I can't believe I'm even showing you this. Howard Stern's reporter did a series of "man in the street" interviews with Obama supporters. In order to determine whether they backed Obama because-he-is-Obama, or because they agreed with his policies, the reporter switched the two presidential candidates' platforms.
Though amusing, this is hardly a statistical sample. It does, however point out something I see almost every day among my friends here in Minnesota: Democrat voters with conservative ideals. They believe that people suing other people is out of control (though if you ask them about tort reform their eyes glaze over). They believe that there are far to many people taking advantage of the State's largess, and that people should stand on their own two feet. Personal responsibility is important to them. They think that taxes are to high. They think we should drill in ANWR and anywhere else we can find oil. They think that government is too big and spends far too much of our money on things it has no business being involved in.
And yet they vote Democrat. Why? Because they were raised as Democrats.
I see the same thing among football fans all the time. If one grows up in Wisconsin as a Packers fan, and then moves to Minnesota, one does not easily become a Vikings fan. Even though there is nothing to tie them to the Packers—no ideological commonalities, no personal relationships with the players, nothing—they simply hold on to their team loyalty. Even though the only thing that tied them to the Packers in the first place—geographical accident—has been eliminated, still they are "Packers Fans."
In politics we very often see the same thing. How else do we explain the John Kennedy Democrat who is still a Democrat in 2008. Can their ideology really have changed that much? The Democrat Party could hardly be more different today than it was in Kennedy's time. Kennedy himself would be very out of place in today's Democrat Party. Conservatives have no voice in the Democratic Party yet conservatives I know personally (not that they would ever own up to the name) often vote for them.
I don't ever recall hearing a Republican promoting liberal policies—wishing for higher taxes, for example—perhaps it is just a matter of time. Certainly the bailout had a lot of support from both sides of the aisle, though they had very different ideas how it should be done.
I don't understand the allegiance to party above ideology. Without a doubt, the way to get things done the way you want them done is to build party majorities in congress, and capture the presidency. But, if the party you have supported changes from one thing into another, ones allegiance should follow ones beliefs, not ones "team."
For most of my life I was a Democrat voter. But the Democratic Party changed (or to be more accurate I became aware that they were not at all what they said they were) and I stopped voting for them. Now I vote Republican. Not because there is a perfect match between my beliefs and their actions, but because they are by far the closest thing to a match that is available, and they are a viable party. That is, they have a chance of victory and, therefore actually making policy. If a party comes along that matches my beliefs more closely I will consider supporting them, but not unless they have a chance of building a coalition that can win.
If you are a Democrat who believes in the Constitution, lower taxes, and less government interference in your life, maybe you should be a Republican.