Liberal Republicans? Conservative Democrats? Can someone explain?

This is a question I’ve been thinking about for awhile, ever since I saw an episode of Dennis Miller Live some time ago. He said that at one point, liberal/conservative and Democrat/Republican were two separate axes (sp?) and they had since merged, equating Democrat with liberal and Republican with conservative.

It looks like, until the 80s, liberal Republicans weren’t hard to find. Meanwhile, in Congress today, there are stilll many conservative Democrats. So what I want to know is:

Until the two axes merged, what made a Democrat a Democrat? What made a Republican a Republican?

Why do there seem to be a lot more conservative Democrats than liberal Republicans today, at least in Congress?

What are some real-life examples of all the various combinations? Are there any programs or stances that are typical of those combinations?

I keep up on politics a lot these days, but I have a feeling the explanation for all of this goes back to before I was born.

There’s only two things I can answer here: until about the 1920s and 30s, Democrats were NOT liberal. Liberal policies originated during the depression, particularly when FDR was elected to be president. He set the mold for the Democrats of the future.

I would say that there are conservative Democrats because it gets votes, and because they can appeal to more people that way - both conservatives and liberals. They’re slimeballs, I tell ya! That isn’t to put down those that are simply moderate, mind you.

Also, have you ever heard of the “Southern Democratic Party”? VERY different from the Democrats that were around then… in the 50s-60s. They were socially quite conservative, but perhaps more fiscally liberal… I’m not sure on this though, others may be more knowledgeable.

It’s due to many factors. Primarily, political dealignment is still going on. I give you the example of East Texas. It’s still a Democratic stronghold, Al Gore actually won many parts of it against native son George Bush, but it’s a socially conservative, populist area, hardly in line with today’s Democratic Party. Bottom line is that these people still resent the Republican Party and see Democrats as people who represent their views. Also, there are many Connecticut Republicans who would be Democrats in any other state but Democrats up here are often associated as city-centered and machine driven so suburban people, who are often fiscally moderate but socially liberal are still Republicans. Also, there are single issue voters; many Catholics are liberal in every area except abortion. Former Boston mayor Ray Flynn, a very liberal save abortion type, endorsed Bush in the past election. Basically, it’s the image of the party that still inspires some people to vote one way even though it might not be with the people with which they are most ideologically aligned.

There are no such things as conservatives or liberals.

We’ve always been at war with Eurasia.

I need sleep, desperately.

Also, “liberal” and “conservative” are very big categories. Hardly anybody is completely liberal or conservative on all issues, and there’s a wide spectrum on both sides. (Examining a part of the political spectrum you have no real interest in can be instructive – for me, it was seeing all of the massive disagreements and huge policy differences among people I would lump all together as <ahem> “dirty rotten America-hating pinkos” – you should pardon the expression.)

Add to that the fact that a lot of these kind of labels only make sense from a particular starting point, and it gets even more difficult to specify a person’s politics without running down a list of issues. (e.g., the USA tends to be more right-wing in general than Europe, so a “moderate conservative” here could be similar to a “right-wing extremist” in some countries over there. And some relatively centrist Europeans would be extremely liberal in the USA.)

Really, what we need is a workable co-ordinate system, with two or three major axes. Then you could say that Senator X is 247/-72/29, and we’d all know what you were talking about.

Quote SNenc:

What makes a baseball player and Red Sox or a Yankee? Same thing. For a long time Democrats and Republicans were just two teams. How someone got on one team or another had to do with parents, local conditions, etc. Ideology played a very small role.

Also, keep in mind that which side of an issue a party takes changes with time. The Republican party’s stance of 1860-1880 is pretty much 180 degreees from what it is now. I have frequently used “isolationism” as an example of party/wing flip-flop issue.

The polarization of politics by party has been a very bad thing for the USA. It has made partisan many issues that shouldn’t be (or shouldn’t even be political issues at all).

Have you finished your morning exercises? I certainly hope you aren’t keeping a journal of any kind…