling was a management tool.

    I travel extensively overseas for work. You learn just how fucking insane the inequality is in the world. Once, I was drinking in a bar in India, after an 18 hour shift in a steel mill and realized that the $10 martinis I was killing were more than the average monthly salary for the mill workers.

    Pretty much I have a low opinion of both parties. I recognize that the democrats are more palatable to me but across the board, both parties are beholden to the same interests. The only reason my company does not do what most do, which is send the same amount of money to both parties is because we are Japanese owned and they never send money to political parties in the US.

    I am under the opinion that the US is too large of a country to effectively just have two parties. A democrat from New York has a much different set of values than a democrat from North Dakota. The political debates in the US can be simplified to "Cut the benefits from everyone but me".

    I guess I am jaded. I usually vote 3rd party so that I make sure my vote is meaningless but at least a protest to the current fucked up structure.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    I have given this a lot of thought and I think it comes down to two main things driving me left: books and bullying. While my parents didn't let me watch a lot of TV, I was allowed to read anything I liked. As a kid, I loved mythology, which lead to me questioning the infallibility of religion and as a teen I discovered sci-fi which opened me to a deconstruction of taboos and a love of science (despite being lousy at science). I think books helped me create my moral framework. My parents were important because they took a hands off approach and let me find my own way.

    When I was a freshman in high school, my English teacher gave us an short writing assignment to write a letter to the editor (mostly because the school paper was lacking in submissions). We were told to think of an issue with the school and address it. I honestly couldn't think of anything other than I was cold-natured and our school uniform left me always had me shivering in the classrooms. I decided to write my letter saying that in the interest of equality girls should have the option to wear pants like the boys. At the time, I can't even claim that I was as high minded in in my belief of the ideology as much as I simply hated being cold. A few months later the teacher asked if they could publish my letter in the school paper. I had largely forgotten the content of what I wrote by this time and being very shy, the request was flattering. I said yes. What I hadn't anticipated that this would inflame some of my more conservative classmates* to refer to me as everything from "feminazi lesbian" to "ugly dyke". I am straight, but feminists are of course lesbians and lesbians are ugly by the transitive property of conservative douchebags. In their more inspired sessions, my classmates would surround me in the hall and point out my physical failings in graphic detail. It was more or less daily over the next few years and I didn't want to live. It's still hard -and embarrassing- to talk about.

    (*one of these individuals had a prestigious position in the Bush administration. No lie.)

    I'd like to say that everything turned out ok, but I think it's more accurate to say I survived. What I did gain is a love of social justice and an intolerance for bullies of any kind. No one should tell another person who they can love, what they can do with their body, or imply that anyone is somehow lesser - these and a dozen other reasons. Life is hard enough and most of us crash through as best we can. But it's better when we lean on each other.

  • Quatermain

    When I was younger, I was a hardcore Republican and obnoxious with it, mostly because I grew up down South and everyone I knew was. When I went away to college, I didn't become a liberal like so many kids do, but I did begin to see that ideologies(of any stripe)don't always mesh with the way things are in the real world when people get involved.

    I've lived in a lot of places, had a lot of jobs, and mixed with a lot of folks and I find that I've gotten older that I've settled into a sort of general libertarianism. Not the Internet kind of libertarianism, which is generally just a teenager with no social skills high on Rand and anonymity, but kind of what P.J. O'Rourke described once as the Republican Party Reptile: economically conservative, but socially liberal(-ish and up to a certain point.)

  • googergieger

    We all start out more or less the same. Random events, memories, experiences, etc, make us different enough to notice. Why it makes it so much harder not to empathize with people than it is to empathize with people. It isn't entirely hard to imagine you being a different person than you are now, if you took a left instead of a right that time.

    Why do we vote the way we do? Why are we who we are? Because if we didn't, if we weren't, we'd be someone else that voted someway else. We do what we do, because we believe what we believe. We believe we are right, or at the very least not as wrong if we did it this way than another way.

    We're all random chance. Random chance we try to understand and rationalize so we can do better next time. So we can be, better next time.

    As far as why I voted the way I did, Props wise I voted in my self interest. That is to say, high income people pay more, death penalty abolished(more from a money stand point than me being against it), three strikes retooling(again for money purposes), and in some cases the "label food honestly" prop because I can't believe that is even something people are fighting over. As far as candidates went, democrat. Because even if everything they say is b.s. at least they said it. I mean majority of the republican party just didn't really seem to care about me and mine. At least democrats acknowledged we mattered.

    Then again who knows. Maybe everything, politics and life in general is all just about, "fuck the other guy". In which case, all I can say and do on the matter is, laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.

  • dizzylucy

    I grew up in a fairly non-political household, and didn't have much interest in it until well after college. I was always sort of middle of the road moderate, liberal on some things, conservative on others. But I began to follow politics more, and have found that as the GOP skewed farther and farther right, I've gone more left in response. I'm registered independent and still vote a mixed ballot at times with a few local Republicans, but for federal level stuff prefer Democrats.

    I can't abide a party that doesn't feel all citizens should have equal rights, including marriage, that feels they have the right to tell women what they must do with their bodies, that runs candidates who denounce science, that tries every trick in the book to keep certain demographics from voting, that allows racism and hatred to infiltrate their party, that wants to push their religious agenda but decries any other religious or non-religious beliefs, and that feels that people who are struggling should be left to struggle so that the wealthy can get better tax breaks.
    I can't take a party seriously who criticized Obama in 08 for being an arugula eating elitist, and 4 years later nominated Mitt Romney. Who last year thought Palin was the second best choice in the country, and who this year put forth Bachmann, Gingrich, Caine, Perry, and Santorum, and expected us to be thrilled.

    So I guess I'm saying I'm now more liberal and vote Democrat more often because the present day Republican Party made me that way.

  • lowercase_ryan

    OK, my turn to ramble. I get sidetracked easily (ADD) but here it is.

