Republican party

Republican party

Republican party, American political party.

Origins and Early Years

The name was first used by Thomas Jefferson's party, later called the Democratic Republican party or, simply, the Democratic party. The name reappeared in the 1850s, when the present-day Republican party was founded. At that time the crucial issue of the extension of slavery into the territories split the Democratic party and the Whig party, and opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 organized the new Republican party. Jackson, Mich., is called the birthplace of the party (July 6, 1854) and Joseph Medill is credited with having suggested its name, but these distinctions are also claimed for other places and other men.

By 1855 the new party was well launched in the North. Anti-slavery Whigs such as William Seward and Thurlow Weed were dominant in the new grouping, but elements of the Know-Nothing movement, together with the Free-Soil party, abolitionists, and anti-Nebraska Democrats also supplied strength. The party's national organization was perfected at Pittsburgh in Feb., 1856, and its first presidential candidate, John C. Frémont, made a creditable showing against victorious James Buchanan. The party opposed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the extension of slavery, denounced the Supreme Court's decision in the Dred Scott Case, and favored the admission of Kansas as a free state.

The Civil War and Reconstruction Years

Generally belligerent toward the South, the Republicans were regarded by Southerners with mingled hatred and fear as sectional tension increased. They were successful in the elections of 1858 and passed over their better-known leaders to nominate Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The party platform in 1860 included planks calling for a high protective tariff, free homesteads, and a transcontinental railroad; these were bids for support among Westerners, farmers, and eastern manufacturing interests.

Lincoln's victory over Stephen A. Douglas, John C. Breckinridge, and John Bell was the signal for the secession of the Southern states, and the Civil War followed. Union military failures early in the war and conservative opposition to such measures as the Emancipation Proclamation caused the party to lose ground in the Congressional elections of 1862. But despite mutterings against his leadership, Lincoln, renominated on the Union (Republican) ticket in 1864, defeated Gen. George B. McClellan.

Although a separate ticket headed by the radical Frémont withdrew before the election in 1864, the cleavage within the party between radicals and moderates widened as the war progressed. Radicals such as Benjamin F. Wade, Henry W. Davis, Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner, and Edwin M. Stanton advocated a punitive policy for the South, while Lincoln and the moderates were inclined to leniency. The division was made complete when, after Lincoln's assassination, his successor, Andrew Johnson, adopted a moderate program of Reconstruction. Johnson, a Jacksonian Democrat from Tennessee, had been added to the ticket in 1864 to strengthen the idea of a Union party. Ultimately his policies and attempts to implement them antagonized his supporters among the moderate Republicans and paved the way for the triumph of the radicals in the congressional elections of 1866. The height of radical power was reached in 1868 with the impeachment of Johnson, which was defeated by only a one-vote margin.

The nomination of the war hero Ulysses S. Grant assured Republican success over the Democrats led by Horatio Seymour in the presidential election of 1868. The radicals were supreme under Grant, but their excesses and the open scandals of the administration created a new schism, leading to the formation of the Liberal Republican party. Its candidate, Horace Greeley, although supported by the Democrats, was not popular enough to defeat Grant in 1872, and corruption became even more widespread.

The election of 1876 indicated that radical Republicanism had lost much of its popular support. The Democratic candidate, Samuel J. Tilden, received a popular plurality of over 250,000 votes, but the disputed electoral votes of Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana, the only Southern states still under Republican control, were awarded to Rutherford B. Hayes, and the Republican was declared President-elect. With the election, however, Republican domination of the South and radical rule of the party were definitely ended.

The Late Nineteenth Century

In the period that followed, the two parties differed little in their programs. Each party had numerous almost irreconcilable factions, and each avoided taking any real stand on controversial issues, which were generally left to lesser political groups such as the Granger movement and the Greenback party. The Republicans favored a protective tariff and the Democrats a tariff for revenue only, but even this traditional distinction was not rigidly kept. However, the Republican tariff policy was the work of leaders of the new industrial capitalism, whose influence in party councils began to be strongly felt under Grant.

The Republican "old guard," led by Roscoe Conkling, while failing to secure a third nomination for Grant in 1880, nevertheless temporarily blocked the presidential aspirations of James G. Blaine. Another ex-Union general, James A. Garfield, was nominated and was elected over a Democratic general, Winfield S. Hancock. Assassinated shortly after taking office, Garfield was succeeded by Vice President Chester A. Arthur.

In these postwar elections, the party, always supported by the Grand Army of the Republic, denounced all Democrats as former Copperheads and claimed to have alone saved the Union. But "waving the bloody shirt," as this type of propaganda was styled, was not enough to elect Blaine in 1884. The reform wing of the party, led by Carl Schurz, deserted Blaine for the conservative Democrat Grover Cleveland, who was elected. This defection by the mugwumps illustrated the lack of real issues between the two parties; it was the man and not the party that counted. Benjamin Harrison defeated Cleveland in 1888 but lost to him in 1892. The growing Populist party, with its radical program, had a peculiar position in those elections, receiving in each section of the country the support of the party not in power.

McKinley through Coolidge

When, in 1896, the Democratic party was captured by the radicals under William Jennings Bryan, its presidential candidate in 1896, 1900, and 1908, the Republican party became openly the champion of the gold standard and conservative economic doctrines. The conservatives, skillfully guided by national chairman Marcus A. Hanna, won with William McKinley in 1896 and 1900, and under such leaders as Nelson W. Aldrich, Thomas B. Reed, Joseph G. Cannon, Thomas C. Platt, and Matthew S. Quay, the party prospered. Theodore Roosevelt, successor to the assassinated McKinley, easily defeated the conservative Democrat Alton B. Parker in 1904, and the vigorous foreign policy of his administration fostered the belief that the Republicans stood for the imperialism represented by the recent Spanish-American War.

