I had never really attributed the downsizing of the space program to the republicans. Neither party has really championed space exploration in the last couple decades.
Except for Bush, who actively championed it and pushed to make more missions involving Mars a priority in our space program. And McCain, who actually included working towards a manned mission to Mars in his campaign. Call it fluff or empty promises if you want, but what has Obama promised much less delivered in this area?
The Democrats have been many times worse in terms of NASA funding that the Republicans. I can only assume the need for liberals who otherwise like the space program to continually suggest that both parties are equally to blame for NASA cuts is because they don't want to acknowledge that their own party is really the biggest culprit. The GOP starts with a small government mentality. They often make a point of making an exception with regard to spending on space. It's usually the Democrats who target NASA for cuts whenever there are budget negotiations on the table. The GOP is often forced to accept cuts to NASA in order to get any cuts at all. But let's not fool ourselves into thinking that the GOP is somehow anti space exploration and the Dems are for it. The reality is the exact opposite.
Dems want to spend as much as possible on social programs. GOP wants to spend as little as possible in total. The result presents Dems with a limited resources situation where the choice is between spending more on educating people about how they can get more food stamps and spending money on a mars rover. This is an easy choice for them. Was anyone really of the opinion that the Democrats as a party care at all about NASA? What part of their political methodology makes people think that they put long term anything against short term something? They use words like "investment", but always mean "direct spending for a direct benefit today" when they say it. This is no different. There's no direct benefit from space exploration. It wont feed a single voter, or send their kids to school, or buy them a bus pass. The fact that it may be (is IMO) absolutely critical for the long term prospects (and even survival) of our species just doesn't matter next to those other things.
Democrats just don't tend to think long term. And space exploration is about as long term as it gets. Edited, Oct 1st 2012 5:21pm by gbaji