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Republican Party


REPUBLICAN PARTY. The Republican Party began at a protest meeting in Ripon, Wisconsin, on 28 February 1854 as a group of antislavery activists, known as Free Soilers, met to start a new grassroots movement. The first party convention took place in Jackson, Michigan, that same year on 6 July. The group adopted the name of the political party of Thomas Jefferson, which later evolved more directly into the Democratic Party. The Republican Party emerged directly out of the Free Soil Party in the North, a movement embraced at various times by such Democrats as Martin Van Buren, who ran unsuccessfully for the presidency on the Free Soil Party ticket in 1848, and David Wilmot, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1845–1851). Numerically more significant was the Republican Party's support from disillusioned northern Whigs. With the collapse of the Whig Party in the 1850s, the Republicans emerged as one of the legatees of the Whig organization.

Ideological Roots

Ideologically the early Republican Party arose out of three traditions, the first of which was the reform tradition that followed on the heels of the Second Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening was a religious revival movement that engulfed the early American republic in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Many Second Great Awakening leaders came to abandon the orthodox Calvinist emphasis on predestination and human depravity in favor of a more optimistic view that the world could be made a better place by individuals seeking their own salvation. This doctrine connecting the individual to social progress was influential on a number of important reforms, many of them supported by the Whigs and others supported by third-party movements centered on a single issue. In temperance reform, public education, women's rights and antislavery efforts among others, this religious reform impulse was very important. Although most Republicans did not endorse equal rights for women, or immediate abolition of slavery for that matter, they were more likely to see themselves as "their brother's keepers," a role entirely consistent with the Puritan tradition and anathematic to many others of a libertarian bent. This reform tradition helped inspire many of those who opposed slavery's extension into the territories. The Liberty Party and the Free Soil Party had previously served as the political vehicles for this movement. Nearly all the Republican leaders except Abraham Lincoln had strong connections to some of these antebellum reform movements.

The second important influence on the Republicans was the economic policies sponsored by Henry Clay and his allies in the Whig Party. Clay believed that the government should act to develop the American economy by promoting protective tariffs on "infant" industries such as textiles and iron. These protective tariffs would pay for internal improvements to the transportation infrastructure, such as roads, rivers, harbors, and most importantly in the 1850s, railroads. A rechartered Bank of the United States would provide a uniform currency with its bank-notes and would channel investment throughout the Union.

The third influence on the Republican Party was nativism. Since the 1790s the United States had gone through periods in which some Americans sought to de-fine national identity tribally rather than by adherence to ideas or institutions. Founders such as John Jay thought only Protestants would make good Americans. With the tremendous influx of Irish and Germans, many of them Catholics, in the 1840s and 1850s, some Protestant Americans feared that American institutions would be "overrun" or destroyed entirely by illiterate paupers whose allegiance was to the Vatican.

Early Presidential Elections

The Republican Party nominated John C. Fremont as its first presidential candidate in 1856. Fremont was a hero of the Mexican-American War. Although the Democratic candidate, James Buchanan, enjoyed a landslide victory in that year, the Republicans made important gains in Congress and in the northern tier of states from New England to Wisconsin. While the Republicans in Congress and in the northern states tended to be radical free soilers, the party needed a candidate who appealed to northern moderates for the presidential election of 1860. In a field dominated by antislavery activists like William E. Seward and Salmon P. Chase, one candidate stood out: Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. Lincoln had shown himself to be a formidable debater and campaigner in the U.S. Senate contest against Stephen Douglas in 1858. He stood as a principled opponent of slavery's extension into the territories and he also stood with other economic interests that the Whigs had once favored and the Republican Party now represented: protective tariffs, a homestead law, federal land grants for higher education, federal sponsorship of internal improvements, and, most importantly, federal aid for a transcontinental railroad. Unlike some of the Know-Nothing converts to Republicanism, Lincoln opposed restrictions on immigration or any discrimination against Catholics.

The Republican Party was victorious in 1860 because it understood an electoral lesson the Democrats failed to remember: the presidential elections of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were won in the Lower North, a region from New Jersey to Illinois. With those electoral votes, no candidate could be defeated. Without them, no candidate could win. Despite the fact that Lincoln won in a four-way race with only 39 percent of the popular vote, he would still have won in the Electoral College if all his opposition had united on a single candidate. For the rest of the century, the Republican Party represented the Lower North, and insofar as it represented its constituency well, it found itself usually in control of the presidency and the Senate, and for a significant portion of the time, in control of the House of Representatives.

