If you were born in the 1960s, educated in the 1970s, and emancipated from parental dependence in the 1980s, the ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans were clearly defined. Democrats favored high taxes, government regulation, and wealth redistribution. Republicans advocated low taxes, limited government, and private charity. During the 2000s those lines were blurred. 

Republicans gained control of the federal government for the first time in memory. For conservatives the results were underwhelming. The hope was for Republicans to curtail government’s growth and influence. Instead, they expanded the federal role in education, healthcare, airport screening, and law enforcement. Budget deficits grew, partially due to wars fought for righteous reasons but with murky objectives, and partially due to tepid efforts at entitlement reform. 

Republicans performed so poorly in implementing the party’s traditional platform that Democrats campaigned against a spendthrift GOP in two successive elections. Democrats prevailed, quickly revealed their true nature, and exponentially expanded the Washington’s fiscal irresponsibility. No astute observer would’ve expected otherwise. 

Despite the constant media harangue over the supposed lack of bipartisan cooperation, politicians of both main parties are alarmingly close in their basic governing philosophies. Washington politicians increasingly, and regardless of party, depend on Washington solutions to validate their worth, secure their status, and increase their authority. But outside the legislative arena the contrast between Democrats and Republicans remains quite clear. 

Rasmussen polling indicates that 71-percent of Republicans, and 55-percent of unaffiliated and third party voters, oppose federal programs that create jobs from thin air. On the other end of the spectrum, 54-percent of Democrats think it’s a jim-dandy idea for Washington to spend money it doesn’t have on jobs the markets aren’t demanding. And how do we know the markets aren’t demanding those jobs? If they were, the jobs would be created with private wealth and investment. 

As the poll indicates, Republican voters still favor limited government and self-sufficiency. Democrat voters are identified by their support for bureaucracy and entitlement. This isn’t a problem for Democrats, whose leadership promotes a fast track to government intervention, perfectly reflecting the base’s innate liberalism. But GOP legislators too often favor a slow path to big government, directly contradicting the memberships’ allegiance to traditional Republican orthodoxies. 

The TEA Party was born precisely because the lines between Democrats and Republicans were blurred. The movement reflects the mood of conservatives who are shunned by a blueblood Republican leadership, a leadership that has opposed genuine conservatism at nearly every turn, even to the point of dismissing as archaic the venerable Reagan philosophy. 

There’s clear public support for traditional Republican concepts. The Republican candidate who best articulates self-reliance, limited government, and free market philosophies has a leg-up for the party’s presidential nomination. What’s more, he or she gives the GOP its best chance to unseat the highly vulnerable Barack Obama.