Under Roosevelt's Republican successor and friend, William Howard Taft, "dollar diplomacy" flourished, but a new rift appeared in the party. Insurgents led by Senator Robert M. La Follette balked at the party's conservatism and when the regulars renominated Taft in 1912, most of the dissidents withdrew and in the Bull Moose convention chose Roosevelt to lead the new Progressive party ticket. Because of this division, the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, was elected President and, narrowly reelected in 1916 over Charles Evans Hughes, he served through World War I. The party, however, won the Congressional elections of 1918, and Republican opposition was a large factor in defeating Wilson's peace program. By straddling the issue of the League of Nations and calling for a return to "normalcy," the party easily elected Warren G. Harding in 1920. His administration rivaled Grant's for corruption, but after Harding died in office, his successor, Calvin Coolidge, was returned over John W. Davis and La Follette.

Depression and World War II

The Republican victory with Herbert C. Hoover in 1928 marked the first time since the end of Reconstruction that the party had carried states of the old Confederacy; this came about chiefly because the Democratic candidate, Alfred E. Smith, was a Roman Catholic and an opponent of prohibition. Hoover and the Republicans were blamed for the disastrous economic depression that soon enveloped the country, and the Democrats, under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, were swept into office in 1932. The frustrated Republicans were never able to break the remarkable hold of Roosevelt and the New Deal on the electorate and regularly went down to defeat every four years, with Alfred M. Landon (1936), Wendell Willkie (1940), and Thomas E. Dewey (1944).

Isolationists held the upper hand in the party before World War II, and in 1940 two Republicans, Henry L. Stimson and Frank Knox, were virtually read out of the party for accepting posts in Roosevelt's cabinet. But the party supported the nation's war effort and after the war, led by Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, joined the Democratic administration in a bipartisan foreign policy. In 1948 the Republican party was supremely confident of defeating Roosevelt's successor, Harry S. Truman. However, Dewey, the party's first unsuccessful candidate ever to be renominated, was defeated by a close margin.

Eisenhower and Nixon

In 1952, the more liberal element among the Republicans was able to deny the conservatives' choice, Robert A. Taft, choosing instead the popular war hero, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower as their presidential nominee. Campaigning against the domestic policy of the Truman administration and its prosecution of the war in Korea, Eisenhower swept to a landslide victory over the Democratic candidate, Adlai E. Stevenson. The domestic program of the Eisenhower adminstration was moderately conservative, and in foreign policy the internationalist approach of the previous Democratic administration was continued. Despite the President's overwhelming personal popularity and his landslide reelection over Stevenson in 1956, a feat that included carrying several Southern states for the second consecutive time, the Democrats retained control of Congress through the 1960 elections.

In 1960, an incumbent Vice President, Richard M. Nixon was nominated for president for the first time since 1836. Although the Republican party had become a minority in registration, Nixon failed by fewer than 200,000 votes to defeat John F. Kennedy. In 1964 the conservative wing of the party engineered the nomination of Senator Barry Goldwater, who was, however, defeated in a landslide by Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1968 the party rebounded and won a narrow victory with party stalwart Richard Nixon over Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey, who was handicapped by disaffection over the Vietnam War. In 1972, President Nixon was triumphantly reelected, defeating George McGovern on a record of favoring a strong defense with a limited détente with the Soviet Union and China, and a conservative domestic program featuring a decentralization of political power.

The party, however, suffered a series of massive setbacks with the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew upon his conviction for tax evasion and revelations of major White House involvement in the Watergate affair, which led finally to the resignation of President Nixon. Nixon's successor, Gerald R. Ford, attempted to disassociate the party from the scandals, but Watergate appeared to be a major factor in the substantial Republican losses in the 1974 elections and in the subsequent defeat of Ford by the Democrat Jimmy Carter.

The Reagan-Bush Years to the Present

In 1980, the conservative Ronald Reagan, a former supporter of Barry Goldwater, regained the presidency for the Republicans and reversed long-standing political trends by instituting a supply-side economic program of budget and tax cuts. He also advocated increased military spending and presided over the largest military buildup during peacetime in American history. The Iran-contra affair, which broke in late 1986, marred the last years of his tenure, though his vice president, George H. W. Bush, was nonetheless able to defeat the Democratic nominee, Michael Dukakis, in the 1988 election.

Bush was generally recognized as strong on foreign policy. He was widely lauded for his role in orchestrating the coalition of forces against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War. He also largely continued Reagan's policy toward the Soviet Union. On the domestic side, however, Bush's administration was perceived as being slow to respond to such problems as stagnant economic growth, rising unemployment, and the unaffordability of health care for many Americans. Bush's high popularity after the Persian Gulf War dropped rapidly, and he lost the 1992 presidential election to the Democrat, Arkansas's Governor Bill Clinton.

In the 1994 congressional and state elections, however, the Republican party scored major victories and increased its hold in the South. Republicans unseated long-time Democratic incumbents, winning control of both houses of Congress (for the first time since the 1950s) and claiming several governorships. Newt Gingrich, who spearheaded the Republicans' congressional election campaign with his conservative "Contract with America" program, became speaker of the House. While bills were passed on the key program components, many items were thwarted or defeated in Congress or by the president.

The 1996 elections saw incumbents generally retain their offices. Former Senate majority leader Bob Dole won the Republican nomination for the presidency, but he and his running mate, Jack Kemp, were never able to reduce significantly President Clinton's substantial lead. In the House and Senate, Republicans retained their majorities, slightly diminished in the former and slightly increased in the latter. The 1998 mid-term elections saw the Republican margin in the House reduced, despite expectations that they would benefit from the effects of the Lewinsky scandal; the results led to Gingrich's resignation from office.

In the 2000 elections, the party's presidential nominee, George W. Bush appeared generally to lead in the polls in what ultimately became a popular-vote loss to Democrat Al Gore. Despite not winning the popular vote. Bush secured the presidency with a victory in the electoral college when he won Florida by an extremely narrow margin and outlasted Gore's unsuccessful court challenge of the Florida vote-counting process. The party did not fair as well in other races for national office, and the Democrats made gains in Congress, although the Republicans retained control there.

The party lost control of the Senate as a result of a defection in mid-2001, but regained it after the Nov., 2002, elections. In 2004, Bush was renominated without opposition, and he subsequently soundly defeated the Democratic nominee, John Kerry. The Republicans also increased their majorities in both houses of Congress, as retiring Senate Democrats from the South were replaced by Republicans. Public discontent with congressional scandals and the war in Iraq led to reversals in the congressional elections of 2006, however, and the party lost control of both houses of Congress, albeit narrowly in the Senate. Those losses were amplified in 2008 when Democrat Barack Obama, aided by a national economic crisis, defeated Republican presidential hopeful John McCain and led the Democrats to their largest national victory since 1976.


See H. L. Trefousse, The Radical Republicans (1968); E. Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men (1970); F. L. Burdette, The Republican Party (2d ed. 1972); E. Lindop, All about Republicans (1985); W. Gienapp, The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852-56 (1988); F. Schwengel, The Republican Party (1988); L. L. Gould, Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans (2003).

The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. It is often referred to as the Grand Old Party or the GOP. Founded in 1854 by anti-slavery expansion activists and modernizers, the Republican Party quickly surpassed the Whig Party as the principal opposition to the Democratic Party. It first came to power in 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency and presided over the American Civil War and Reconstruction. Today, the party supports a conservative platform (from an American political perspective), with further foundations in supply-side fiscal policies, and social conservatism.

The Republican Party is currently the second largest party with 55 million registered voters as of 2004, encompassing roughly one-third of the electorate. The current U.S. President, George W. Bush, is the 19th Republican to hold that office. Republicans currently fill a minority of seats in both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, hold a minority of state governorships, and control a minority of state legislatures.

The party's nominee for President in the upcoming 2008 election is Senator John McCain of Arizona, and the party's nominee for Vice-President is Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska.

Current structure and composition

The Republican National Committee (RNC) is responsible for promoting Republican campaign activities. It is responsible for developing and promoting the Republican political platform, as well as coordinating fundraising and election strategy. Its current chairman is Mike Duncan. The chairman of the RNC is chosen by the President when the Republicans have the White House or otherwise by the Party's state committees. The RNC, under the direction of the party's presidential candidate, supervises the Republican National Convention, raises funds, and coordinates campaign strategy. On the local level there are similar state committees in every state and most large cities, counties and legislative districts, but they have far less money and influence than the national body.

The Republican House and Senate caucuses have separate fundraising and strategy committees. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) assists in House races, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in Senate races. They each raise over $100 million per election cycle, and play important roles in recruiting strong state candidates. The Republican Governors Association (RGA) is a discussion group that seldom funds state races; it is currently chaired by Governor Rick Perry of Texas.

Current ideology

The Republican Party includes fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and libertarians.

Separation of powers and balance of powers

The Republican Party believes that making law is the province of the legislature and that judges, especially the Supreme Court, should not "legislate from the bench." Most Republicans point to Roe v. Wade as a case of judicial activism, where the court overturned most laws restricting abortion on the basis of a right to privacy inferred from the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Some Republicans have actively sought to block judges whom they see as being activist judges and they have sought the appointment of judges who claim to practice judicial restraint. Other Republicans, though, argue that it is the right of judges to extend the interpretation of the Constitution and judge actions by the legislative or executive branches as legal or unconstitutional on previously unarticulated grounds.

The Republican party has supported various bills within the last decade to strip some or all federal courts of the ability to hear certain types of cases, in an attempt to limit judicial review. These jurisdiction stripping laws have included removing federal review of the recognition of same-sex marriage with the Marriage Protection Act, the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance with the Pledge Protection Act, and the rights of detainees in Guantanamo Bay in the Detainee Treatment Act. The last of these limitations was overruled by the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

Compared with Democrats, many Republicans believe in a more robust version of federalism with greater limitations placed upon federal power and a larger role reserved for the States. Following this view on federalism, Republicans often take a less expansive reading of congressional power under the Commerce Clause, such as in the opinion of William Rehnquist in United States v. Lopez. Many Republicans on the more libertarian wing wish for a more dramatic narrowing of Commerce Clause power by revisiting, among other cases, Wickard v. Filburn, a case that held that growing wheat on a farm for consumption on the same farm fell under congressional power to "regulate commerce ... among the several States".

President George W. Bush is a proponent of the unitary executive theory and has cited it within his signing statements about legislation passed by Congress. The administration's interpretation of the unitary executive theory was called seriously into question by Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, where the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that the President does not have sweeping powers to override or ignore laws through his power as commander in chief, stating "the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails. Following the ruling, the Bush administration has sought Congressional authorization for programs started only on executive mandate, as was the case with the Military Commissions Act, or abandoned illegal programs it had previously asserted executive authority to enact, in the case of the National Security Agency domestic wiretapping program.