Lincoln's reelection in 1864 was by no means assured until the string of Union victories in that year inspired confidence among wavering voters. Union voters strongly supported the Republicans, over the former commander of the Army of the Potomac, George McClellan. In the years after Lincoln's assassination, northern public opinion turned strongly against the conciliatory Reconstruction policy of Lincoln, and the inconsistent harsh and tepid policy of Andrew Johnson. With southern states reimposing chattel slavery in all but name and electing former Confederate generals to represent them in Congress, the tide of northern opinion turned against appeasement. In the elections of 1866 and 1868 the Radical faction of the Republicans gained control of the congressional party and used its power to enact sweeping changes in the post–Civil War United States. The Radicals, including Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner, sponsored the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, which provided equal rights under the law and manhood suffrage for African Americans. Stevens went so far as to propose that freedmen who were heads of households be given forty acres and a mule from confiscated land of high Confederate military and civilian officers, by which they might establish their economic independence.

The Gilded Age

The next ten years after the Civil War saw Republicans' attempts to recreate a new society in the South, with black voters and officeholders supporting the Republican Party. After the election of 1876, however, with a compromise worked out to avoid disputed southern electoral votes to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republicans withdrew their support for the federal army's enforcement of Reconstruction. Within a short time the South began restricting black voting. Outside the mountain South, Republicans had almost no support among southern whites. The pattern of support for Republicans was set at this time until well into the twentieth century. Republicans enjoyed strong support among Yankee Protestants in every region of the United States, from New England and upstate New York, through the upper Midwest and into the Northwest. German Lutherans, Scots-Irish Presbyterians, and African Americans in the North tended to vote Republican as did mountain southerners. Among the newer immigrants, the Republican Party enjoyed some support among Italians, French Canadians, and Russian Jews. Many skilled laborers, particularly in industries that enjoyed tariff protection voted for the Grand Old Party, as it came to be known in the Gilded Age. Only two groups proved almost entirely immune to the attractions of the Republican Party: southern whites and Irish Catholics.

The Republican Party in the Gilded Age divided into two groups, set apart more by federal civil service patronage than by principle: the "Half Breeds" and the "Stalwarts." In the late-nineteenth century, in addition to protectionism, the Republican Party was best known for its advocacy of a high-profile foreign policy, particularly in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Republicans sponsored American annexation of Hawaii and a group of Republicans were the most vociferous advocates of war with Spain to liberate Cuba. Many of these same Republicans argued for retention of the conquered territories of Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Dissident voices against American overseas expansion and against "corruption" began to defect in the mid-1880s to the more reform minded Democrats. These Republican defectors became known as "mugwumps."

Populism and Progressivism

In the 1896 election, the Republicans successfully faced a challenge from the agrarian or "Populist" wing of the Democratic Party and the "People's Party." These Populists argued for an expansionary monetary policy based on the valuation of silver. In the midst of the depression of 1893, an easing of credit appealed to farmers in the South and West, but an inflationary money policy was adverse to the interests of wageworkers. With promises of prosperity and protectionism, the Republicans under William McKinley successfully appealed to workers, and new immigrants, particularly those non-evangelicals most alienated by William Jennings Bryan's religiously inspired rhetoric. The Republican Party held power for the better part of the next thirty-six years outside the South, interrupted only by Woodrow Wilson's two terms as president.

The Republican Party was divided over Progressivism. After McKinley's assassination, Theodore Roosevelt called for new initiatives in economic policy, designed to assert the power of the federal government in economic regulation. Roosevelt viewed the federal government as the arbiter when concentrated economic power threatened to overturn the limiting powers of the market.

At the end of Roosevelt's first elected term, he announced he would not seek reelection, and anointed William H. Taft as his successor. Although Taft embarked on a vigorous prosecution of trusts, Roosevelt soon grew disillusioned with him. Roosevelt's challenge to Taft in 1912, first within the Republican Party and then in forming the Progressive Party, split the Republican vote and allowed Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the White House. After the outbreak of World War I, Republicans proved eager to enter the war on the side of the Allies, but the party reverted to isolationism after the end of the war.

Twentieth Century

From 1918 to 1932 the Republican Party was predominant in part because of the profound cultural alienation of Americans after World War I. Warren G. Harding promised a return to "normalcy" (not a word until Harding coined it). Republicans at this time linked themselves to the enduring values of the rural Old America: isolationism, nativism, Protestantism, Prohibition, and protection.

Under Calvin Coolidge, the Republicans rolled back corporate taxes and cut spending, reducing the size of government. Despite the Teapot Dome scandal affecting the Harding administration, Republicans continued to enjoy strong political support in 1924 and in 1928, in part because of the unprecedented prosperity of the United States in the 1920s. The Republican presidential and congressional elections gathered landslide support in all regions of the United States except the South.

