I was born lower middle-class economically, and was never religious. As an ill-informed 18 y/o, I considered myself leftist both socially and economically.
When I went to college to study engineering, I heard that the jobs were mostly in defense and related fields, so I started changing my outward appearance to fit in. I started espousing more right-wing beliefs, and by my late 20s, would have considered myself definitely right of center. This process was helped along by the fact that I was making money now and didn’t feel like such a have-not. I also wanted very much to get married and have a family, and this goal seemed more in line with right-of-center beliefs, which also seemed more desirable to potential mates. Finally, I was working at a place where most people were way right of center.
As I hit my 30s, several things happened. As I succeeded at work, I felt less pressure to fit in. Also, I found it easier to get dates, and discovered that I was very happy as a bachelor. As such, I felt less pressure to appear traditionally strong and stable and grab women’s attention in social situations. Later, I drifted in ‘swinging’ and open relationships, and found myself very comfortable in them. And I finally acknowledged to myself that I didn’t have any religion – I had tried and found wanting the advice, “Act as though you have faith, and you will be given faith”.
By my early 30s, I had arrived pretty much at the beliefs I have now (I’m 46).
Economic issues Although the Bush administration has redefined economic conservatism (it used to be about balancing the budget, now it’s about cutting taxes), I would still call myself right-of-center fiscally: my primary economic tenet is personal fiscal responsibility. And though the Republican party has certainly failed at this, and although Clinton (along with a Republican Congress) did balance the budget, I don’t see the Democrats as being fundamentally different, just temporarily out of power.
I remember a conversation in my mid-20s with an older, very right-wing co-worker, when I was just starting to make money. I told him that I didn’t feel much rapport with the Republicans – they seemed to be looking out for the rich. He replied, “Yes, but see that guy there?” He pointed to a janitor. “Ted Kennedy is looking out more for that guy’s interests than he is yours”. That stayed with me.
Social issues Definitely left-of-center. I am outspokenly in favor of equal rights for gays. I don’t want religious dogma injected into civil affairs. I believe consenting adults in private should be free to view what they want, and schtup whom they want. I don’t own a gun (I occasionally use them for my work), but I strongly oppose most gun control measures (which is probably due to my upbringing in a very pro-gun state). I differ with both parties in that I see this last view as perfectly compatible with the others.
I am very unhappy with this adminstration’s performance on just about everything, but honestly don’t see how anyone could feel otherwise. In 2008, I will vote for whichever party doesn’t nominate a fringe candidate.