Economic policies

Republicans emphasize the role of corporate and personal decision making in fostering economic prosperity. They support the idea of individuals being economically responsible for their own actions and decisions. They favor a free market, policies supporting business, economic liberalism, and fiscal conservatism but with higher spending on the military. A leading economic theory advocated by modern Republicans is supply-side economics. Some fiscal policies influenced by this theory were popularly known as "Reaganomics," a term popularized during the Presidential administrations of Ronald Reagan. This theory holds that reduced income tax rates increase GDP growth and thereby generate the same or more revenue for the government from the smaller tax on the extra growth. This belief is reflected, in part, by the party's long-term advocacy of tax cuts, a major Republican theme since the 1920s. Republicans believe that a series of income tax cuts since 2001 have bolstered the economy. Many Republicans consider the income tax system to be inherently inefficient and oppose graduated tax rates, which they believe are unfairly targeted at those who create jobs and wealth. They believe private spending is usually more efficient than government spending.

Most Republicans agree there should be a "safety net" to assist the less fortunate; however, they tend to believe the private sector is more effective in helping the poor than government is; as a result, Republicans support giving government grants to faith-based and other private charitable organizations to supplant welfare spending. Members of the GOP also believe that limits on eligibility and benefits must be in place to ensure the safety net is not abused. Republicans introduced and strongly supported the welfare reform of 1996, which was signed into law by Democratic President Clinton, and which limited eligibility for welfare, successfully leading to many former welfare recipients finding jobs.

The party opposes a single-payer universal health care system, believing such a system constitutes "socialized medicine" and is in favor of a personal or employer-based system of insurance, supplemented by Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor. The GOP has a mixed record of supporting the historically popular Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs, all of which Republicans initially opposed. On the one hand, congressional Republicans and the Bush administration supported a reduction in Medicaid's growth rate. On the other hand, congressional Republicans expanded Medicare, supporting a new drug plan for seniors starting in 2006.

Republicans are generally opposed by labor union management and members, and have supported various legislation on the state and federal levels, including right to work legislation and the Taft-Hartley Act, which gives workers the right not to participate in unions, as opposed to a closed shop, which prohibits workers from choosing not to join unions in workplaces. Republicans generally oppose increases in the minimum wage, believing that minimum wage increases hurt many businesses by forcing them to cut jobs and services as well as raise the prices of goods to compensate for the decrease in profit.

Environmental policies

Most Republicans believe that strict environmental standards hurt businesses and therefore support reductions in environmental regulations based on the principle of laissez-faire economics. In the past, many Republicans were skeptical of anthropogenic global warming and questioned scientific studies on impact of human activity on climate change, instead asserting that global warming is part of "natural" cyclical phenomenon. This is slowly changing due to more scientific research and increasing pressure from the international community, and in July 2008 the Bush administration acknowledged, at least in principle, the need to act on the issue of climate change. John McCain, the Republican nominee for president, is a strong advocate of legislation to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Historically, the Republican Party has made several contributions to the protection of the environment. Republican President Theodore Roosevelt was a prominent conservationist whose policies eventually led to the creation of the modern U.S. National Park Service. Also, President Richard Nixon was responsible for establishing the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. More recently, California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, with the support of 16 other states, sued the Federal Government and the United States Environmental Protection Agency for the right to set vehicle emission standards higher than the Federal Standard, a right to which California is entitled under the Clean Air Act.

On the other hand, President George W. Bush has publicly opposed ratification of the Kyoto Protocols on the grounds that they unfairly targeted Western industrialized nations such as the United States while giving developing Third World polluters such as China and India a pass.

In 2000, the Republican Party adopted as part of its platform support for the development of market-based solutions to environmental problems. According to the platform, "economic prosperity and environmental protection must advance together, environmental regulations should be based on science, the government’s role should be to provide market-based incentives to develop the technologies to meet environmental standards, we should ensure that environmental policy meets the needs of localities, and environmental policy should focus on achieving results processes. Although this platform was created for the Republican National Convention, emphasis on these issues within the Republican Party has diminished in the past few years.

Currently the Bush administration, along with several of the candidates that sought the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008, supports increased Federal investment into the development of clean alternative fuels such as ethanol as a way of helping the U.S. achieve energy independence. McCain supports the cap-and-trade policy, a policy that is quite popular among Democrats but much less so among other Republicans. Most Republicans support increased oil drilling in currently protected areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a position that has drawn sharp criticism from many environmental activists.

Social policies

The 2004 Republican platform expressed support for the Federal Marriage Amendment to the United States Constitution to define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. A majority of the GOP's national and state candidates are pro-life and oppose abortion on religious or moral grounds, and favor faith-based initiatives. There are some exceptions, though, especially in the Northeast and Pacific Coast states. They are generally against affirmative action for women and minorities often describing it as a quota system, believing that it is not meritocratic and that is counter-productive socially by only further promoting discrimination. Most of the GOP's membership favors capital punishment and stricter punishments as a means to prevent crime. Republicans in rural areas generally support gun ownership rights and oppose laws regulating guns, although Republicans in urban areas sometimes favor limited restrictions on the grounds that they are necessary to protect safety in large cities.

