Raised by Democrats, young, single, female, living in New York City, reading the NY Times, and making a living in the arts, after voting against Bush twice and railing against him for most of 7 years, I registered as a Republican, voted for McCain in the primary and took the unprecedented step of actively supporting him throughout the General Election.
Was it because the GOP pandered to me by watering down its positions or running female candidates? Emphatically, no. Was it because I was initially more in sympathy with the Republican Party? NO. When I registered "Republican" I was vaguely disgusted with the Democrats but actively hated the GOP. The issue I'd tended to feel most strongly about was the PATRIOT ACT - I'd been against it for years - periodically engaging in some form of activism against it - Obama said he'd repeal it, McCain staunchly defended it. I wound up supporting McCain.
Why? The short answer is that, on closer inspection, I quickly saw that the candidate I'd planned to support (Ron Paul) was entirely unfit to be President, and McCain impressed me as a potential Commander in Chief - who would use the PATRIOT ACT responsibly while Obama struck me as somebody who would do whatever was politically expedient.
The longer is that due to my concerns about the PATRIOT ACT I was unsettled enough to become involved and got roped into organizing around that issue (by a woman I didn't yet realize was basically a communist) and suddenly spending large amounts of time researching and discussing political issues, becoming increasingly concerned about the fate of our country, and being exposed to a wide cross section of New York City's activist community. (pretty much everybody except Republicans) It also gave me an opportunity to explore and question a lot of issues on which I had casual opinions (For example, I was inclined to "anti-war" until I hung around the anti-war movement) The group that most welcomed me was the local Libertarian chapter - with other right wing third parties also being quite friendly and supportive of my endeavors. I thought some of their ideas were crazy (actually, I still think that) but they were enjoyable to argue with and through various discussions, reading,etc. I came to be quite fiscally conservative and more clearly pro-life. I found that I wished the LP was just a little less extreme with the fiscal conservatism and would drop the socially liberal part --- but didn't explore the GOP until deciding to get involved with the Republican primary -- from which point on I was immersed.
Is there a point to this story? Yes, several:
1. Give people something TO DO. It's easy to hold habitual opinions for years. I apathetically voted Democrat for years -- busy with other pursuits and assuming that neither party would be especially harmful. When people engage and take on responsibility they need to want to understand the issues a lot better- and also be put in contact with people who can inform them much better than the media.
a. local initiatives opposing the implementation of Obamacare (like the referendum Montana just passed)
b. other states rights issues
c. co-ordination of support networks for unwed soon to be mothers,
or any number of other possibilities ( a lot of this may already be being done)
#2. Partner with other groups who have areas of common ground. (For e.g. is there a local Libertarian or Constitution Party event that a local GOP chapter could look into co-sponsoring and encouraging people to attend) For years I rubbed shoulders with everybody BUT Republicans and think, in retrospect, if I'd been thrown in with Republicans sooner I would've sooner gotten on board.
#3. Hold Talk-Back type events encouraging people who disagree with Republicans on various issues to come and voice their concerns. I've never heard of any group actually doing that - but think there could be interest. The urge to just be heard out by those who disagree with you is strong in at least some people. It could be an opportunity to begin dialogue and /or correct misconceptions.
#4. The left never sleeps. The battle to take back the White House raged continually for 8 years. Every issue of legitimate concern for a broad swatch of the population was used as an opportunity to push a kitchen sink program of left wing priorities. (For example: The Iraq War was an opportunity to blame the capitalist system and chant things like "Money for healthcare not for war, etc., etc.)
* I put an asterisk because - while I'm conservative compared to the national average, I'm probably still moderate compared to many others at Redstate on some issues.