If you ever pick up a history book of twentieth century politics, it'll be striking how much more fluid party affiliations were in the first half of that century.
Conservative populist Democrats, who backed Roosevelt's New Deal but opposed civil rights and supported Jim Crow laws, propelled guys like FDR and Harry Truman by keeping the South Democrat. Republicans tended to be dominated by urban bankers, and were usually the pro-industry party (but not exactly "conservative"), which explains their lack of electoral victories during the years following the Great Depression, when Americans were more inclined toward socialism than at any other point in history.
Things continued to be muddled into the 1970s. Under both Republicans and Democrats from Truman all the way to Nixon, federal authority was used to impose civil rights for African Americans upon unwilling southern states. We saw Robert F. Kennedy in confrontation with Alabama governor George Wallace over admission of African Americans into the University of Alabama in 1963, even though both of them were Democrats. Lyndon Johnson, a Southern Democrat, supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which his Republican opponent Barry Goldwater opposed. Neither political party had a consensus on civil rights during that period.
At some point, the South was largely won over by the Republicans and the Democrats became the party of the coastal liberals.
That could start to change, as some pretty conservative folks, dissatisfied with the Republican Party, are running as Democrats and third party candidates.
Bob Conley is running for South Carolina's US Senate seat, in opposition to Lindsey Graham, a close friend of John McCain. Conley, who is opposed to the Patriot Act, gay marriage, abortion, amnesty towards illegal immigrants and the Iraq War and in favor of adherence to the Constitution, is running to the right of Graham.
Watch an endorsement of Conley:
Jim Webb is a former Republican critical of the "Trotskyites" who have gotten us into war in Iraq. With a hard line on illegal immigration and support for gun owners, Webb is a conservative.
Webb unseated George Allen in Georgia in 2006, a year in which Democrats re-took Congress. That political realignment was built on guys like Webb, Loretta Sanchez, Jim Matheson and other conservative Democrats.
Since the United States is for the most part a center right country, both parties would be wise to be friendly to conservatism. Politicians like John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham are to the left of people like me and the GOP is unwise to keep bringing them out. Politicians like Barack Obama are also to the left of people like me, though less bloodthirsty than McCain.
That's where Bob Barr comes in. As the Libertarian candidate for president, Bob Barr represents conservatism at its core defintion: a return to the values and ideals that built this country. He supports school vouchers, opposes the war on drugs, wants to repeal the Patriot Act and opposes endless occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Barr was the only candidate for president to criticize the bailout of irresponsible corporations. In an appearance on Lou Dobbs' program, he said that subsidizing mortgage giants only sets a precedent and insisted that it'll result in the same thing happening again:
Even though he is running as a third party candidate, Bob Barr is much more conservative than John McCain.
Conservatives who vote Republican reflexively should think again. The walls of party loyalty are breaking down.