Most Republicans support school choice through charter schools and school vouchers for private schools; many have denounced the performance of the public school system and the teachers' unions. The party has insisted on a system of greater accountability for public schools, most prominently in recent years with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Many Republicans, however, opposed the creation of the United States Department of Education when it was initially created in 1979.

The religious wing of the party tends to support organized prayer in public schools and the inclusion of teaching creationism or intelligent design alongside evolution. Although the GOP has voted for increases in government funding of scientific research, some members actively oppose the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research because it involves the harvesting and destruction of human embryos (which many consider ethically equivalent to abortion), while arguing for applying research money into adult stem cell or amniotic stem cell research. The stem cell issue has garnered two once-rare vetoes on research funding bills from President Bush, who said the research "crossed a moral boundary."

National defense and military spending

The Republican Party has always advocated a strong national defense; however, up until recently they tended to disapprove of interventionist foreign policy actions. Republicans opposed Woodrow Wilson's intervention in World War I and his subsequent attempt to create the League of Nations. Many Republicans opposed the creation of NATO. Even in the 1990s, although George H. W. Bush orchestrated the Gulf War, Republicans opposed the intervention of the United States in Somalia and the Balkans. However, in 2000, George W. Bush ran on a platform that opposed these types of involvement in foreign conflicts.

Today, the Republican Party supports unilateralism in issues of national security, believing in the ability and right of the United States to act without external or international support in its own self-interest. In general, Republican defense and international thinking is heavily influenced by the theories of neorealism and realism, characterizing the conflicts between nations as great struggles between faceless forces of international structure, as opposed to the result of individual leaders, their ideas, and their actions. The realist school's influence shows in Reagan's Evil Empire stance on the Soviet Union and George W. Bush's Axis of evil.

Republicans secured gains in the 2002 and 2004 elections with the "War on Terrorism" being one of the top issues favoring them. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the party supports neoconservative policies with regard to the "War on Terror", including the 2001 war in Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The doctrine of preemptive war, wars to disarm and destroy military foes before they can act, has been advocated by prominent members of the Bush administration, but the war within Iraq has undercut the influence of this doctrine within the Republican Party. Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York during the time of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and a once prominent Republican presidential candidate for the 2008 presidential election, has stated that America must keep itself "on the offensive" against terrorists, stating his support of that policy.

The Bush administration supports the position that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to unlawful combatants, using the premise that they apply to soldiers serving in the armies of nation states and not terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda. The Supreme Court overruled this position in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which held that the Geneva Conventions were legally binding and must be followed in regards to all enemy combatants.

Other international policies

Republicans support attempts for the democratization of Middle Eastern countries currently under the rule of dictatorships.

The party, through former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, has advocated reforms in the United Nations to halt corruption such as that which afflicted the Oil-for-Food Programme. As previously stated, some Republicans including Bush oppose the Kyoto Protocol (although there is a section that supports it within the party). The party strongly promotes free trade agreements, most notably NAFTA, CAFTA and now an effort to go further south to Brazil, Peru and Colombia.

Republicans are divided on how to confront illegal immigration between a moderate business-friendly platform that allows for migrant workers and easing citizenship guidelines, and enforcement-first nationalist approach. The Bush administration has made appeals to immigrants a high priority long-term political goal, but that goal is not a high priority in most local GOP entities. In general, pro-growth advocates within the Republican Party support more immigration, and traditional or populist conservatives oppose it. In 2006, the White House supported and Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform that would eventually allow millions of illegal immigrants to become citizens, but the House, taking an enforcement-first approach, refused to go along.

Political status of Puerto Rico

The Republican Party has expressed its support for Puerto Ricans to exercise their right to decolonization. The following are the appropriate section from the 2004 and 2008 party platforms:

Republican Party 2008 Platform

We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a state, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the U.S. government.

Republican Party 2004 Platform

We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the Constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a state, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the United States government.

Voter base

Business community. The GOP is usually seen as the traditionally pro-business party and it garners major support from a wide variety of industries from the financial sector to small businesses. This may relate to the fact that Republicans are about 50 percent more likely to be self-employed, and are more likely to work in the area of management.

Gender. Since 1980 a "gender gap" has seen slightly stronger support for the GOP among men than among women. In the 2006 House races, 43% of women voted for GOP, while 47% of men did so.

Race. Since 1964, the GOP has been weakly represented among African Americans, winning under 15% of the black vote in recent national elections (1980 to 2004). The party has recently nominated African American candidates for senator or governor in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, though none were successful. The Republican Party supported the abolition of slavery under Abraham Lincoln, and from the Civil War until the Great Depression of the 1930s, blacks voted for Republican candidates by an overwhelming margin; in the Southern states, they were often not allowed to vote, but received Federal patronage appointments from the Republicans. The majority of black Americans switched to the Democratic Party in the 1930s when the New Deal offered them governmental support for civil rights. In the South, blacks were able to vote in large numbers after 1965, when a bipartisan coalition passed the Voting Rights Act, and ever since have formed a significant portion (ranging from 20% to 50% depending on the state) of the Democratic vote in that region.

In recent decades, the party has been more successful in gaining support from Hispanic and Asian American voters than from African Americans. George W. Bush, who campaigned significantly for Hispanic votes, received 35% of their vote in 2000 and 44% in 2004. In 2004, 44% of Asian Americans voted for Bush. The party's strong anti-communist stance has made it popular among some minority groups from current and former Communist states, in particular Cuban Americans and Vietnamese Americans. In the 2006 House races, the GOP won 51% of white votes, 37% of Asian votes, and 30% of Hispanic votes, while winning only 10% of African American votes.

