How do you become a Liberal/Conservative?


Hell, It's about time!
How does one become a liberal or a conservative? What factors are at play to transform someones political philosophy? Parents? School? Location? Media?

For me I think it had to do with my military family upbringing. I was exposed to conservatism at an early age. My dad always pushed personal and fiscal responsibility on me. Eventually I just learned that I need to be self sufficient to be sucsessful in the world. My conservatism stemed from there. I became more active in politics in 2000 when we we're learning about Gore and Bush in school. We had to do a report on each candidate, and pick three issues and how the candidates stood on those issues and if I agreed or disagreed.

So for me it was my parents and school. I lived in Maryland so I don't think location would count. I did live in a more rural conservative part of Maryland, so it might have had an effect on the school. More recently I think the internet has had a big impact on my views, I've changed from a die-hard Republican to more of a Libertarian/Republican in the last 5 years.

What factors were the case for you? What factors have a bigger impact then others?



rainbow 11!
You can call me a liberal, and I was brought up in a military home as well, but that didn't seem to help coerce my political stance. I can't honestly think of an influence that would have really pushed me.


Band Nerd ♫
My parents and grandma are Democrats, but I really do not think they influenced me all of that much. Maybe my Education view, but I can assure you the rest of my views are my own 100%, and I'm just listening to my mom on education because she knows her stuff.

LGBT rights, civil rights in general, education, death penalty, war, and murder in general are all things I feel strongly for.

The views on LGBT rights are my own. Nobody else in my family shares these views. My parents are far more conservative, and my dad even ranted when he saw some gays/lesbians fighting for the right to marry. Although I do not think he was actually ranting against them in general, he was just ranting that it wasn't going to do any good. I don't know, it was like 5 years ago or so.

But I can not remember a single time in my childhood where they really stood up for LGBT people. I, of course, (if you've paid close attention to my posts.) have personal reasons to support the cause.

Civil rights, well I just can not believe the things that have happened in history. I do believe I've always believed that everybody should be equal, but classes and media really showed me how bad this has been in the past, and has made me feel more strongly about it. I can not believe the kind of stuff that African Americans and women put up with in the past. It makes me sick, and I can not believe anybody could ever think like those people did of the past fighting against them and even making blacks slaves and viewing them as less than people. It's so sickening.

Education, well I admit it is strongly influenced by my mom. I'm studying to become a music teacher, so I do think that education should be taken more seriously, though.

As for death penalty, war, and murder in general these are all like civil rights. I believe they are deeply embedded morales in me, but they have been strengthened (or I have at least realized them more) by the media and history... but trust me, even if media goes over the top on this, murder is still very, very, very wrong to me. War and death penalty are both murder in my eyes, and therefore I can not see the least bit of good in them. Especially not the death penalty.

So honestly, I think that education has only really been influenced by my parents. On everything else I'm quite a bit more liberal than them.


Registered Member
A major reason is the way your parents treat you when you're a kid. The less parents talk to their kids, communicate with them and the more they beat them, use physical punishment and so on, the more likely is it the kid becomes an "authoritarian character" in later life.

Conservatives are predominantly authoritarian in their mindset.

Our professor in authoritarianism class last semester told us a lot about "authoritarianism research" and studies regarding the RWA character.

I don't remember all the names of the involved scientists, but some studies we were shown were rather interesting:

For example, a study conducted in the early 90s found that the inhabitants of the former USSR had a much lower RWA level than those of the US.

Other studies were very much psychology-oriented, like those by Christa and Wulf Hopf, based on theoretical work by Adorno and Jessica Benjamin, and found interesting results regarding the education of high RWA types, and the probability of them becoming far-right extremists: A lack of communication by the parents in early childhood would yield a typical mindset, where the "victims" of such an education started idolizing and glorifying the own parents, claiming when they suffered, it was because "I deserved it, but my parents always were fair", and who would then strongly think in terms of "our kind" and "the others", no matter if that is family, race or nationality. These high RWA displayed an incoherence, a split of ethnical consciousness, by using different yardsticks to judge the actions of "the own kind" and "others". And classic psychological projection: They would attach all kind of character traits to "the others" which they themselves displayed, but hated on themselves, unconsciously. They would typically show low self-confidence, and love to subordinate themselves under charismatic leaders, because they feel they would take part in their "glamour" if they did that. That happens when you don't talk to kids and beat them.