    Everything that I have come to believe is right in the world
    stems from the empathy and sympathy I feel for those struggling for something
    they shouldn’t have to struggle for. People struggling to be equal, to be free,
    to be safe, to be healthy, to be educated, to be respected. My great epiphany in life was realizing that
    in a civilized world you shouldn’t need to struggle for these things. I learned this early on in life. In 1987 (I
    was 11) I watched a PBS documentary on the Civil Rights Movement called “Eyes
    On the Prize” with my dad. This showed me the inequities and injustices that
    stem from hatred. At first the stories horrified me, then they enraged me. That
    rage has never really left me. It’s always lurking under the surface ready to
    well up inside and turn my eyes into teary, red, wells of hatred at the first
    sign of a prejudicial slight. Even now as
    I think back to what fuels my fire, I can feel anger building in me.

    While I’ve never been poor, nor suffered in any meaningful
    way, I’ve never taken it for granted or allowed it to fool me into thinking I
    was better than someone else. I’m not. I am, however, extremely passionate about
    social justice and inequality. I will also
    admit that the intensity of my hatred for those who would actively seek to deny
    my fellow human beings any of the things I mentioned above (freedom, equality,
    respect, etc.) can be a bit over the top.
    The way I see it, once you attempt to deny another person their rights
    or liberties, you forfeit yours. At that
    point, I honestly think death is too kind for anyone guilty of such trespasses.
    That being said, the morally ambiguous punk in me wouldn’t mind seeing some of
    them dead. That may be going a bit far, but I’d be lying if I said this country
    wouldn’t be better off if the Koch brothers died.

    Horrible, gruesome, public, humiliating deaths with their
    crimes laid out for all the world to see.

    I loathe the church and all that it stands for. The church
    is not the message and the message is most definitely not the church. The Tea
    Party and their Ayn Rand BULLSHIT! The racists, the homophobes, the philistines,
    FUCK!! They have all found a home in the Republican party. And then they have the gall to get pissed off

    And that is in part why I vote Democrat. And I always will.

  • AngelenoEwok

    blagh, wasn't logged in. Anyway: I had a very intense reaction to Eyes On the Prize when I was 14, and watched it in school. Specifically, the Emmett Till segment. Where I grew up, we did *learn* about the Jim Crow era south, but in the books and lesson plans it was always sort of sanitized. I just remember being shocked and outraged by that story, that *adults* just tortured and murdered someone *my age* and GOT AWAY WITH IT. People didn't care. I'm upset again just thinking about Emmet right now.

  • Guest

    I remember having a very intense reaction to Eyes On the Prize

  • Clancys_Daddy

    As a registered independent I use cold unfeeling logic as to what is in the best interest of the country and its people. I take in all the facts that I can find on the issue or candidate, stack them up and take a long term pro/con numerical look at what the impact of each decision for or against is likely to result. Once I determine which will likely have the favorable impact as a whole on society, not what people will like, I vote in favor or against. I have done it this way since I started to vote. It became a codified system when I was getting my BS in environmental biology.

    Using this system I tend to vote fiscally "conservative" and socially "liberal".

    I did the same thing this time I determined what was the best option for this country in the long tern. It wasn't Romney.

  • I was raised by two Democrats (although one now votes Republican, he's gotten more conservative and, sigh, racist as he aged) ((not that Republican = racist, but in his case he wasn't gonna vote for the black guy)). When I turned 18, I was excited to register to vote. I knew I wanted to vote in ALL elections, so registering as Independent was out. So I went with Democrat without really knowing the difference.

    Now that I'm older, why do I vote Democrat? I vote mainly on social issues. The economic issues, like the threat of new taxes, don't bother me - I don't have any money anyway, so whatever. I can't stand the thought of repressing someone based on their gender, age, race, sexual preference, what have you. It always seems to me that the Republicans want to stop/ban/repress/outlaw the things I believe in (Planned Parenthood, gay marriage, etc) so that is why I vote Democrat.

  • Slash

    I'm registered Independent but vote mostly Democratic because, well, look at the Republicans. They're the stupid party. They're on the wrong side of almost every issue. Even on the one issue where they kinda make sense (fiscal responsibility) they still can't manage to do without sounding like colossal assholes.

    As for influences; I honestly have no idea how my father voted when he was alive. He was from New York, Irish Catholic, so my guess is, he was a Democrat. He was a lawyer and valued logic and reason. My mother (as far as I can remember) was mostly apolitical when I was growing up, but is now firmly in the grips of Fox Derangement Syndrome (plus, she's a Jesus freak, so she's got double the crazy). She wasn't always dumb. Apparently, she's chosen that as a life philosophy now.

    I grew up in Oklahoma, which is dumber and redneckier than almost any other state, so living there certainly didn't inculcate a love of intelligence and reason (well, not in general, the schools I went to were OK in that regard). I live in Texas now. FWIW, Dallas County (where I reside) went nearly 60% for Obama. Every surrounding county went at least 60% for Romney. We're not all a bunch of idiots down here, but we are outnumbered by them.

  • nosio

    I grew up poor in an integrated neighborhood on the south side of Chicago.

    My mom has made allusions to times when our family was on food stamps, before, but you don't really notice that stuff as a kid. I do know my parents struggled for quite a bit.

    My dad was a social worker before he quit and went corporate (ie, went back to college in his 30's to finish his economics degree), and my mom is a nurse with 30+ years experience who has worked almost exclusively in women's healthcare for the past 20 years.

    Despite atheist tendencies, I attended a Jesuit college for undergrad. Jesuits are the awesome liberals of the Catholic church who preach education, compassion, and social justice. We were encouraged to become "men and women for others," and pursue local and global activism while in school, and beyond. Another motto the Jesuits subscribe to is "cura personalis," or "care of the whole person." These ideas sunk in, quickly, in my time there.

    I have a vagina. And a brain.

    I vote Democrat.

  • DarthCorleone

    My first and most personal criterion in deciding my vote at the national level throughout most of my adulthood has been based on the separation of church and state. Theocracy terrifies me, and I consider much of the religion that we have allowed into the public sector to be unfair and unconstitutional indoctrination. It might seem like such a little thing, but when Barack Obama actually acknowledged "non-believers" as comprising part of the American populace and having meaningful voices in his inaugural speech, that meant a lot to me. I was raised in a somewhat religious household, but my parents had their own issues with the church that we chose, and it didn't take much time in college to cement my views on this topic.