For decades, a greater percentage of white (caucasian) voters self-identified as Democrats, rather than Republicans. However, since the mid-1990s whites have been more likely to self-identify as Republicans than Democrats.

Family status. In recent elections, Republicans have found their greatest support among whites from married couples with children living at home. Unmarried and divorced women were far more likely to vote for Kerry in 2004.

Income. Poorer voters tend favor the Democratic Party while wealthier voters tend to support the Republican Party. Bush won 41% of the poorest 20% of voters in 2004, 55% of the richest twenty percent, and 53% of those in between. In the 2006 House races, the voters with incomes over $50,000 were 49% Republican, while those under were 38%.

Military. Republicans hold a large majority in the armed services, with 57% of active military personnel and 66% of officers identified as Republican in 2003.

Education. Self-identified Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats to have 4-year college degrees. The trends for the years 1955 through 2004 are shown by gender in the graphs below, reproduced with permission from Democrats and Republicans — Rhetoric and Reality, a book published in 2008 by Joseph Fried. These graphs depict results obtained by Fried from the National Election Studies (NES) data base.

Regarding graduate-level degrees (masters or doctorate), there is a rough parity between Democrats and Republicans. According to the Gallup Organization: "[B]oth Democrats and Republicans have equal numbers of Americans at the upper end of the educational spectrum — that is, with post graduate degrees... Fried provides a slightly more detailed analysis, noting that Republican men are more likely than Democratic men to have advanced degrees, but Democratic women are now more likely than Republican women to have advanced degrees.

Republicans remain a small minority in academia, with 15% of full-time faculty identifying as conservative.

Age. The Democrats do better among younger Americans and Republicans among older Americans. In 2006, the GOP won only 38% of the voters aged 18–29.

Sexual Orientation. Exit polls conducted in 2000, 2004 and 2006 indicate that 23–25% of gay and lesbian Americans voted for the GOP. In recent years, the party has opposed same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples, inclusion of sexual orientation in hate crimes laws, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, while supporting the use of the don't ask, don't tell policy within the military. The opposition to gay rights found in the Republican Party largely comes from the very religious and socially conservative portion of the party.

Religion. Religion has always played a major role for both parties but, in the course of a century, the parties' religious compositions have changed. Religion was a major dividing line between the parties before 1960, with Catholics, Jews, and Southern Protestants heavily Democratic, and Northeastern Protestants heavily Republican. Most of the old differences faded away after the realignment of the late 1960s that undercut the New Deal coalition. Voters who attend church weekly gave 61% of their votes to Bush in 2004; those who attend occasionally gave him only 47%, while those who never attend gave him 36%. 59% of Protestants voted for Bush, along with 52% of Catholics (even though Kerry was Catholic). Since 1980, large majorities of evangelicals have voted Republican; 70–80% voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004, and 70% for GOP House candidates in 2006. Jews continue to vote 70–80% Democratic. Democrats have close links with the African American churches, especially the National Baptists, while their historic dominance among Catholic voters has eroded to 50-50. The main line traditional Protestants (Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians) have dropped to about 55% Republican (in contrast to 75% before 1968). Their church membership have dropped in that time as well, and the conservative evangelical rivals have grown.

Region. Since 1980, geographically the Republican "base" ("red states") is strongest in the South and West, and weakest in the Northeast and the Pacific Coast. The Northeast actually does well for the GOP in state contests but not in presidential ones (except New Hampshire). The Midwest has been roughly balanced since 1854, with Illinois becoming more Democratic due to the City of Chicago and Minnesota and Wisconsin more Republican since 1990. Since the 1930s the Democrats have dominated most central cities, the Republicans now dominate rural areas, and the majority of suburbs.

The South has become solidly Republican in national elections since 1980, and has been trending Republican at the state level since then at a slower pace. In 2004 Bush led Kerry by 70%-30% among Southern whites, who made up 71% of the Southern electorate. Kerry had a 70-30 lead among the 29% of the voters who were black or Hispanic. One-third of these Southern voters said they were white evangelicals; they voted for Bush by 80-20; but were only 72% Republican in 2006.

The Republican Party's strongest focus of political influence lies in the Great Plains states, particularly Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota and in the western states of Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah (Utah gave George W. Bush more than 70% of the popular vote in 2004). These states are sparsely populated, have very few urban centers, and have overwhelmingly White populations, making it extremely difficult for Democrats to create a sustainable voter base there. Unlike the South, these areas have been strongly Republican since before the party realignments of the 1960s. The Great Plains states were one of the few areas of the country where Republicans had any significant support during the Great Depression. However, these areas also have very few electoral votes or House seats, making them of limited political utility relative to more populous states. On the other hand, these Great Plains and Mountain West states provide the Republican Party with a solid electoral base in Presidential elections on which to build.

Conservatives and Moderates. The Republican coalition is quite diverse, and numerous factions compete to frame platforms and select candidates. The "conservatives" are strongest in the South, where they draw support from religious conservatives. The "moderates" tend to dominate the party in New England, and used to be well represented in all states. From the 1940s to the 1970s under such leaders as Thomas E. Dewey, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nelson Rockefeller, and Richard Nixon, they usually dominated the presidential wing of the party. Since the 1970s they have been less powerful, though they are always represented in the cabinets of Republican presidents. In the 2006 elections, Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee, arguably the last moderate-to-liberal Northeastern Republican of major prominence, lost his re-election bid. New Hampshire's two Republican congressmen lost to their Democratic opponents. In Vermont, Jim Jeffords, a Republican Senator became an independent in 2001 due to growing disagreement with President Bush and the party leadership.

