Monday, February 21, 2005

A mind is a difficult thing to change: Part One--Intro

When I first started this blog, one of the things I was sure I'd do an awful lot of writing about is what it means to change one's mind on a topic as fundamental and emotional as politics: who does it, why they do it, how they do it. I thought I'd explore the ways in which "changers" differ from those who don't ever change, and the repercussions changers face among friends and family who often consider them to be pariahs. I even thought that, if a bunch of these people ever migrated to my blog, it could function as a sort of combination support group (sorry, it's the therapist in me!) and clearing house on the topic of political changers and what makes them tick.

Somehow I haven't gotten around to doing any of this until now. Hmmm. Procrastination. Whatever. But I hope to finally start tackling this vast and unwieldy subject, bit by bit. I'll be thinking this through as I go along, so please bear with me.

Of course, the political change I know best is the one I've already made--from liberal Democrat to whatever it is I am now (what I call "neo-neocon," as a sort of joke). Nowadays, "neocon" is a term used most often as a pejorative, but its actual definition is something like "liberal hawk" (see this article for a more complete explanation, containing one of my favorite definitions, "the kind of right-winger a liberal wouldn't be embarrassed to have over for cocktails." Or, in my case, dinner. I'm much bigger on dinner. Especially if it's any kind of ethnic food.)

Way back when I was in graduate school getting my Master's degree, my fellow therapists-in-training and I (Democrats all, by the way) were forced to think long and hard (and to talk and talk and talk and write and write and write) about how it is that people change. Therapists are change-agents by definition, and it helps if a therapist actually believes that people can change. But every therapist knows a bitter truth, and that is that true and fundamental change is both difficult and rare, and that it is often exceedingly painful for the person who changes, and for everyone around him/her. The old standby about how many therapists it takes to change a lightbulb ("one, but the lightbulb has to want to change") is not only true, but insufficient--it would be great if wanting to change, and talking to a therapist about it, were all that was necessary for the desired change to occur. But of course it's not.

I not only spent years thinking, talking, and writing about how people change, but also trying to help people accomplish it--and, sometimes, actually even succeeding (although maybe they did it in spite of my help--one never knows).

But all clients who come to a therapist want to change--or, at least, they pay lip service to the fact that they do. So they start ahead of the game, because they are strongly motivated, motivated enough to pay a substantial sum (or have their insurance pay it) to a total stranger to whom they also must tell their deepest--and sometimes most shameful--secrets.

Political change is different. I think it tends to happen against one's will, often very much against one's will. The changer is dragged kicking and screaming to a different point of view by something--but what?

I'm not aware of any studies done on the subject, although I certainly haven't done an exhaustive search--unless you count reading a bunch of blogs written by people who've done this very sort of changing. These blogs appear to attract an audience with a high percentage of people who've undergone a similar political transformation. Changers seem to want to talk about it a lot with each other, much like those in 12-step programs, and there are a lot of jokes about that on these blogs ("recovering liberals" and the like).

Some of what I write here will be based on what I've gleaned from those blogs. Some will be based on any research I might be able to dig up on the subject (suggestions are welcome). Some will be based on--well, my thoughts on the subject.

To be continued....

[ADDENDUM: For Part II, go here.]


At 5:41 PM, February 21, 2005, Blogger VietPundit said...

Hi there,

I just saw one of your comments at Roger L. Simon's blog, and followed the link here. I admire people who have the courage to change politically (like you and Simon), especially if they live in such predominantly liberal areas like Hollywood (Simon) or New England.
I just added your blog to my blogroll. Check out my little blog when you get a chance.

At 8:42 AM, February 22, 2005, Blogger James G. said...

I love your blog, and I have made similar changes in my own political beliefs.

Imagine what it's like to live on the other side of the Atlantic...

I wrote about it here:

I recently re-made the acquaintance of someone I hung out with when I was a teenager. He's now a union organizer. I think it was a bit difficult for either of us to talk to each other about politics. But politics end up being about everything in one's life. Not just something to debate.

Good luck with your blogging. I know how you feel.

One of my all-time heroes is Malcolm X. This is because his entire identity and fame were based upon his political beliefs. But when the preponderance of evidence told him he was wrong, he recanted those beliefs, knowing full well that it would cost him his life. And it did.

(Luckily, we probably won't have to pay with our own lives for changing our minds about things.)


At 9:29 AM, March 24, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...


How much did you change your mind and how much was it simply a matter that the Democratic party no longer reflected your core values?

Going out on a limb I would say you probably love this country, a lot. And you probably always were an American before you were a Democrat. I suspect you probably believed that their policies were good for America.So did I.

After 9/11 you began to question if the Democratic platform was really the best thing for the America and the American people. You changed your mind. Not your heart.

At 8:46 PM, April 21, 2005, Blogger Penny said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm the same age, also in the mental health field and have reached the same conclusion.

9/11 was to me what Pearl Harbor was to my mother - that huge reassessment of core values; and more important, I have grandchildren I refuse to compromise to the frivolities of the Democratic party .

