I have long thought it curious that conservatives are drawn to the language of Republicans about small business and self-reliance. These are shown to be myths by their actual policies. But now I am more inclined to think these conservatives only believe in the Republican bellicosity. So the conservatives only use the nice words to justify their belonging to the Republican Party. Their real reason is that they too like the “kick ass, take no prisoners” tough talk of the Republicans. This does, of course, explain why women tend to be Democrats.
There is a fundamental difference in the way that Republicans and Democrats see themselves. Democrats seem themselves as caring about others. Republicans see themselves as caring about individual rights and “freedom.” Both groups fall short of their own ideals. However, the Democrats at least vote for their ideals. Republicans tend to define “individual rights” as “my individual rights.” Conservatives have a fundamental lack of empathy. For example, see Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean.
Think for a moment about the Cheneys. They are extremely conservative—except on the issue of gay rights. If their daughter weren’t gay, they would be unable to imagine what it is like to be gay in America. Just the same: the poor are just a bunch of ne’er do wells to them, because the Cheneys have no experience with the poor and no empathy with which they can understand them.
I am constantly surprised to meet young men who are Republicans. They don’t particularly agree with Republican orthodoxy. In fact, like most Republicans, if asked about their opinions, they will give you a list that fits much better in the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. But they will maintain their allegiance to the Republican Party because it is the testosterone fueled one—the chest thumping one. The Democrats may be just as much a bunch of warriors (much to my despair), but they don’t make a party of it.
Update (20 October 2012 6:28 pm)
Howard Kurtz interviewed Tom Friedman recently, and it touches on this: