Are American Political Parties Pretty Much the Same as They Used to Be in the 1950s, Only a Little Different, or are They Radically Different?
From the 1930s through the 1950s and most of the 1960s, the main difference between the Democratic and Republican parties was over the size and scope of the welfare state. There were no social or environmental issues. The Republican Party was still the party of civil rights and the Equal Rights Amendment, and the Democrats, due to their heavy Southern contingent, of racism, while the Democrats and Republicans vied for who wanted to spend the most on defense, with the Democrats in the lead (recall Kennedy's missile gap). As liberal Republicanism declined, conservative Republicanism grew. One sign was the increasing tendency of Republicans to oppose civil rights legislation until, by the late 1970s, southern Democrats were voting more in favor than were Republicans. Another sign was the decline of Republicanism in general in the Northeast and its rise in the South, Southwest and Pacific coastal areas.