Also, did you know that what Alice Miller called "dark education" was actually en vogue in Germany during the Empire and Weimar -- conservative education "experts" actually advanced the opinion it's necessary to break the will of the child (deliberately ignoring his or her wishes and even use physical punishment when he or she expresses her will) when he or she is three years old, because that allegedly is the only way to teach a kid "discipline" and make it ready to fit in society? When I learnt this, I thought "wow, I guess we can forget all the research about other causes for Nazism".

And while it is an empirical fact that by far most of these authoritarian types become politically right-leaning to different degrees, Adorno (IIRC) also made a study about "left-wing authoritarianism" and found that unlike RWA people, LWA people were much less prone to glorification of leader/father-figures, racism (or other in-group/out-group thinking), but very likely to develop ideological fanatism, the delusion of being intellectually and ethically superior to others and prone to accept the indirect authority of ideological authors (re: Marxist zealots).

In Germany, the RWA type makes about 30% of the population currently, IIRC. The US got a surprisingly high score in a comparative study.

Here a link, if you are interested in more:

The Mahablog Essentials: Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians”
I blame my military family upbringing. My dad was deep bible belt, Alabama boy growing up, my mom was raised Lutheran, both served in the military. What else could I be but Liberal?


Hell, It's about time!
Conservatives are predominantly authoritarian in their mindset.
Bullshit. Plain and simple. Is Ron Paul and authoritarian? Is Bob Barr and autohitarian? How about Alan Keyes? They are some of the most conservative right wing politicians in this country. The founders were all conservative. There is no way you can convince me Thomas Jefferson was authoritarian... and he sure as hell was not liberal. He has to be one or the other. I am conservative, and I am in NO WAY authoritatian. In fact I'm the complete opposite. I stand up for freedom and civil rights... that means all of them, what I don't do is tell someone they can't excersice a right because it's offensive to me... thats authoritarian, supressing someone elses rights, and this is what a lot of liberals in this country do.


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I grew up in a conservative household, and did have a conservative outlook for a long time. It seemed to me that anarchy was best avoided however possible, and that the best way to do it was by putting people like my dad in charge, albeit my dad with certain qualities of Indiana Jones. Whatever good people decided was good was good, after all, and if good things often seemed heartless, they were just so in the small view.

I actually had a preference for heartless approaches to various ends, since they would probably seem less desirable to the idiot masses (i.e. my classmates) who were almost assuredly wrong about everything. They failed to even recognize that I was clearly an Übermensch destined for greatness, after all. Later--when my greatness failed to materialize as I expected it to--I slowly developed a rather egalitarian outlook, since developing a higher opinion of others seemed preferable to developing a lower opinion of myself.

With egalitarianism, comes rather strong misgivings about authority and inequality of all sorts. If there is to be inequality, it has to be justified on grounds other than so-and-so just being essentially better than so-and-so, since the quality of the individual is so context dependent (existence before essence: I had also become a rather thoroughgoing existentialist). Add to that the strong belief in freedom of expression of a wannabe writer/poet/artist/intellectual, general secularism, and the anti-war views of a (as of back then) pot-smoking potential draftee with a lot of close friends in the military; and you have the makings of a liberal.
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The entire book, available free online, is worth reading. I mean, when I say conservative or liberal, then I think of ideology in the (traditional sense) of progressivism vs. conserva( trying really hard here) principled conservation of institutions in society. I.e., a progressive liberal might want to upturn the school- system and allow comparatively radical new theories on how to educate children, for example because they are of the opinion that the existing system is broken. While the conservative would tend to evaluate a solution in terms of how to repair the system in order to return to the successful ways of the past - and aim for a continuation of the system with slight adjustments in the course now and then.

Could maybe describe this in terms of a circle, where the theoretical center on the top, conservatism and liberalism some distance to either side. Anarchy and sheer opportunism on the middle, farthest apart. And Authoritarian fascism ending up in an indistinguishable mass on the bottom.