At 8:58 AM, May 13, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

neo, Love your blog. Keep going, America needs you. -Terry

At 3:29 AM, May 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I just found your blog through Roger L. Simon as well. Blueberry makes a very good point. When I took the bold step of "switching teams", I did so reluctantly. I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how I had changed. I realized that I hadn't changed at all. The values I have always held are simply not represented by the Democratic Party. Not anymore. In fact, the "new" liberals frighten me with their odd mix of complacency and complicity when it comes to dealing with tyranny in the world. Anyway, welcome to the dark side. ;)

At 7:16 PM, July 01, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, came here because of Mr. Simon. I don't want to create an echo chamber but I know that there are many many of us out here who have discovered things about ourselves, politics and political parties since 9/11. I, too, was a liberal and went to a public interest-focused graduate school because I was "with the people". I even had a kaffiyeh and wore it proudly. My reaction to 9/11 was immediate and visceral and crystalized my true political feelings like no other event in my life. I'm 39 and grew up in a political haze in so far as I accepted the left-wing platitudes without much thought. What sealed my conversion to the Republican party was when Democrats were holding up creation/passage of the creation of the Dept. of Homeland Security because of civil service protections. I work for the federal government now and know that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to be fired. And I knew the Senators and Representative knew it as well. Placing civil service protections, even for a moment, over creating and sustaining a competent work force to safeguard our country?! Goodbye. I proudly voted for GW Bush although that pride is shared only with my sister. My friends and colleagues seem to have only drifted further leftward, in some reflexive, non-thinking way, since 9/11. I do not agree with every platform of the right but I admire its seriousness on national security. Nothing else much matters to me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I know I am not alone.

At 3:40 PM, July 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another neo con trait: The neo con recognizes the folly of the counter-culture of the 60's and is moved to rectify the mistakes and harm done to the new generations. Enthusiastic optomism in regard to abortion, animalistic promiscuity, dwindling value on marrage, the defining down of deviant behavior, same sex marrage. My own children think it's always been this way. Moral decay is one of the sure signs of a declining civilization. I love the neo cons march on the domestic home front.

At 8:49 PM, March 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay,Here we go. People don't care whether you are a democrat or a republican. We don't care why you changed from one to the other either. All we care about is our freedom. Abortion should only be allowed under certain circumstances...Gay marriages are disgusting and they Go against God, So, if you want to go to hell...go ahead and have anus sex with a man... blah blah blah... the only thing that is important here is listning to God...i know right...I sound like some sort of "Bible Thumper" excuse my french...but i am really not. I just don't see why America has to have arguments within itself. We are a free country and we all would like to stay that way. But, why argue over democratic and republican parties? It s a waste of time. Valuable time that we could be using to become a stronger nation. Our literacy rates are decreasing. But, does anyone care? No all they care about is fighting. More people are getting killed every day. But, does anyone care? No we are too busy fighting. So the next time you blog...why don't you put the real problems down. Don't write about being a democrat or republican...Write about being an American and increasing the knowledge and freedom of the people in our wonderful nation.

At 8:54 PM, March 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you like them apples?

At 7:13 AM, June 16, 2006, Blogger A Jacksonian said...

Change... for me 9/11 was a catalyzing event, one that crystallized my feelings in ways I did not understand. These ways were not unknown to my feelings or thoughts, but had never become firm to me as they did then and are now so. I read hard and fast to understand and picked up on many things, but foremost was the strain of political thought that is not apparent in polite political circles and generally overlooked. I organized that somewhat as of late with the Precepts of Jacksonianism. The more I read the more it spoke to me of who and what I was and why I came to certain conclusions on things. Unfortunately by then the Party of Jackson was no more.

I have always voted independent of a party, all of them. My upbringing in a socialist oriented family gave me a view into that conception that anyone coming to it as an intellectual activity lacks. And I discuss my problems with socialism elsewhere... but by the time I was of voting age, I chose no party to follow as none went where I thought it should. By the end of the Cold War I was already in the mindset of seeing a Zero Party State and not liking it overmuch.

9/11 punched that home and left a deep, raw imprint on my psyche. One of my co-worers worked at the Pentagon and an associate was on flight 77. People I knew and respected deeply. One came through ok, having been in another part of the building... the fate of Flight 77 was in plain view.

I criticized the administration for not speaking the name of what this was and taking it seriously. I later criticized the lack of a foreign policy to help in the limitation and ending of this notion of terrorism to pull down states and put nothing in its place. I support fully the work in Afghanistan and, finally, cleaning up the mess left in Iraq. When the Republic is attacked it must respond... and when it leaves a job undone it had sworn to complete, it must complete it. When the US is brought in to fight tyranny, the only solution is to end such tyrrany and to help those that have been under the heel of oppression.

Not to *stop* because the fight is *hard* and long. If it were easy the US would not be called in now, would it?

And so simple and honorable concepts come to the forefront... but they are *never* simplistic in their enaction. I simple solution that is wrongly founded will fail, as will an overly complex one that starts at a good base but goes far from it.

There is no political party for that... so I needs must found my own. As Andrew Jackson said it, so it is true to this day: "One man with courage makes a majority."

Each and every One of Us... We the People.


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