That's one way to look at it....I see things a slightly different:
*Republicans believe that nothing should hold back an individual or group from achieving success and happiness provided that it is done in a way that is not that harmful to society or others - also, that ideally all individuals and families should be positive role models. Furthermore, republicans generally believe that each section of society has a proper role and size where the family is responsible for giving kids a good start in life and being the primary resource for handling emergencies and major events, that the individual is responsible for what he achieves and his health, that religion and churches should look after the moral health of society and also be the venue through which most general welfare and charitable activities be handled, that government be limited to providing basic infrastructure and a neutral safe ground for everyone to interact, and lastly that when decisions in government be made that it be at the level closest to those impacted (e.g. local control of schools rather than state/federal).
*Democrats believe the republican "traditional approach" has failed or otherwise lets too many people out in the cold. Their arguments are more from the emotional side (e.g. everyone has a right to good health, it is better that we all have the same standard of living than that some do too much better than others, that too many people are not capable of governing their own life and we should use government to ensure they are both cared for and that their actions be for the general good).
Both approaches have their pluses and minuses.....I see the sensible middle ground being that for society to succeed long term it must blend both, enough of the republican approach to have wealth, and enough of the democrat approach for everyone to feel they've had a fair chance at life and not rebel.
Politics is more intense now simply because the USA is at the start or middle of an economic decline and there are two approaches being discussed. Republicans want to do everything possible to recover growth and wealth (no matter how painful it will be). Democrats are more fatalistic and believe that we should be directing our attention towards managing the decline in such a way that no one group gets hurt too bad, and that if any group must be hurt -- it should be at the higher end. Unfortunately, these two approaches are somewhat the opposite of each other...