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Well, it happened during the progressive era of the early twentieth century. Up until then, the democrats were much more conservative, and republicans were more liberal. I believe this started to change during the era of William Taft and Woodrow Wilson. You see, most southern whites were opposed to civil rights at the time, and Woodrow Wilson strongly believed in the power of the Government. Taft and Roosevelt were at odds and were running against each other. This gave Wilson an opportunty to run as a Democrat, even though he was much more liberal than the both of them. He knew that the only way he would get southern whites to agree with his big government policies was to oppose civil rights, which he did. And since Roosevelt and Taft would inevitably divide the votes between pro-civil rights Republicans, he had no choice but to appeal to southern whites. During his time in office Democrats became liberal and conservatives began switching parties.

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Q: When did the Republican Party become conservative?
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