America has grown a lot since the time it was founded. Institutions have risen and fallen, nations have come, gone, and mutated, wars have redrawn maps, political experiments have been tested, and philosophies have been refined and reshaped. It seems to be that, particularly at this point in America's political evolution, the terms Republican and Democrat, or Conservative and Liberal, are perhaps no longer the best distinctions between the two major political schools of thought in the country. Rather, I would conjecture that the best distinction might be Libertarian and Statist, and I will explain.
On the one hand, Conservative encapsulates a set of political philosophies fairly well, which amount to essentially the Republican ideals without the RINO influence. That is, a combination of limited government, traditional values, and free market capitalism. However, beyond that it's more fuzzy: does conservative also mean personal freedoms (eg: gun rights), or would that be more associated with liberalism (eg: civil rights)? Also, conservative might want government out of private industry, but they want government in private personal interactions (eg: preventing gay marriage), and religion in government.
On the other hand, Liberalism represents an interesting amalgam of beliefs, largely catering to the voting base. There's progressive taxation, affirmative action, social services, welfare support, civil rights and invented privileges, heavy government control, massive fiscal irresponsibility, environmental protection, fighting global warming, protecting the unions, and whatever other hot-button short-term issues their constituents think they are concerned about at the time. One could say liberalism is trending toward socialism, but really that's only a subset of the political ideology which has been embraced. About the only things liberalism is not about are small government, limited government control and influence, equality under the law, and government fiscal responsibility. Which, ironically, are about the only things libertarians are strongly supportive of.
I suggest that within the group roughly identified as conservatives, there are two general ideologies, where each member holds one or both. One ideology is that of limited government, personal freedom, equality under the law, and government only where/when necessary to preserve such: ie, the libertarian ideals. The other ideology is "traditional", usually religious-based values, and government enforcement of such. Similarly for liberals, you can divide their ideologies into two broad categories. First, there are the ideals which are concerned with personal freedom (most of which have been perverted at this point), such as equal rights, equal treatment under the law, and freedom from government oppression and control. Second, you have the statist ideals: generally everything concerned with or reliant on big government, government control, wealth redistribution (either explicitly, such as through "progressive" unfair taxation, or implicitly, through inflation and government money-printing handouts), invented and government-enforced privileges for select people, selective treatment under the law, interference in and control of private enterprise, welfare and social services, and everything else which either expands government control or makes people more reliant on government.
To my mind, the first ideologies in each make more sense together, as do the seconds. All the ideologies in the first sets are what are traditionally Libertarian values: personal freedoms, limited government, equality under the law, etc. Similarly, all the ideologies in the second sets are Statist: big government, government control, lots of government involvement in people's lives, encouraging reliance on the government, etc. As an aside, notice that in my construction, Statist certainly does not equate to Socialist, since I've included bundling of religion with government as a Statist ideal, whereas Socialism is traditional devoid of religion; however, they would obviously share a large overlap.
Thoughts? Where would my readers fall on my hypothetical line? If it were a choice between a Libertarian [tea] party, and Obama's Statists, which would you more closely identify with? Would it be easier to rally the people who are fed up with Statism around the ideals of Libertarianism (as I have described), rather than colloquial conservatism? Does either one better encapsulate an ideal for America for you (I know one does for me)?