The election of Herbert Hoover in 1928 was an important victory for the Republicans. While the Republicans had already won two elections in the 1920s, Hoover's victory was more substantive. Hoover had been director general of the American Relief Administration in the aftermath of World War I. In the midst of general prosperity, Hoover campaigned on the slogan, "A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage." A Quaker, Hoover represented old-fashioned Protestant rectitude against everything his political opponent Al Smith stood for: urbanism, cosmopolitanism, and Catholicism. Hoover won an over-whelming victory. Smith captured only the heavily Catholic states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Louisiana, and the Deep South states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, that scorned Republicans more than they feared Catholics.

As the Great Depression deepened, Hoover's inability to mount an effective mustering of moral and rhetorical resources was his most significant failure. Hoover was a lukewarm Republican Progressive and, as such, he tried a few half-hearted attempts to stimulate the economy, most notably with the National Recovery Administration. His worst failing was his insistence on old fashioned budget balancing, calling for tax increases as the economy shrank, and reducing government spending as revenues declined. The Republican Congress responded with an equally shortsighted policy: a ruinous increase in protective tariffs under the Smoot-Hawley tariffs, a vindictive form of trade policy that generated trade reprisals from America's principal trading partners and made economic recovery—for Europe, Japan, and America—that much more difficult.

Franklin D. Roosevelt's landslide victories in 1932 and 1936 pushed the Republicans into near-eclipse. The Democrats cemented the loyalties of a new generation of Americans in the cities, particularly southern and eastern Europeans, Catholics, Jews, and, for the first time in American politics, the most reliably Republican of all ethnic blocs: African Americans. With Roosevelt's campaign for a third term in 1940, the Republicans nominated a likeable, internationalist former Democrat, Wendell Willkie, who reduced the Democratic majorities. In 1946 the Republicans were able to regain control of Congress for the first time in sixteen years. Thanks to the cooperation of President Harry Truman and Senator Arthur Vandenberg, bipartisan internationalism prevailed in foreign policy, and Republicans were instrumental in supporting the Marshall Plan for European economic development, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the military alliance of Western Europe and North America organized against the Soviet Union, and the United Nations. A group of Republicans in Congress under the leadership of Representative Richard Nixon of California held investigations into the charges that the Roosevelt and Truman administrations had coddled Communists in their midst. This accusation and particularly the charges against State Department undersecretary Alger Hiss created ill will between Truman and the Republicans.

The Korean War and Republican charges of "Korea, Communism, and Corruption," helped defeat the Democrats in both the presidential and congressional elections of 1952. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the popular Allied commander of the European theater in World War II was elected president but his coattails did not allow for the control of Congress after the first two years. Republicans in the White House and in Congress proved unwilling, or unable to rein in Senator Joseph McCarthy's congressional investigations of Communists in government. Mc-Carthy's hearings sometimes appeared both farcical and brutal at the same time. Only after the public became aware of his excesses did the repressive climate end.

In 1956, despite a heart attack, Eisenhower was elected to a second term. He provided international stability and attempted to engage in serous disarmament talks with Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union. In domestic policy, Eisenhower made great gains. Working in collaboration with a bipartisan coalition in Congress, the president promoted federal aid to education, sent troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce desegregation, and supported a national network of inter-state highways. Nevertheless, Eisenhower's detached style of governing and the recession of the late 1950s contributed to a fall in his popularity.

In 1960 Democrat John F. Kennedy defeated Republican Richard Nixon. With Nixon's defeat, a group of new conservatives organized to overturn the Republican "Eastern Establishment." United under the banner of Senator Barry Goldwater, these conservatives secured Goldwater's nomination over the Establishment candidate Nelson Rockefeller. Although Goldwater was resoundingly defeated by Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the Republican Party was changed forever by the 1964 election: hereafter the party was more conservative, more issues-oriented, and more western and southern.

Richard Nixon was able to win election to the presidency in 1968 against a divided and discredited Democratic Party and with third-party candidate George Wallace taking the Deep South. In his first term Nixon united the conservatives and the moderates, and for the first time in the Republican Party's history, brought in large numbers of white southerners. This coalition, combined with conservative white ethnics in the North, brought Nixon a landslide victory in 1972. With the Watergate scandal and Nixon's resignation, the Republicans were badly defeated in congressional races in 1974 and Gerald Ford was defeated in the presidential race of 1976 by Jimmy Carter.

