The core value of the Republican party is that the rich and powerful should get richer and more powerful. They like to say they are for unfettered entrepeneurship, but of course, that's only true if unfettered entrepeneurship means those who already got, get more. If it threatens them in a particular area, they're all for socialism for the rich in that area. The key tactic Republicans employ in achieving their core value is to appear to make an alliance with people who think government, business, and other powerful elements of society have a big, legitimate interest in telling people how to live their private lives. The real leaders of the Republican party don't care much one way or the other about this, as far as they are concerned it is no skin off their noses whether abortion is a right or a felony, as long as the EPA goes away. I say this is merely a tactic, and not a real alliance, because the Republicans have been very careful never to actually achieve most of the social right's agenda. If they did, they would energize the passive center-left while giving much of the social right a bad case of 'we don't need you any more.' The day the Supreme Court actually does overrule Roe v. Wade is the day millions of soccer moms turn on the Republicans. Democrats don't have any core values. All they are is the collection place for the many, various groups that know they're ill served by the Republicans. Sometimes these folks are actually at odds, they're merely sort-of united by the principal that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Three things cloud up these simple truths. First, since Republicans are for rich people, rich people are for Republicans, and give them $$. This $$ buys the best PR people, and the resources those top spinmeisters need to do their jobs. These guys have done outstanding work in identifying, and pounding away at, just the right themes, some of which make the right sound principled. Second, for both parties, the extremes want to impose their agenda as a litmus test. In some places they're gotten pretty good at it. After all, who really knows anything about the candidates in the primary for State Representative? For the Rs, Aunt Tilly (who hates abortion) pays $20 a year to belong to an organization that sends her a list a week before the election of who to vote for, and she does. Uncle Fester (the gun nut) belongs to the NRA, who do the same. For the Ds, Cousin Hubert (the ecofreak) belongs to Greenpeace, and Cousin Bertha (you know her story) has her club. These folks work very hard to make it look like there's more organization than there really is, partly out of a hope to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy. The people who make it possible for these extremists to have so much more power than their numbers would otherwise support are the ordinary folks too busy with their lives to know who they're voting for apart from the top couple of offices. Third, we live in a continental-sized country where the differences between regions are bigger than local differences between people. The places at the extremes need a 'me too-but not as much' party for there to be someplace for the opposition to go. It's only a little hyperbole to say that a Massachussets Republican wants to require health insurance to cover abortions - but with a bigger deductible, while a Texas Democrat favors public floggings of homosexuals - but fewer lashes. Every four years the Republicans and Democrats show off their moderates during the election, in hopes of looking good to uncommitted voters. Then they spend the next 45 months marginalizing them, mostly successfully. But all of this fog doesn't change the substance.