Conservatism and Liberalism, contrary to popular belief fanned by the media, are not exclusive to the Republican or Democratic Parties.
It is individual politicians who tend one way or the other. Historically the Democratic party had, for many years, a conservative majority and the Republican party a liberal majority.
At the end of the 19th century the Republicans advocated classical liberalism and progressive policies. Theodore Roosevelt was the father of the National Park System and fought land-owners and industrialists who resisted public ownership of land and forests. He also sucessfully enacted anti-trust legislation to hold down the power of large corporations. White-collar college-educated professionals favoring fair labor laws and equal rights for all Americans were mostly Republican until the 1950s. That is when the ultra-conservatives gained control of the party.
By contrast, the early Democrats were strongly in favor of state rights and opposed to a national bank. They were primarily land-owners in the 19th century and split into two factions over the slavery issue. The anti-slavery faction sided with the northern Republicans in the Civil War and the period of southern reconstruction. When the Republicans split into progressive and conservative factions in 1912, the Democrats (President Woodrow Wilson) took over both the White House and Congress. This was when the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote was enacted. President Wilson also persuaded a largely conservative Democratic Congress to pass major progressive reforms. The first was the Underwood Act which provided for lower import tariffs and a graduated Federal income tax. The passage of the Federal Reserve Act provided the Nation with the more elastic money supply it badly needed. Antitrust legislation established a Federal Trade Commission to prohibit unfair business practices. Other new laws prohibited child labor and limited railroad workers to an eight-hour day.
After World War I was over, the Republicans returned to power. They immediately rejected membership in the League of Nations and curbed restraints on banks and business. The resulting boom and bust ended in the nine year long
The failure of Pres. Hoover and the Republican Congress to react quickly to the Stock Market crash resulted in the election of Pres. Franklin Roosevelt and a Democratic Congress.
Within the first 100 days, a series of economic programs were enacted to provide Relief for the unemployed, Recovery of the economy, and Reform of the financial system, generally called the New Deal . Many of them still exist today:
After World War II the progressive trend continued. Although there were several Republican presidents, for the most part Congress remained under Democratic control, see the
However, presidents of either party managed to achieve much of their programs because even congress controlled by the opposing party was not rigidly controlled by party leaders.
Pres. Eisenhower received bipartisan support for the huge government spending program - the Interstate Highway system. Pres. Reagan received bipartisan support for his tax reform and military expansion programs. Pres.Nixon's bold welfare reform, Family Assistance, program failed because union supported Democrats united with conservative Republicans to fight it.
The present congressional grid-lock is the result of the ultra-conservative Republicans gaining hammerlock control over all party congressional members. Consequently no Republican representative or senator dares vote against the party position on any issue.
All Republican Congressmen and women signed a pledge never to increase taxes. This was before the tax reductions of 2001 and 2003 which, followed by the estimated $3 Trillion cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghabistan, lead to the present huge deficit and financial crisis. To their credit a group of them, lead by rep. LaTourette of Ohio, have just renounced this pledge.
Many representatives elected in the 2010 elections are not conservatives as commonly defined,
They do not only resist change, they actually want to move this country back to the 19th. century. to an era in which there were no income taxes, no Social Security, no government support for the elderly and sick, no government support for education, no support for medical or energy research. An era in which industry was allowed to maximize profits by polluting the atmosphere and the water in the rivers and subterranean sources which supply our drinking water.
Is that what the voters who elected them actually want? All recent polls have differing numbers, but all agree that at least 60% are opposed to that policy.
Regardless of whom you prefer for President, you MUST vote against any candidate for Representative, Senator or Governor who wants to turn the clock back a 100 years.