Since the 1980s, talk radio audiences and successful hosts have tended to be conservative, and typically favor the Republicans. Some well known radio hosts include Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz, Laura Ingraham, Michael Reagan, Howie Carr, and Michael Savage.

Future trends

Republican Karl Rove and other commentators had speculated about a permanent political realignment in favor of the GOP along the lines of the presidential election of 1896, in which Mark Hanna helped William McKinley construct a Republican majority that lasted for the next 36 years. While the American political sphere is relatively evenly divided in terms of ideology, the Republican Party trails the Democrats by 17 million registered members.

Democratic commentators Ruy Teixeira and John Judis, on the other hand, say non-geographic social indicators show a trend toward Democrats. They point to the rapid increase in college graduates (who are trending Democratic), and the possible decrease in white and rural Republican bases. They also point to an increasing Democratic presence in formerly Republican strongholds such as Montana, which as of the November 2006 elections has two Democratic senators, a Democratic governor, and Democratic control of the state senate.

Skeptics ask whether the Republican Party can simultaneously contain both libertarians and social conservatives, or whether it can contain a business community that may use illegal immigrants as employees, and Hispanic voters. Republican optimists also point to the success of Roosevelt's Democratic coalition, which held together even more disparate elements. For the most part until 2007, the Republican Party has remained fairly cohesive, as both strong economic libertarians and strong social conservatives are opposed to the Democrats, whom they see as both the party of bigger and more secular, progressive government. Yet, libertarians are increasingly dissatisfied with the party's social policy and support for corporate welfare and national debt, which some believe has grown increasingly restrictive of personal liberties, and with the Bush Administration greatly increasing the federal debt. Some social conservatives are also growing increasingly dissatisfied with the party's support for economic policies that they see as contradictory to their moral values. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has remarked that "If it was all about the money ... then we might as well put the presidency up on eBay."


The Republican Party was created in 1854 in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act that would have allowed the expansion of slavery into Kansas. Besides opposition to slavery, the new party put forward a progressive vision of modernizing the United States — emphasizing higher education, banking, railroads, industry and cities, while promising free homesteads to farmers. In this way, their economic philosophy was similar to the Whig Party's. Its initial base was in the Northeast and Midwest. The Party nominated Abraham Lincoln and ascended to power in the election of 1860. The party fought for the Union in the American Civil War and presided over Reconstruction. The party rejected Lincoln for the election of 1864. Lincoln ran under the National Union Party; the Republican Party had chosen John C. Fremont as its presidential candidate. The party's success spawned factionalism within the party in the 1870s. Those disturbed by Ulysses S. Grant ran Horace Greeley for the presidency against him. The Stalwarts defended the spoils system; the Half-Breeds pushed for reform of the civil service. The GOP supported big business generally, hard money (i.e., the gold standard), high tariffs, and generous pensions for Union veterans, and the annexation of Hawaii. The Republicans supported the Protestants who demanded Prohibition. As the Northern post-bellum economy boomed with heavy and light industry, railroads, mines, fast-growing cities and prosperous agriculture, the Republicans took credit and promoted policies to sustain the fast growth. But by 1890, the Republicans had agreed to the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Interstate Commerce Commission in response to complaints from owners of small businesses and farmers. The high McKinley Tariff of 1890 hurt the party and the Democrats swept to a landslide in the off-year elections, even defeating McKinley himself.

After the two terms of Democrat Grover Cleveland, the election of William McKinley in 1896 is widely seen as a resurgence of Republican dominance and is sometimes cited as a realigning election. McKinley promised that high tariffs would end the severe hardship caused by the Panic of 1893, and that the GOP would guarantee a sort of pluralism in which all groups would benefit. The Republicans were cemented as the party of business, though mitigated by the succession of Theodore Roosevelt who embraced trust-busting. He later ran of a third party ticket of the Progressive Party and challenged his previous successor William Howard Taft. The party controlled the presidency throughout the 1920s, running on a platform of opposition to the League of Nations, high tariffs, and promotion of business interests. Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were resoundingly elected in 1920, 1924, and 1928 respectively. The Teapot Dome scandal threatened to hurt the party but Harding died and Coolidge blamed everything on him, as the opposition splintered in 1924. The pro-business policies of the decade seemed to produce an unprecedented prosperity — until the Wall Street Crash of 1929 heralded the Great Depression.

The New Deal coalition of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt controlled American politics for most of the next three decades, excepting the two-term presidency of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower. African Americans began moving toward favoring the Democratic Party during Roosevelt's time. After Roosevelt took office in 1933, New Deal legislation sailed through Congress at lightning speed. In the 1934 midterm elections, 10 Republican senators went down to defeat, leaving them with only 25 against 71 Democrats. The House of Representatives was split in a similar ratio. The "Second New Deal" was heavily criticized by the Republicans in Congress, who likened it to class warfare and socialism. The volume of legislation, and the inability of the Republicans to block it, soon made the opposition to Roosevelt develop into bitterness. Conservative Democrats, mostly from the South, joined with Republicans led by Senator Robert Taft to create the conservative coalition, which dominated domestic issues in Congress until 1964.

The second half of the 20th century saw election of Republican presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. The Republican Party, led by House Republican Minority Whip Newt Gingrich campaigning on a Contract with America, were elected to majorities to both houses of Congress in the Republican Revolution of 1994. Their majorities were generally held until the Democrats regained control in the mid-term election of 2006. In the 21st century the Republican Party is defined by social conservatism, an aggressive foreign policy attempting to defeat terrorism and promote global democracy, a more powerful executive branch, tax cuts, and deregulation and subsidization of industry.

