Sounds like an odd question, right? I mean, they’re one and the same. Aren’t they?
Well, maybe not. I’d say definitely not. From my observations over a few decades I’d say the Republican Party started drifting away from their conservative roots about 25 years ago, and you can blame Newt Gingrich for kicking it into high gear. Under Gingrich working with the other party for the good of the country was no longer important, in fact it was deemed a betrayal. No, the Republican Party winning solely for the sake of winning and accumulating political power was now uber concern #1, and it’s only grown from there and gotten worse.
Take a look at this sign and it tells a story… the remaking of Republican conservatism, not just bolstering conservatism. The “Tea Party” is when the party started veering off course and the whack job elements started emerging into the daylight.
If you’re even borderline aware you’ve heard of “RINOs”… Republican In Name Only… which came about sometime around the Gingrich era. Basically it means a Republican is not a real Republican if they hold onto the old way of true conservative thinking. It’s meant to be a pejorative, make no mistake. I thought for awhile the Tea Partiers and current Trumpian/McConnell whack jobbers were the real RINOs, but I’ve since changed my mind. Those people actually are the real modern Republicans. Moderate Republicans, or “RINOs”, are old school conservative. Maybe they should break away and start their own party, they’re certainly not respected or appreciated by the current party apparatus.
Far-left liberals like to think conservatism is just a bunch of “old white guys” wanting to regress back to the old days when women and minorities were oppressed. That gets a facepalm and a shaking head from those of us who pay attention and make an effort to be reasonably objective. It’s way too simplistic to be even remotely accurate. Each side is more nuanced that the fringes of the other side wants to give them credit.
Conservative means cautious, think through the implications before acting, don’t be rash. Call me crazy, but change isn’t always for the best, and while we may not always like the old ways, we may find them restrictive, given all the other possibilities the old way just might be the best way. Ideally, a solid mix of conservatism and progressiveness would be great… but that’d be called a Centrist, and I digress.
Let’s do a little comparison. Who lands where based on this list?
Strong defense: Both, conservative and Republican, want a strong defense.
Small government: Conservatives want small government. Republican want big government, as long as they control it and it expands their power base.
Low taxes: Conservatives want low taxes, and that fits with small government. With small government you don’t need as much money, right? Republicans want small taxes for themselves in power and their rich donors and friends. Some how, under Republicans the middle class always gets screwed, despite the promises.
Fiscal responsibility: Conservatives, you bet, goes with the above. Republicans… bwahahahahahahahahahahahahah!!!!!… thanks for the belly laugh. Former VP Dick Cheney admitted as much when he said, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”, and every Republican administration and Congress has taken that to heart ever since. Republicans abandoned fiscal responsibility over 30 years ago. They only keep saying it because there are enough people gullible enough to believe it.
Adherence to the Constitution: Conservatives, yes. Republicans? No. The recent Trump impeachment “trial” proved this beyond doubt. You had multiple Republican Senators admitting afterward Trump did break the law, but they still wouldn’t vote to convict.
Defense of American sovereignty: Yes, both.
Law and order: Both sides no. Republicans are a little more rabid about it, but neither side is truly interested in law and order, regardless what their “tough on crime” campaigns may say, and “tough on crime” still sells. Law and order includes keeping law enforcement straight, as well, and neither is interested in that.
Colorblindness: Not a single person, anywhere, is colorblind. Spare me.
Traditional American Values: IOW, wedge issues. I’ll leave those alone.
So, yeah, the Republican Party has split, fragmented, and left true honest conservatives behind. It’s no longer the cohesive organization representing one side of the political spectrum. It’s become a special interest group in it’s own right that fights for it’s own narrow interests and power and will step on anybody who gets in its way.