    My second big issue which goes hand-in-hand with my feelings about religion is support for science, which I believe will always be the best path to move human civilization forward.

    I do think the Presidential office is slightly overrated in terms of its capabilities within our political system, but if there is one power that it does have that I find to be far-reaching and influential, that would be its ability to make lifetime appointments of Supreme Court Justices. Just a little basic reading about the Supreme Court and its history can inform anyone how important that element has been in shaping our laws and culture. Consequently, I'm always keeping that in mind with my vote.

    In general, I do believe that while America is wonderful for allowing people to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, circumstance and luck still play a dominant role in the directions of many of our individual lives - much moreso than many people on the right seem willing to acknowledge. I don't see this as some blind bleeding-heart instinct on my part that is going to turn us into a bankrupt welfare state; I see it as the most fair means to give those that enter the world impoverished or disadvantaged at least some viable way to better their situations. The cold reality of many real-life examples has shown me that while some admirable, great people have risen from some terrible lows, sometimes the bootstraps option is a luxury that simply does not work.

    The big issue that has captured my active support over the last few years is LGBT equality. I see it as the final frontier of civil rights, and I do believe fifty years from now those who aren't on the right side of history on this topic are going to have their views consigned to a shameful part of our past. I'm not going to say that I'm a single-issue voter, but the deprivation of the basic civil rights of others, the lack of rational, common sense applied, and once again the infringement of religion upon the public sphere outrages me. Had I lived in the 1860s with my modern mind, I would have voted purely as an abolitionist, and I feel that my instinct here comes from a similar place.

    I'm something of an environment and wildlife junkie. Growing up I loved animals and gravitated toward them in my reading. A protective instinct in that arena still plays a strong influence in my political inclinations.

    I've never been driven by money. I worry about having enough of it to maintain the comfort level to which I've become accustomed, but the pursuit of money for its own sake or for the acquisition of status symbols is of no interest to me.

    While I love America and think it is a great country, I don't believe in "American exceptionalism." The "exceptionalism of America" is a concept I can get behind and try to promote, but the distinction between the country and the people is important to me. (I know the prior phrase usually does apply to the country when used in context, but I feel that it has wrongly translated as a description of our superiority as a people.) We've done plenty of ill in our history, and it troubles me to apply blanket labels to other countries when I know that any given citizen of another country is no different from me when it comes to basic humanity. We can not help where we are born or what social structures shape us.

    I'm not going to pretend my parents didn't have a strong influence over me. My mother was and is a liberal on virtually all issues, and although my father was a registered Republican during my youth, he was from the Eisenhower mold in that respect. As a family, the three of us frequently watched CNN's Crossfire over dinner, back before the show was cancelled and back when it actually fostered intelligent dialogue, as opposed to that pep rally circus that it became with Tucker Carlson. As I grew up in Texas, I often found the ideas that I parroted ran contrary to the ideas parroted by the majority of my schoolmates. (I remember being on a playground and telling a friend that it didn't really matter if Reagan or Mondale won, because we were all doomed to die in nuclear armageddon. Thank goodness the Cold War didn't turn out that way.) I like to think I've done my homework since my youth and come to the conclusions I've reached fairly, even if they do coincide with many of the views of my parents.

    I don't consider myself a Democrat. In many ways the party feels like a monolith that doesn't speak for me, plays the sort of political games that I find abhorrent, and doesn't jibe with me on certain issues. That said, I'm sure you can guess how I voted.

  • AngelenoEwok

    I love you so much.

    (You played a guest starring roll in the original draft of my comment, that I reluctantly edited out)

  • TK

    Jesus, get a goddamn room you two.

  • DarthCorleone

    We cohabit a domicile together. Does this suffice?

  • lowercase_ryan

    You guys HAVE to be in my Amazing Race wedding. You're both so great.

  • leuce7

    My mother grew up in a small town in Mexico where her dad was town president (essentially mayor). This was at a time (more so than now, at least) when political office was a ticket to becoming rich through corruption and theft for many. My grandfather was not one of those people. He was in politics because he loved his town and the people in it, and wanted to help them. So that was the first lesson to me--you can use power to benefit yourself at the cost of others, or you can use power to help others so everyone's better off.

    My mom and dad met here and I was born here. Both of my parents were poor, uneducated (neither went to high school) immigrants, but both were hard workers, who wanted something better for their families. They meet at an adult school program where they were learning English. So the second lesson to me--education and hard work are the road to building a better life for people who start with nothing, and it's important that programs that give people access to education or make it easier for them to work and improve their lots in life exist for people to take advantage of.

    My dad died when I was young, and we were raised by my mother, who is a political junkie, loves the U.S. because of the opportunity available here for everybody, and loves U.S. history because of what it says to her: we will fight for the right to govern ourselves so that no one tramples on our rights, and everyone is equal and therefore has the same rights (at least that's the message she passed on). By the time my dad died, they had purchased some rental property, which became how we paid the mortgage on our house, and we got his Social Security survivors benefits, which became how we paid for our health insurance since my mother was self-employed, as she needed a job with the flexibility to allow her to manage the rental properties, raise her kids, and work around her chronic medical needs. Third lesson--a safety net is important so you can use the help that comes from it to add to what you manage to build on your own, and keep on working hard to make a better life for your family.

    I was raised Catholic, but my main take-away was the Golden Rule. My mother is a stronger Catholic than I am, but she has disagreements (along with the requisite guilt) with the church on various stances, particularly birth control. She is pro-choice, though she does personally believe in abortion once you do manage to get pregnant. She was against gay marriage until my very good friend from college, who helped me through a difficult time, came out of the closest. Realizing that being against gay marriage screwed over people she really cared about, she changed her stance. Fourth lesson: I should live my life by my personal beliefs, whatever they are, but I have no right to judge other people when they make their own choices on what is best for their lives, and it is wrong for me to impose my beliefs on others when doing so deprives them of their rights. Also, I learned how to respectfully disagree.

