In the U.S., liberty is a cherished ideal dating back to at least the Boston Tea Party, and both major parties have tried to claim its mantle. But the Republican Party has been more successful at it in recent decades, starting with Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980. That election ushered in the GOP as we know it today — anti-tax, anti-spending, anti-regulation, aggressive on foreign policy — and marks the point at which conservatives were able to convince Americans that their ideas were boons to freedom.
Last week, the balance finally shifted, after national Democrats almost universally embraced the Supreme Court’s decision recognizing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and national Republicans almost universally denounced it. On balance, the Democrats are now the party of freedom and liberty.
How did this happen? Let’s start with something relatively anodyne: trains and buses. Before 1980, Republicans had emphasized their support for public transportation, Marc Fisher noted in The Washington Post in 2012, in an examination of more than 50 years of GOP presidential platforms.