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Political Socialization

by Alex Brown 4 months ago in humanity

How to get peer-pressured by your Grandmother

Black and white photo of an older woman sticking out her tongue

I don’t remember my first encounter with politics. While it could be argued that this is because everything is political by nature as everyone’s political views either affect or reflect how they approach questions and circumstances throughout their life, the far simpler deep-dive lies in my relationship to my paternal grandmother.

From a very young age I remember people coming up to me and asking if I was one of “Little Martha Brown’s” grandkids, they didn’t always see this as a good thing. My grandmother is the youngest of 10 kids, and as such has the ultimate case of youngest-child-syndrome where she feels the need to act as a contrarian to them about everything. This is most evident in the fact that she is the only democrat in her immediate family.

While her age certainly lends her some slightly aged ideals, my grandmother’s political leanings are fairly far left for someone who grew up in the McCarthy era. She approves of most socialist ideas becoming government practice, she was an early supporter of LGBTQ rights, and she very loudly held all of these beliefs in an area heavily populated by the KKK to give you an idea of the political atmosphere surrounding her.

As the beloved and all-powerful 4’9” matriarch of our family, we are all generally in agreement with her on all of these issues, and since she acted as my babysitter from birth to 5 years and would put the news on to actively comment on the happenings between Barney VHS tapes, I had a set ideology from a very young age.

While I could spend the entirety of this paper divulging the details of my grandmother’s influence, I give this context mainly in relation to Dean Jaros’s studies into the effects of family on political socialization.

“Several studies of voting behavior in adults suggest that participation in elections is related to having been raised in a home where political discussion and political activity were present. That is, active adults can recall similar activity in their home when they were children... Given the fact that party identification is so critical in people’s organizing of politics they experience, it is not surprising that it is developed early”

Dean Jaros, Socialization to Politics

The somewhat extreme view of my grandma, however, was tapered by my dad who both has a tendency to not go extreme on anything, and also to be sure of the facts before committing to a position.

This led to me asking a lot of questions while my older family members debated amongst themselves, and once I was in school with access to a library accompanied by the rise of the internet, I gained facts and figures to back what I thought, as well as dispel some misconceptions that I either inherited from family members, or had developed on my own.

As I grew older, and surer of my very left-leaning ideals, the world seemed to grow more divisive around me. The fight for marriage equality was ramping up with Obergefell v. Hodges being passed soon after my graduation from high school, and the Black Lives Matter movement begun by the death of Mike Brown forming not too far from where I lived, I found that many of my classmates who I had grown up with had radically different views on these issues than I did.

Rather than dissuade me, this in the end only strengthened my resolve on the matter. When engaging with them, many seemed to either not know, or care little for any facts on the matter. And with evidence at that point being the major deciding factor for me, I got into frequent arguments with them, and thus grew to somewhat resent any right-leaning views as a result.

My views haven’t changed in the years since I've left home, though my animosity towards conservatives has certainly softened, as it was by far the worst thing I learned in my youth.

I believe in equal treatment to all individuals, a sensible balance between security and personal privacy, that the government has a duty to do its utmost to take care of the citizens who give it its power, and that large corporations are only out to make money not because of some inherent evil but because that is how business works.

The way this has translated into my political leanings means that I stand with Queer rights, Civil Rights, and feminist movements, I’m pro-socialist policies but only so far as wanting socialist government comparable to the current state of Denmark (I'm very much opposed to the praxis of Communism), and I believe that while some sacrifices in personal privacy can be warranted in service to keeping a community as a whole safe, there is absolutely a line that can’t be crossed.

As I got older and those Political spectrum quizzes became available, I decided to put a more formal term to where I stood. (Yes I know these are not exceptionally accurate because how could they be but this is more story and these are the tools I used to figure myself out when I was 19.) Communitarian was the word I got back, and I had no idea what that meant.

Upon looking up a definition (I won’t give you the full text as it is as long and pretentious as one can expect from a theory that was partially developed by Hegel, also who, second use of parenthesis in as many paragraphs. Oh how my 9th grade Language Arts teacher must shudder at the thought.) The generally agreed meaning is “ The principal task of government is to secure and distribute fairly the liberties and economic resources individuals need to lead freely chosen lives.” and that is a sentiment I agree with.

I don’t know if I've learned much except a new term from writing all of this out, but even that can be worth something.

I learned my political leanings very early in life and have been tested and challenged on them more than once, and thinking of this I've come to realize that my experience isn’t unique. Millions have a family heritage of ideologies and I can’t be the only one, or even only side, that puts such a high value on having a combination of facts and moral righteousness to cement my thoughts on any given matter.

That thought isn’t a new one to me, but what has developed over my completion of writing this is this question; if we share those same values then how do we come to such wildly varying conclusions? And if such differences can arise from the same source, what confidence can we have in a governments ability to remain objective, impartial, and unbiased?

Bell, Daniel. “Communitarianism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 21 Mar. 2016,

Jaros, Dean. Socialization to Politics. Nelson, 1973.


Alex Brown

Mostly politically slanted and very clearly influenced by Youtube video essayists

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