    My mother's greatest wish for her kids was that they graduate from college. Both my brother and I went to great schools, and we're both middle-class working professionals now (both of us are married; my brother's an engineer, I was a teacher and am currently in law school. Our spouses have similar stories, except they are third- and fifth-generation here, so their stories are stories of their grand-parents and great-great-grandparents. Our generation's kids have many privileges and few of the financial struggles that our parents had and still have. Last lesson: the American Dream works when you have *both* opportunity and hard work along with a basic safety net, and it is up to us to make sure that those of who don't need to work as hard to access the opportunities, and don't need to make use of the safety net, do our best to make sure the opportunities and safety net are still there for those coming along who still need it. The more who use it, the better off we'll all be.

    So that's why I'm a Democrat.

  • Pinky McLadybits

    This is the only part of why that I can really articulate. I guess it all can be summed up by: I want to save other people from going through the things I went through. I want other people to not be bullied because of who they are or where they are. I want other people to be able to ask for help without feeling like less of a person. I want people that have been abused to be able to speak up against the people that hurt them and be believed. Basically, I want to save other people, I guess. I want to believe that you can be successful without having it passed down to you. I want to believe that anyone that chooses to work hard really can reach their goals. But I understand that everyone needs some help sometimes. I understand that people with more need to give more. I don't even know if this makes sense.

  • Anna von Beav

    Honestly? I wish I had enough courage of my convictions to have voted green. i ticked the box for Jill Stein, but in the end, I was afraid of splitting the Democratic vote, and I ticked the box for Obama instead. I shouldn't have been, and I wish I hadn't been, but I was. I admire those who do have the courage to not vote for one of the two majors.

  • Yossarian

    I was raised by Democrat parents. When I was a teenager (in the 1990s) I started listening to punk music (from the 1980s) and I really got into the radical political messages of bands like Bad Religion and the Dead Kennedys. I started digging deeper, reading Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Amy Goodman, I subscribed to Z Magazine and the Baffler and all kinds of lesser-know 'zines and books. I wasn't very outwardly active but I was a voracious reader of radical & progressive media (this was back in the days of dial up internet and most of my stuff was hard copy).

    After a while I started to question some of what I was reading. I became disillusioned with extremest positions and started looking for sources that could explain the other side of things. It couldn't be so black and white. It couldn't be so simple as good guys vs the powerful and corrupt. I moved back toward the middle. Stopped focusing on the propaganda and started looking at the actual effects of policy from both sides, the costs and benefits, the inefficiency and cronyism, the reality that well-intentioned policy doesn't always have good outcomes, that we need to be much smarter and much more careful in what we do and how we do it.

    I consider myself independent. I think there are a couple issues that are obvious (gay marriage, decriminalization of drugs) but many more that are very complicated (Education, healthcare, crime, the economy, national security). On the complicated issues we need smart people with good ideas who are committed to finding a workable solution. We will never be perfect but there are good ideas out there, we just have a really hard time getting them through on either side.

  • TK

    You know, I never even thought to talk about the effect that music and literature had on my politics, but it's an excellent point.

  • Apro74

    For me, it was being raised in a military family (US Air Force) in the 80s and 90s. My parents supporting the Republican platform during that time because they felt the Republicans did more for military families then the Democrats did. I don't know if that was actually true, but it shaped my beliefs as a child on civic service and taking care of others.

    Once I went to college, I realized that my beliefs aligned more with progressive candidates and the Democrats. Bill Clinton was someone I looked up to and still do, never mind all the shenanigans in his personal life. And I honestly think Barack Obama is trying to do right by this country and the world, and he should be commended for it.

    Nowadays, my brother and I influence our parents by discussing current events and issues with them, and we all vote for more moderate to liberal candidates. My parents are actually appalled by the idea of privatization of health insurance and social security that the Republicans keep talking about. Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of misconceptions and untruths about what privatization really means among their senior-age friends. And these same folks make up a large chunk of the voting population.

    It's frustrating because those older generations seem unwilling to see how much things have changed in the last 2 decades, and that they are sometimes voting against their own interests when they support ultra-conservative candidates. Maybe it comes down to people being more afraid of change as they get older?

  • AngelenoEwok

    Oh geez. Here we go. I wrote a big thing but deleted because it got way, way off of explaining my voting rationale. I'm a queer, newly married, middle-class-ish, woman with several pre-existing conditions. I work for a labor union and volunteer at an abortion clinic. I was born in Virginia but I live in California. I vote Democrat, and I sometimes (not really in this election) wish I could vote even leftier without screwing everything.

    My family is... liberal-ish (they pretty much all vote Democrat or stay home), but they're usually kind of flummoxed by my "extreme" politics. It's frustrating, because my parents and grandparents all have a very strong sense of fairness and "doing for others" --- so when I'm on my way to a protest action or clinic defense and they sometimes say things like "why do you do this?!" and I want to respond with, "It's what you TAUGHT me to do!"

    I know that growing up queer in the south really gave me a chip on my shoulder. I know a few people in my family were once very poor, and the stories of that have stuck with me. I had a close friend that grew up with much less than I did, and it was impossible not to note the disparities between our lives.

    When I try to think back to my early life, it's easier to recall small moments that just added to an overall sense of "things are not the way they should be." People would make remarks (about race, about gay people, about poor people) that I'm sure they promptly forgot, but stuck with me for decades.

    I went to a small, liberal arts women's college. It was the first time I was around people who were willing to say, out loud, in the middle of a crowded room, "It's NOT COOL to be a bigot!" or "People of color and LGBTQ people are going to be a part of your life. DEAL WITH IT," or "What do you MEAN, you're NOT a feminist?" I think that experience immeasurably impacted me for the better. Although, a lot of people who knew me there would probably describe me as a wishy washy moderate, if they were feeling kind.

    Between 2006 and 2009, I left an abusive relationship, got raped, watched a gay marriage ban pass in my home state, had two of my best friends get abortions, watched (excitedly) as President Obama got elected, watched a gay marriage ban pass in my new state, watched the economy collapse, and lost a job for the first time. People say the personal is political, and I guess I found that out in a big way.