Name and symbols

The party's founding members chose the name "Republican Party" in the mid-1850s in part as an homage to Thomas Jefferson (it was the name initially used by his party). The name echoed the 1776 republican values of civic virtue and opposition to aristocracy and corruption. It is the second-oldest continuing political party in the United States.

The term "Grand Old Party" is a traditional nickname for the Republican Party, and the initialism "G.O.P." (or "GOP") is a commonly used designation. According to the Republican Party, the term "gallant old party" was used in 1875. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known reference to the Republican Party as the "grand old party" came in 1876. The first use of the abbreviation GOP is dated 1884. Some media have stopped using the term GOP because they think it's confusing. More facetiously, the abbreviation is sometimes held to stand for "God's own party", in reference to the party's constituency of conservative evangelical Christians. In 2008, the new Washington state top two primary had Republican candidates competing against GOP candidates in the same races.

The traditional mascot of the party is the elephant. A political cartoon by Thomas Nast, published in Harper's Weekly on November 7, 1874, is considered the first important use of the symbol. In the early 20th century, the usual symbol of the Republican Party in Midwestern states such as Indiana and Ohio was the eagle, as opposed to the Democratic rooster. This symbol still appears on Indiana ballots.

After the 2000 election, the color red became associated with the GOP, although it has not been officially adopted by the party. That election night, for the first time, all of the major broadcast networks used the same color scheme for the electoral map: states won by Republican nominee George W. Bush were colored red, and states won by Democratic nominee Al Gore were colored blue. Although the assignation of colors to political parties is unofficial and informal, they have come to be widely recognized by the media and the public to represent the respective political parties (see Political colour and Red states and blue states for more details).

Lincoln Day, Reagan Day, or Lincoln-Reagan Day, is the primary annual fundraising celebration held by many state and county organizations of the Republican Party. The events are named after Republican Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

State and territorial parties

See also



  • American National Biography (20 volumes, 1999) covers all politicians no longer alive; online at many academic libraries.
  • Aistrup, Joseph A. The Southern Strategy Revisited: Republican Top-Down Advancement in the South (1996)
  • Barone, Michael, and Grant Ujifusa, The Almanac of American Politics 2006: The Senators, the Representatives and the Governors: Their Records and Election Results, Their States and Districts (2005).
  • Black, Earl and Merle Black. The Rise of Southern Republicans (2002)
  • Brennan, Mary C. Turning Right in the Sixties: The Conservative Capture of the GOP (1995)
  • Crane, Michael. The Political Junkie Handbook: The Definitive Reference Books on Politics (2004) covers all the major issues explaining the parties' positions
  • Donald, David. Lincoln (1999)
  • Ehrman, John, The Eighties: America in the Age of Reagan (2005)
  • Frank, Thomas. What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2005)
  • Frum, David. What's Right: The New Conservative Majority and the Remaking of America (1996)
  • Gould, Lewis. Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans (2003)
  • Jensen, Richard. Grass Roots Politics: Parties, Issues, and Voters, 1854–1983 (1983)
  • Judis, John B. and Ruy Teixeira. The Emerging Democratic Majority (2004) two Democrats project social trends
  • Kleppner, Paul, et al. The Evolution of American Electoral Systems (1983), applies party systems model
  • Lamis, Alexander P. ed. Southern Politics in the 1990s (1999)
  • Mayer, George H. The Republican Party, 1854–1966. 2d ed. (1967)
  • Perlstein, Rick. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2002) broad account of 1964
  • Reinhard, David W. The Republican Right since 1945 (1983)
  • Rutland, Robert Allen. The Republicans: From Lincoln to Bush (1996)
  • Sabato, Larry J. Divided States of America: The Slash and Burn Politics of the 2004 Presidential Election (2005)
  • Sabato, Larry J. and Bruce Larson. The Party's Just Begun: Shaping Political Parties for America's Future (2001) textbook.
  • Schlesinger, Arthur Meier, Jr. ed. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2000 (various multivolume editions, latest is 2001). Essays on the most important election are reprinted in Schlesinger, The Coming to Power: Critical presidential elections in American history (1972)
  • Shafer, Byron E. and Anthony J. Badger, eds. Contesting Democracy: Substance and Structure in American Political History, 1775–2000 (2001), long essays by specialists on each time period:
    • includes: "'To One or Another of These Parties Every Man Belongs;": 1820–1865 by Joel H. Silbey; "Change and Continuity in the Party Period: 1835–1885" by Michael F. Holt; "The Transformation of American Politics: 1865–1910" by Peter H. Argersinger; "Democracy, Republicanism, and Efficiency: 1885–1930" by Richard Jensen; "The Limits of Federal Power and Social Policy: 1910–1955" by Anthony J. Badger; "The Rise of Rights and Rights Consciousness: 1930–1980" by James T. Patterson; and "Economic Growth, Issue Evolution, and Divided Government: 1955–2000" by Byron E. Shafer
  • Shafer, Byron and Richard Johnston. The End of Southern Exceptionalism (2006), uses statistical election data & polls to argue GOP growth was primarily a response to economic change
  • Steely, Mel. The Gentleman from Georgia: The Biography of Newt Gingrich Mercer University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-86554-671-1.
  • Sundquist, James L. Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States (1983)
  • Wooldridge, Adrian and John Micklethwait. The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America (2004).

External links

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