What Altmeyer describes in the book is that there isn't a duality like this involved in the general political discourse, and he sets out to discover what the split actually is. And what political views tend to be most common for the types of personalities he finds in his studies. The methology is of course one of the most discussed subjects, because he can't find perfect correlations of any kind in this kind of behavioral study - which it is, rather than a political analysis. But the results of the study is pretty clear, and it is well documented, how certain /current/ political views match with a particular kind of personality.

In those terms, when we're going to look back at all of this in a few decades - or explain how in the name of fuck this happened - Altmeyer's study will be invaluable. And provide us with a good description of just what sort of mechanisms are involved.

Another thing - he's doing this research on schools and universities among generally well- educated people. It's not a type of leading study that extrapolates where you're leaning with a set of leading questions. Neither is it a public test - although he's had enough time to test the consistency of the various tests by, for example, allowing it to be filled out at home, etc.

Interesting read, no doubt about that. Even if it's going to be abused by some to make conclusions like: all Bushies are fascists! And things of that sort. In reality it's more interesting to see the study as a description of the prevalent attitudes towards violence and power, the acceptance level for the same, and how the different personalities - the agressive and passively dominated ones - fit into this, regardless of political leaning (in the traditional sense), and political preference (like it is currently in Altmeyer's test groups).

Question: does Altmeyer conducting such a study.... possibly make him liberal or conservative?


Registered Member
Bullshit. Plain and simple. Is Ron Paul and authoritarian? Is Bob Barr and autohitarian? How about Alan Keyes? They are some of the most conservative right wing politicians in this country. The founders were all conservative. There is no way you can convince me Thomas Jefferson was authoritarian... and he sure as hell was not liberal. He has to be one or the other. I am conservative, and I am in NO WAY authoritatian. In fact I'm the complete opposite. I stand up for freedom and civil rights... that means all of them, what I don't do is tell someone they can't excersice a right because it's offensive to me... thats authoritarian, supressing someone elses rights, and this is what a lot of liberals in this country do.
Actually, what you describe or rather libertarianism than conservatism. The founding fathers' views could best be described as "libertarian", IMHO. Some members of the Republican Party still are rather libertarian, like Ron Paul.

But these "classic conservatives", like Goldwater, Reagan or Paul have increasingly been marginalized within the past 8 years of George Bush's presidency. The dominant figures in the GOP are almost borderline-fascist authoritarians. How can you say people like George Bush, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft or John Yoo have anything at all to do with civil rights and freedom?

If you really support civil rights and small government, I wonder how you could possibly even think of voting for a Republican candidate, who is not Ron Paul. The current GOP establishment is an alliance of big-government civil rights destroyers, neocons and theocons, who marginalize the kind of conservative libertarians you describe.

If you really hold the views you claim, I propose you should realize the GOP is really not the party which reflects your views. Why don't you become active in politics, and try to get the GOP back on track, after it has been hijacked by right wing authoritarians?

Or you engage in the libertarian movement. They are strictly pro-government, free-market and pro-gun -- and they truly reflect the spirit of the founding fathers.

For example, you could start here and read some things here, I'm sure you'd be surprised how much genuine freedom loving libertarians think about Bush and the GOP today:

The Cato Institute

They are not my cup of tea, because I am too left-leaning, and I believe that social welfare is a good thing. But although I disagree with you, I think you should have the fair chance of learning how far today's GOP actually has become from your values.

Many probably still vote for the Reps, who think like you -- and they are entirely unaware the GOP no longer is a party for freedom, but strictly in the hands of authoritarians. That's very tragic, in my opinion.


Registered Member
Liberals see a lot of gray area, In any ethical dilemma they are the ones that always take the middle ground becuase they thing that it works out for everyone. There are a lot of party pitfalls when you choose to be a liberal, and a conservative at the same time because I'm pretty sure they have opposite opinions. I don't align myself with a party becuase when you vote you don't choose the party you choose the person, if I like one guys ideas ill vote for him regardless of what party he's in.