    I don't think any of that last part truly shifted the way I vote, but it made me far more active in and committed to the value system I already had in place. I still really go back to the sense of fairness that my family raised me with, the idea that everyone deserves basic legal and social protections, and to be treated with respect and dignity. There is no room for compromise on that, to me. I reject the distinction that many people have made in this most recent election between "economic and social issues." Social issues ARE economic, and vise versa.

    (Thank you, anyone who stuck through all that rambling. Pajibans are the best)

  • lowercase_ryan


  • Rochelle

    I tend to vote Democrat, because I'm liberal on social issues. I'd probably vote Republican on some occasions, because I am also more fiscally conservative. But I can't support a party that allows intolerance and misogyny to flourish. In a perfect world with no discrimination, I'd be more Libretarian.

  • Green_Eggs_and_Hamster

    I am registered as a Republican, and if I am being honest, it is probably because I grew up during the '80's and the magic aura of Reagan rubbed off on me a bit during that time. Unfortunately, I find I have less and less in common with my party. The problem, I think, is that both parties now play to their most embarrassing fringe members. It's just that the entire country has actually moved slightly rightward, so that the embarrassing fringe on the Right is way more embarrassing then the fringe on the Left. If you look at Obama, there is a pretty good argument to be made that he 30 years ago, he would have been considered a centrist Republican president. Slate.com did a pretty good article recently arguing just that. Also, the Fringe on the Right gets way more press than the fringe on the left. I don't mean that in a conspiratorial way, I actually think that Fox does a major disservice to Conservatives. Fox may want to get Republican's elected in a general sense, but they mainly want to get good ratings and make money. Unfortunately, blowhards and conspiracy theorists make much better ratings than reasoned thoughtful discussion. I think there are quality intelligent people on both the left and the right who could govern this country effectively. I also think those people either do not go on Fox, or when they do, they pander. Both john McCain pre-2008 and Romney pre-2008 were people I could vote for and who I thought could be good leaders. Once they went through the Republican Primary process though, I lost a great deal of respect for them

    I think that if Romney had run as the same candidate who won the Governorship in Massachusetts, he could have won the general election in a landslide. And I believe that had Romney won, he would have been a good President based on the pragmatic way he Governed when he was Governor. Unfortunately, he could not behave as a moderate intelligent candidate, and actually win the Primary. Lets face it, people started to like what they saw when he did his so called "pivot" to the center. Some people say that shows that he will say anything to get elected, well....duh. News flash, so will all politicians. You have Obama's Justice Dept seizing peoples property and throwing people in jail in California for daring to sell Marijuana something the President has admitted to enjoying himself quite often as he grew up. But he knows that he will lose votes if he is "soft" on drugs, so he does what is politically expedient rather than what he believes is right, no matter the very real consequences to people. Republicans need to take a serious look and figure out why we are taking good politicians and destroying them in the name of ideological purity.

    Anyway, while I voted for Romney, I was not disappointed to see Obama win. The main problem we have is both sides try to take absolutist positions in order to discredit the other side. Very few people are willing to give someone from the other side the benefit of the doubt, and they are even less likely to give someone on their side the benefit of the doubt if they stray. Everything has become a zero sum game. If you can't get everything your way, then the other person must be a traitor who needs to be destroyed. The tragedy is, I don't see that changing any time soon.

  • ceebee_eebee

    We need more Republicans like you.

  • linnyloo

    I've actually thought about this a great deal -- specifically because I know several people (my best friend, my boyfriend, my mom, my dad) who grew up in rural, isolated, religious, racist communities with parents and families who were equally religious and racist (and with minimal diversity). Despite their surroundings, they are incredibly open-minded, progressive people who believe very different things from the people they grew up with, and to a person, tended to have those moments of recognition at an early age -- before they left their respective communities. They recognized racial injustice and actively fought against it, understood the need to respect others' differences, and embraced gay people with love and acceptance even though it was far from accepted or normal in their households.

    My brother and sister and I are all very similarly politically aligned to our parents -- we're all pretty much in lock-step when it comes to our values systems, and are very outspoken about what we believe and why. So it's not necessarily a matter of being stubborn, or rejecting parental tradition, or rebelling, otherwise my brother and sister and I would be more likely to push against our parents' beliefs rather than embracing them -- I think it comes down to a tendency to be flexible and open-minded. I find the whole thing fascinating.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I vote Democrat because I believe that we are all on the same team and that for us to be a success we must all succeed. I have a responsibility to you and goddammit you have a responsibility to me. A responsibility to think beyond your small, fenced in yard and realize this whole thing is a shared experience.

  • foolsage

    I've been a registered Republican my whole life, but in the last 20 years or so the party has drifted so far to the right that I seriously have nothing in common with them anymore. My sense of fiscal responsibility doesn't involve lowering taxes so we can't pay for anything, then slashing all the safety nets that are common to the entire developed world today. Rather, I think we have a great example how to build a strong economy, since we've done it before; simply put, we need to reinvest in our middle class because they're the ones that drive demand for goods and services, which in turn leads to employment. I don't want a nanny state, but I believe it's possible to have SOME regulations to protect our health and finances and so on without regulating EVERYTHING. I think there's a happy medium between too much and too little government.

    But modern Republicans don't believe in these things anymore.

    I'm also an American idealist. I think our Declaration and the Preamble to our Constitution are among the most inspired pieces of writing yet achieved by humanity, because of their sentiments. We should treat everyone equally (regardless of sex, gender, religion, ancestry, or any other divisions), and everyone ought to be given equal chances to pursue happiness. The general welfare is the government's responsibility to look after because that's a central part of our social contract, and because doing so benefits the country as a whole. When everyone is healthy and employed, we all do better. Yes, this means paying some taxes, but to paraphrase Matt Damon, in return we get to be AMERICANS.

    But modern Republicans don't believe in these things anymore.

    The older I get, the more I think about what it means to be a good person. I'm not a Christian anymore but I still agree with a lot of their basic ideas - well, the stuff Jesus was supposed to have said, anyhow. Things like how what really matters is looking out for each other, and not letting people go hungry, and not obsessing over material wealth. Republicans are overwhelmingly Christian, and they claim to be guided by their faith more than any other single influence...

    But modern Republicans don't believe in these things anymore.

    So I vote Democrat for most things.

