A friend of mine just presented to me an insightful way of looking at the two major political parties in this country that, in large measure at least, seems correct and even explains a few things. The basic idea is that these large parties have a class structure much like society's class structure. At the top are the people who have the most power and influence, often the ones who get thing done. They don't often have ideological reasons to be in the party but more commonly are loyalists to the party for the sake of the party itself. Their positions are somewhat malleable and sometimes what you might think of as centrist, but they often pander to those lower in the party hierarchy so that they can keep getting votes.
Then there's the middle class of the party, the ones who hold the views that tend to dominate among party thinkers. These are the people who really do the work. The top people just make sure things happen, but the middle class analog does the heavy lifting. These people are often party loyalists but not for the sake of the party. They really believe in the particular views they associate with the party but don't often realize that the people really controlling things from the top don't have the same attitude. These thinkers then construct reasons for the policies that will end up attracting voters to the party. Many of the middle class people end up in elected office or politically appointed positions, but they hardly ever have any long-term influence, even if they do have short runs of being the driving force behind the party's public ideology.
Then you have the party lower class, the average voters who get pandered to. They see the public image of the party in election years doing and saying things they like, often without seeing if those are genuine features of the people they're voting for and often not caring about whether other issues are more important than the two or three they use to choose their candidates. They get the lip service of the party mouthpieces, but they're real concerns usually don't get addressed, and I think it's fair to say that the party movers and shakers care not a whit for them except to do as little as possible to maintain their votes.
No I did a Google search to see if I could find anything on this, but I didn't find much help there. My friend said this is a common enough idea, which he first read in a high school civics book. It was fairly new to me but helped categorize some things I'd long thought and brought other elements into newer perspective. What's interesting is who he said were in each group, and I think he's right. Be prepared to be offended.