Focusing on your questions to folks with NGO experience... "Does the federal government help you? And is it possible we have wed the idea of helping others with the democratic party like the republicans have wed the religious right? Is there a better way?"
(Disclaimer re: brevity...this topic is the subject of studies, papers, books, even courses)
Robert Putnam's Bowling Along and Better Together shed interesting and valuable insight into this.
I've been involved with charities for 31 years, mostly as a chief executive (just means I have experience, doesn't mean I know any more or less than anyone else).
The areas I've been involved with are disaster preparedness and relief, international humanitarian law, cultural diversity, biomedical services, child sexual abuse prevention and response, homeless, hiv/aids prevention and care, refugees, prisoners of war, youth deliquency prevention, community reintegration, and animal protection and law.
The answer to your first question is yes and no. Our society necessitates a marriage of public (federal, state and local) and private entities to strenghten and evolve the Nation's "safety net." One cannot do without the other. Sure, there are problems, but overall, the marriage works. There is a downside that many would argue re: government-subsidized social services -- mostly, that an increased government role in people's ability to survive actually diminishes their capacity to survive. However, are we a Nation that will let the most vulnerable among us perish when we can prevent it?
The answer to your second question is no. Charity (helping those less forunate than ourselves) is intrinsic to the American character. It must not be hijacked by any political party nor should "family values" be hijacked (all cultures value family). Your question compares a "thing" (charity) with a "person" (Religious Right). Perhaps, it should be posed as charity vs. religion for the comparison. I propose that there are just as many Democrats who practice religion as there are Republicans, but Democrats ceded this political ploy to Republicans in the Reagan years. Jimmy Carter was probably the most religious president of the last fifty years, but he did not politicize it.
The answer to your third question is yes. We need to focus on cause and effect and demand our social and political leaders to do the same. Consumerism, followed by narcissism, will be our downfall unless we work toward higher ideals.
The politicians, via soundbites, are obsessed with stating what their opponents did, but never state why they did it, and what happened as a result.
Certainly, we can identify so much that is bad in our society, but there is much more that is good. The key is to identify trends. Overall, is the public/private sector partnership beneficial to enhancing one's quality of life? I say yes. Can it be improved? I say absolutely.
Again, please indulge my lengthy reply. ;-)