  • Peeps

    Were we not Americans before income taxes? General welfare is within the guidelines of the government, not specific welfarism. The problem is people look to The Constitution and fit it for their agenda rather than recognize this as a limit on power and not an unlimited ability to help individuals but to create an atmosphere of success, not a welfare state where billionaires to paupers receive their monthly stipend.

  • Jezzer

    Dear God, that was beautiful and moving.

  • All my friends are teachers, artists, and performers. If I voted against public schools, gay rights, and PBS, I'd be a terrible friend.

  • I'm not sure I can nail it down, but here we go -

    I am registered with No Party Affiliation (which is different in my state and several others than being just independent). My brother and mother are the same. My sister registered Democrat this year, and it was her first election. Growing up my father never registered to vote, based on a few things but top most was his opinion that the electoral college was antiquated and gerrymandering had robbed people of the ideal of one person - one vote. To his credit he never complained about who was in office.

    In fact, growing up, there was NEVER any political talk. To this day I have no idea who my mother has voted for in any presidential election. She will not discuss it, viewing the polling booth as a place as sacred as the confession booth in church. She is, and we were raised, Catholic. But we were also raised pragmatists.

    I think its the pragmatism that gets me to lean VERY liberal most of the time (I have voted for my fair share of non-Tea Part conservatives as well). That, and a thorough understanding of our Constitution and a decent understanding of international relations. You see, I studied both. I stand up and slow clap when I hear politicians voice support to the separation of church and state. And I believe wholeheartedly in everyone's right to Civil Rights and Liberties. So I find myself voting democrat more often than not.

    I voted for Obama, twice, but that does not mean that I am satisfied with the job he has done thus far, just that I was unwilling to risk the progress thus made.

  • Wembley

    I voted against one candidate because I met him years ago when he was starting out and he insulted me. So 'F' him! He probably was the better candidate (he did win) but seriously, Fuck Him!

    Another candidate lost my vote (clinched the deal at least) when one of her 'people' called and 'totallyreadthecannedmessageasonewordnottakinganybreathesorgivingmeachancetoaskaquestionorcommentinanywaywhatsoeverOMG!'

    One of the ballot initiatives I voted just to piss off the smug bitch doing the ads in the most condescending (and contemptuous) tone possible.

    I mostly vote 'against' candidates, not 'for' them.

  • mcleodlt

    I am a 3rd generation Mexican American. My parents were democrats and very religious. We were not wealthy. My sister and I shared most of our clothes until she married and left home. Then I bought my own. My father was in the military but not as an officer and my mom worked for my high school as a secretary. I am the middle child. I have worked in a job somewhere since I was 15. I am an athiest and I've raised 2 sons with my husband, a physician, who is also an athiest. I married my husband at 30 and he put me through college. I am a libertarian voter. My mother taught me that no one was responsible for me, but me. I have learned that there's more than one way to gain a goal and the only one who can stop me, is me. I have experienced prejudice growing up in the Southwest but I don't blame anyone except the individual perpetuating the behavior. I would happily give up social security, though I'm not old enough to get it. I would like the government to stop taking it from me because I can take care of myself. I have never taken food stamps, though I have been poor enough at times to qualify. I don't care if gays get married and I don't care if pot is legal. Whatever mistakes my parents made with me, I forgive them and I don't vote the way I do because of them. I am my own person.

  • ,


    I'm registered GOP but ...

    I voted Libertarian for president and U.S. Senate in an effort to legitimize third-party candidacies and break the two-party logjam. The GOP candidate for Senator irks me in ways I don't care to discuss for reasons I don't care to discuss.

    I voted Mountain Party for governor, because nobody gave me a reason not to. (Our Democratic governor is reasonably fiscally conservative, and anyway doesn't really need my help getting elected here.)

    Down the rest of the statewide ballot, I voted for some people who seemed to be doing a good job in office and against some people who don't. I voted for a GOP delegate because she's really cute (and I don't care what you think), and there's another GOP delegate I will never, ever vote for because I think she's a whack job. I voted for one guy because he used to run the bar where I hang out. But in any case, they ended up being a mix of Dems/GOP.

    You have to understand, of course, that in my state, the Democrats tend to the right of, say, Mass. Republicans. It's a strange place. The newspaper today ran two maps in red and blue. The county-by-county map for governor showed a reasonable mix of colors (the Democrat won, easily). The map for president was solid red.

  • TK

    I was born in South Africa in the 70's, under Apartheid, and my parents couldn't vote until 1994. As a natural consequence of such an environment, my dad ended up being extremely liberal - radical, in fact, so much so that he joined the Communist party. That influenced me greatly as a kid, as did my sister's participation in politics.

    Apartheid is, I believe, what happens when Conservatism is taken to its ultimate, most radical end. And I believe strongly in equal rights, across color lines, gender lines, sexual preference, you name it, and right now the Democrats are the people who are most closely aligned with those ideologies. It's that simple.

    Forget all the money and bullshit. Democrats believe in granting people equal rights and freedoms and choices. That's all that matters to me, because I still remember what it was like to not have a choice because of who we were. I still remember having to drink at the other fountain, and swim at the other beach, and eat at the other restaurant. I will never, EVER to go back to that. I don't want anything even remotely close to that. People not being able to choose how they deal with their bodies or who they want to marry? That's just too close to where I was for my comfort.

    In my perfect world, the Democratic party would be far more liberal than it is in its current, Centrist incarnation, but it's what we've got so I guess that's where my vote will be cast for now.

  • zeke_the_pig

    I was born under a 'Communist' regime in Eastern Europe and my father STILL turned out to be a radical leftist because he saw what had been a beautiful dream and he had seen it perverted. Needless to say, I empathise strongly with your position and reasoning.

  • ceebee_eebee

    I've dedicated my working life to civil rights law. Equality under the law is the only thing in the world that makes absolute sense to me. The Democrats are far from perfect, but they are close as we have right now to a party that supports equality. Therefore they get my vote.

  • BWeaves

    It takes an entire generation to turn bias and prejudice around. Basically, the old guard has to die off. I predict that we will see gay marriage in the USA within the next 20 years, (hopefully sooner), and better women's rights. I also wouldn't be surprised if the entire country became bilingual. It may not be the same 2 languages everywhere, though.

