huntingdude16 wrote:....so did the republicans in congress suddenly become un-conservative when Bush was elected?
pennsyltucky described it pretty well. Just to expand on what he said.
Conservative does not equal republican
All Republicans are not conservatives. There are republicans that would be categorized as liberal, moderate, and conservative. Same is true for the Democrats. There are not bright lines between them because there are different issues and some are conservative on some issues and liberal on others.
Fiscal conservatives - control spending / balanced budget / low tax rates
Social conservatives - lots of issues, but general defined by opinion on abortion.
Religious conservative - different than a social conservative. Tends to support more morals legislation.
Foreign policy conservative - My definition. Strong military. We are the superpower and if we let the world rot, it will come back to bite us on the ass. However, there are isolationists that claim to be the true conservatives on this issues.
Constitutional conservatives - the constitution and all laws mean what they meant the day they were passed into law. Judges should try to interpret the law in that manner. Abhor judicial activism.
So as you can see, you can be a mix of conservative on some issues and liberal on others. There is also no uniform definition and there is a lot of I'm the true conservative arguments. On average most Americans are conservative, especially compared with "old Europe" The conservative parties in England, France, Italy, Spain, etc., are far to the left of average Americans.
Some of these issue are almost circular. If you move to the extreme left and extreme right, they often meet. For example, the far left and the far right both believe drugs should be legal. The reasoning is just different.
There are groups that define what the conservative or liberal position is and then give each member of Congress a rating. Obama is the most liberal member (or very close depending on what period you talk about it) of the Senate. McCain is a solid Conserative, but not close to the most Conservative. Nobody scores a 100% liberal or conservative over a several year period.
When the Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in 1994. The Freshman (1st time in Congress) Republicans all had very high Conservative ratings, especially fiscally. They elected Republican leadership that was very conservative. This is what contributed in large part to balancing the budget. However, by the time Bush took offices many of these conservatives had left (some by choice and some not) and this trend continued through Bush's Presidency. The current Republicans in congress contain a lot of liberals (referred to as RINOs - Republicans In Name Only) a lot of moderates and far less conservatives.
The same trend has happened in the Democrats, except they started to the left of the Republicans and have moved to the hard left. This has lead to a Congress that spends like a drunken sailor. The problem is the sailor is spend his money and the politicians are also spending the sailor's money as well as yours and mine and not their own.
One more thing. Generally speaking, if you really look into an issue and understand it. You will NEVER be a moderate. You will either have the "hard right" or "hard left" opinion because the right answer is never a compromise. I hold mostly hard right opinions. I also hold a few hard left positions. However, if I don't have an opinion I hang around the right of center because I think that is the least likely way for the government to screw it up too badly.
A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman of the next generation. A politician looks for the success of his party; a statesman for that of the country. The statesman wished to steer, while the politician was satisfied to drift.