I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is "needed" before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents "interests, " I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can." [Barry Goldwater]
A liberal Democrat in my late teens/early twenties. I had always been a logical person and the idea of "free" health care, peace at any cost, government intervention in the economy, etc seemed perfectly logical... though I never could really say why or give any evidence. People were professing a lot of passionate, romantic, and altruistic ideals in media like MTV, Rolling Stone, etc. And it was attractive. It wasn't until later that - for all the talk on the left about conservatives being Nazis trying to impose their beliefs on Americans - I realized it was actually the opposite. The Dems were actually the ones imposing their beliefs on the population - and there is decades of socialist legislation to prove it!
Then I went to college and read texts by John Locke, Adam Smith, and I learned about the Founding Fathers and their vision for their new country. Suddenly, the Democratic agenda seemed as foreign to those ideals as Communist China. It's amazing what happens to a mind when the MSM loses its grip on it.
From 1994 - 1998, I was a Republican, though I didn't agree (and still don't) on the party's position on abortion.
Finally, as I learned more and more about politics, economics, and history, the Libertarian Party seemed to be the perfect fit for me and I've been one ever since. Though I still vote Republican in many elections. I guess first and foremost I am anti-Democrat. My hatred for all things socialist and communist propels me to defend free-market conservatism and liberty whenever possible. It still amazes me that after all the history we have of the effects of state-control - no matter to what degree - that there are people who still believe we would be better off with a society based on government mandate rather than capitalism. It's baffling how so many think that more government makes them more free. They fail to see how programs like public education, welfare, universal health care, etc. are exactly what Marx and Engels envisioned for the world. And though all of our memories about the USSR are of an archaic, oppressive dictatorship, there are so many that embrace the types of things upon which that society was founded.
I voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 and 2004 elections - again, because I did not want to see a socialist as the leader of my country. But, at this point, I would have definitely voted Libertarian. W is not a conservative. He is a socialist weakling who has grown the government with his pandering entitlement programs for seniors and farmers. He has single-handedly reversed the enthusiasm for smaller government, lower taxes, and more freedom that Ronald Reagan (our greatest president ever) worked so hard to establish. Furthermore, he has probably set the conservative agenda back about a decade. And the "Republican" Senate and Congress went along with it all. Just think, it took about 40 years to achieve what conservatives dreamed of - a Republican WH and House. During the six years, what happened? Entitlement programs grew, the government grew, and the entire country has been polarized.
In 2008, I like to think I'll vote on principle, but Hillary scares me so much that I will gladly vote whoever the Reps put in to oppose her.
One more thing - I am an atheist and proud of it. I don't worship Satan, I don't believe I have a set of morals apart from the rest of society. I believe in America, which means I believe in the right for all religious people to peacefully express themselves. I know that the Founding Fathers were men of faith, and I know how important religion is to most of America. I would never try to impose my beliefs (or lack thereof) on you... don't impose yours on me.