    I cannot put my finger quite on why I am liberal and Democrat, though. My parents used to be Democrats, but turned Republican as they got richer and older and more accepted by the community that first considered them outsiders.

  • Cree83

    I was raised by a white liberal mother and a black moderate father. Contrary to what people say about black folks, my Dad voted republican a number of times. But when I was a little kid, his reasons for doing so always seemed selfish to me. He couldn't really explain fiscal conservatism in a way that made sense to an ignorant 8 year old, so it came out sounding like "I want to keep all my money to myself and screw the less fortunate." I ended up gravitating to my mother's beliefs, because her reasons for being liberal were easier for a child to comprehend - save the environment, help women get equal pay, etc. I guess it was those values that stuck.

  • Pawesl

    Simple matter is most people vote the way their parents vote. I mean their ideas shape you its only logical you are going to grow up thinking the same way. The only time this tends to change is when people go onto higher education or they move away from their parents. Living on their own experience then has the opportunity to mold them. College also tends to be a more liberal institution (regardless of where it is), its why college educated people tend to be more democratic.

  • katy

    I had some powerful experiences in my teenage years that I would attribute to my democratic voting preferences as an adult. I grew up with a very conservative and authoritative father who tried to control my life as much as he could until I turned 18, which was the magic number that allowed me to then make my own decisions. I was given no voice in the household, had arbitrary rules and guidelines that were to be followed without question, and was expected to adhere to a very high set of standards academically and socially (one of my favorite quotes from my dad was from my senior year in high school when he asked me, "why do you have to be so different?"). I bought into this in the 80s when I was a kid, joyfully backing Reagan just like my dad did, but that model no longer worked as I became a teenager and entered the 90s. Then in my junior year of high school I was part of a group who hosted a couple dozen students from Heidelberg, Germany for three weeks, and then a few months later we visited them for three weeks. Talk about life changing. I was suddenly exposed to what I considered at that time to be a highly civil and socialized world that made our country's brash ways seem embarrassing. My host family also allowed me a level of freedom and independence I had never before experienced, and I knew that even though I had one more year to endure under my parents' house, I could never go back to a life without these. Then less than a month after coming home, and having the summer ahead of me, I met and started dating my now husband, who came from a very worldly family and had been living his whole life the kind I had only just experienced in my recent travels. So then fast forward a year to college in the Clinton era 90s (which was awesome), deeply entrenched in a social sciences curriculum, and voila, out comes someone with a strong liberal core. I have moderated a bit as I've gotten older, but I think I've gone about as far as I'll get. I've had further things in my adult years that have only reinforced my ideology, and cemented the importance I place on social justice, equality, and equity in our world. But the events and circumstances of my childhood formed my base.

  • Eddie

    I vote Democrat because I know what it feels like to be poor. When I grew up, I didn't know when (or what) I was going to eat from day to day. As an adult, I've been very successful. I worked during the day and went to school at night to get my Masters Degree. Now, I have a 6 figure income - I give to charities and never pass a person on the street that asks me for money to eat without giving them something. I believe in paying taxes even if it means that I pay a lot (which I do) as long as there are programs in place to help those less fortunate.

    Also, I find it a bit hypocritical for people to complain about government meddling in our lives and then the same people don't hesitate to use government to tell a woman what she can do with her body or tell someone that they can't marry the person that they love just because they both pee the same way.

    To borrow a line from Scully, "it's plain old decency and empathy towards my fellow humans" We need more of this.

  • Peeps

    Voting other people's property away so you can feel good about being more fair is not charity. By all means give to charity, the homeless and whatever your heart may desire, but don't feel free to use the government to do so with wealth that is not yours to give.

  • John G.


  • damnitjanet

    Pretty sure that a lot of my voting represents my dad. He called himself a Republican, but, in our little farming community, he was ostracized for acting more like a liberal Democrat. His best friend, a black man, was married to a white woman, and their whole family used to visit us almost every weekend. THAT is why Pop was never asked to join the local Lion's Club. Also, one summer he adopted an immigrant family come to the community to pick and can tomatoes. They came to our house regularly that summer. He was a truck-driver and Teamster. While he and I clashed on a lot of things (A LOT OF THINGS) his embrace of diversity and I'm-gonna-do-what-I-think-is-right-so-screw-the-rest-of-you attitude definitely rubbed off.

    Plus, I do NOT want Romney/Ryan/Richard Mourdock all up in my ladyspace.

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    I vote based on policies and what I think is best for my family and country. Some times those three things don't jive so I usually vote for whomever I think is least worst.

    I also automatically vote for anyone who has an anti-Dustin policy because, well, it's just the right thing to do.

  • Laura

    So out of curiosity, are there any non-Democrats/Liberals that visit this site? Or do they just not say anything because it does seem so pro-Democrat? I am not trying to stir anything up, just very curious.

  • buell

    Me... I'm a conservative and a christian.

  • emilya

    one of my best friends, who is the person who introduced me to pajiba, is a california republican and i believe she still reads pajiba every day. she's fiscally conservative, socially moderate and totally awesome. it's never mattered that we don't see eye to eye on the majority of politics because we respect each other and are tolerant of the other's right to different beliefs. also, we're both huge friday night light fans, so that helps the friendship in troubling political times

  • Puddin

    I am probably not a democrat, but I am definitely not a liberal. Then again, I'm certainly not a conservative. I found this election extremely disheartening because, regardless of who I voted for, I was voting against my own interests. I am debating on starting my own country. It's borders would be my living room and the only person with voting power would be my dog.

  • does libertarian count? Gary Johnson was as close as I've ever seen to an ideal candidate (based on my personal positions) and received my vote on Tuesday

  • ,


    I am fiscally conservative. We simply cannot keep printing and borrowing money like there's no tomorrow, and that's going to take some (and by "some" I mean "a lot of") pain, especially for people in the looming huge entitlement generation, like me. I don't know that I agree completely with a Paul Ryan budget, but goddammit, we cannot keep yammering about it until the deficit hits $20T, then $25T, then $30T ... And both sides are hugely to blame. The GOP's intransigence on tax hikes is absurd, but I can also understand the concern that if you hand liberals more money to spend, they'll certainly find ways to spend it, and it won't likely be on deficit reduction. (The GOP would likely blow it keeping soldiers employed, not a bad thing if some of them weren't getting shot at.)

    OTOH, the older I get the less I give a shit about what other people do. I view gay rights as a civil rights issue rather than a moral one, and do not understand current conservative thinking that wants everyone else to adhere strenuously to the constitution while at the same time ignoring what that document says about equal protection under the law and "all ... are created equal."

    I don't understand why it's illegal to get wasted on pot and perfectly OK to get wasted on Jack Daniel's. The same DUI laws can apply to both. Otherwise, what goes on in your house stays in your house, as long as it stays in your house.

  • Quatermain

    This is what I get for writing a response before reading the comments. If I had known you'd written this, I could have saved myself the trouble of writing almost the exact same thing.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I think for me it comes down to my rejection of religion (not that I was really religious in any way, but still) and embrace of science. The further I went into engineering, the more I wanted to see real, practical solutions to the problems my country faces, and the more I wondered just how in the hell something like gay people getting married was worth opposing. I started looking at what the various parties in Canada were really for. And I found myself discovering that the left-leaning parties made far more sense.

    I started to ask myself things. Things like "if simply extending prison sentences were a real deterrent to crime, why hasn't it worked any better?". And "wouldn't tackling the CAUSES of crime be more effective than retroactively punishing criminals?". I started to realize that the reason the right appeals to a lot of folks is because they're very reactionary. They're the type that scratches their chicken pox even after they're told it's going to scar. Because it makes sense on an immediate, reactionary level. But we KNOW that scratching it is only a short-term solution at best. We know that we need to go get that calamine lotion, and even if it takes a little longer to become effective, it's a better solution in the long term.

    And I found the left to be the place where people bought calamine lotion.

  • abbytron

    I couldn't tell you what formed my beliefs. The way I feel as a liberal is, as far as I can remember, the way I've always felt. I grew up in a caring, loving family. My mom has always been very vocally a democrat. I never heard my dad discuss politics, but supposedly he was conservative. He was also a very good, gentle man who spend much of his life volunteering for St. Vincent de Paul, helping out families in need, which also shaped my liberalism I'm sure, because in my experience liberals consider kindness and compassion to be virtues. I guess I was raised to put the good of others before the good of myself, and so my vote always reflects that. I am motivated not by money, but by humanity.

  • FrayedMachine

    Growing up, politics were never really welcomed in the house. I'm first generation American so I grew up in an environment that, for the most part, actually shied away from people of power and was very much taught and raised to not really question authority.

    Unfortunately for my mother, that completely backfired and is probably the reason why I'm as liberal as I am. I was raised by a woman who was raised in a country with very old fashioned values. I was also the only girl out of three kids and at a relatively early age started to realize that Uh, just because I've got a cooch doesn't mean that I should be expected to do all of the house work because, duh, having a peepee doesn't justify being able to sit and play video games instead. So from there became a long trail of questioning authority, specifically authority that was reflective of old country values.

    Which I guess brings me to today. The Republican party makes me dry heave with how old country it is and I don't see that as a good thing, and I certainly don't want to see this country go in that direction. I don't want my daughters growing up to think that they're lesser and need to fulfill traditionally viewed expectations to be considered some-thing- viable to this country.

    I think also having watched my mother single handedly support our family after my father passed away well over a decade ago effected my decision. She struggles way too much just to get by. I can't vote for a man who's outright spoken against almost half of the country who works so hard to get through every day and put meals on the table. Because seriously?

  • Scully

    I grew up in a Soviet-occupied, Eastern European, extremely Catholic country. My mother is the youngest of 7 children. If my Socialist Liberal beliefs aren't a continuation of my mother's rebellion, I don't know what else to blame. Or maybe it's plain old decency and empathy towards my fellow humans. Yeah. That might be it.

  • Bodhi

    "Or maybe it's plain old decency and empathy towards my fellow humans. Yeah. That might be it."

    Even my extremely loud & vehemently racist grandfather came around before he died. He called my father aside & "confessed" his change of heart. It was flat fucking amazing & if that old bastard could see the light, I don't understand why so many people in this country have such a hard time with it.

  • Socraz6

    I vote D because of the social issues. I grew up in a strongly liberal household and still share most of those values today at 29. I think a lot of people's beliefs are based on what they are exposed to the most. It's certainly possible to break out of the belief system you were raised in, but it takes some serious introspection and the ability to admit that you could be wrong, which is always difficult.

  • I vote Democrat because I have ladybits. There are other reasons too, but if I'm being honest it all comes down to women's issues.

  • psykins

    I know that a lot of the way I vote is due to my experiences in college
    and hating a lot of what my parents stand for. They are die-hard
    Republicans, super evangelical fundamentalist Christian, and once we got
    cable in middle school Fox News was on constantly. I was pretty much in
    line with them until I got to college. I actually went to a Catholic
    school where 3 theology courses were required, and it was only then that
    I really understood that 1. The Bible doesn't have to be literal and 2.
    Other people really do think differently than my parents do!

    also got a boyfriend (now husband) and started having sex, and
    researching sex. My experiences on feminist Sex Ed, Sex Positive website
    (www.scarleteen.com, mostly) led me to reproductive rights activism,
    and it just seemed natural to extend that to gay rights activism. I also
    had a few friends who were bisexual in high school, and I really loved
    them and didn't want to reject them just because of my stupid parents'
    stupid beliefs.

    My husband is also very liberal, and I know a lot of his ideas have influenced me.

    being poor really helped me understand why many of the things on the
    liberal agenda are necessary for equality. I was upper middle class
    until my parents kicked me out after finding out I had sex, at which
    point I was suddenly totally on my own financially. Taking the bus
    everywhere, having to work 30 hours plus go to school, and never having
    any money in my savings account showed me what it's like to really fear
    small things that could spell financial disaster. I was still so lucky
    because of my background, and recognizing that gave me a lot of sympathy
    for those who didn't get that leg up.

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