In 1980 Carter's difficulties with the Iranian government's refusal to return American hostages and the divisions within the Democrats weakened his claim on reelection in 1980. Ronald Reagan was elected president and succeeded in securing his legislative agenda, as no president had done for nearly twenty years. Working with a Republican Senate and a Democratic House of Representatives, Reagan sponsored a dramatic cut in taxes for those in the higher income brackets. His effort to scale back spending proved less effective, however. Nevertheless Reagan achieved impressive foreign policy triumphs. He negotiated substantial arms reduction with President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union. He was triumphantly reelected in 1984, and he remained very popular personally, despite his administration's involvement in trading arms to Iran for hostages.

His successor, George H. W. Bush, was also successful in presiding over a coalition of Americans, Arab states, and Europeans that achieved a military victory against Iraq, when that country invaded Kuwait. Bush remained at record levels of public approval until shortly before the 1992 election. In a three-way race with Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, Bush was defeated.

In the first two years of the Clinton presidency the Republicans played a defensive strategy. With Clinton's failure to pass any form of his proposed health care legislation, the Republicans in Congress organized to defeat the Democratic majority in both houses. In what amounted to a public vote of no confidence in the Democratic Party, the Republicans took control of the Senate, and, for the first time in forty years, the House of Representatives as well. Under the effective electoral strategy of Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, the Republicans maintained their majority in both houses for the rest of the decade. Their legislative strategy proved less effective. Republicans allowed the government to be shut down on two occasions in 1995, inconveniencing and alienating the public. Gingrich was unable to secure the passage of his Contract with America, which promised term limits and greater legislative accountability. The Republican candidate for president, former Kansas senator Robert Dole, was resoundingly defeated in 1996.

President Clinton's admission of contradictions between his sworn testimony and his actual behavior in his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky allowed the Republican leadership to launch the impeachment of Clinton on the grounds that he committed perjury. In his Senate trial, however, Clinton was acquitted because a majority of the Senate, including some moderate Republicans, refused to vote for his removal.

The election of 2000, between Vice President Albert Gore and Texas governor George W. Bush, resulted in an indeterminate result. After much investigation, the disputed electoral votes of Florida were awarded to Bush in a U.S. Supreme Court decision split straight down ideological lines. The Republicans only enjoyed complete control of the Congress for a few months after the election. The defection of Senator James Jeffords of Vermont to Independent allowed the Democrats to organize the Senate, and the government was once again under divided control.


Belz, Herman. A New Birth of Freedom: The Republican Party and Freedmen's Rights, 1861 to 1866. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1976.

Gienapp, William E. The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852– 1856. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Marcus, Robert D. Grand Old Party: Political Structure in the Gilded Age, 1880–1896. New York, Oxford University Press, 1971.

Mayer, George H. The Republican Party, 1854–1964. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964.

McKinney, Gordon B. Southern Mountain Republicans, 1865– 1900: Politics and the Appalachian Community. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978.

Merrill, Horace Samuel, and Marion Galbraith Merrill. The Republican Command, 1897–1913. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1971.

Mohr, James C., ed. Radical Republicans in the North: State Politics during Reconstruction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.

Montgomery, David. Beyond Equality: Labor and the Radical Republicans. New York: Knopf, 1967.

Rae, Nicol C. The Decline and Fall of the Liberal Republicans: From 1952 to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

———. Conservative Reformers: Republican Freshmen and the Lessons of the 104th Congress. Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1998.

Richardson, Heather Cox. The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post–Civil War North, 1865–1901. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Rutland, Robert Allen. The Republicans: From Lincoln to Bush. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996.

Andrew W.Robertson

See alsoDemocratic Party ; Political Parties ; Radical Republicans ; Two-Party System .

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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. The Reagan years were marked by the increasing influence of social conservatives in the party, a trend that continued into the 21st cent.

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. Continuing economic uncertainty and a lackluster recovery led to significant Republican gains in the 2010 midterm elections that reversed many previous Democrat gains. The party won control of the House of Representative as well as additional U.S. Senate seats and governorships. At the same time, however, the rise of the conservative movement known as the Tea Party, which had a significant influence on many Republican primary races and contributed subsequently to many general election victories, led to some tensions and splits with the party.

In the 2012 elections the Republican presidential and vice-presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and running-mate Paul Ryan, lost to incumbents Obama and Biden, although more narrowly than the national ticket did in 2008. In other elections, Republicans retained control of the House but lost seats in the Senate and did not make significant gains at the state level, but the 2014 midterm elections resulted in the party winning control of the Senate and making gains in the House and at the state level.


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); G. Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party (2012).

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Republican Party


The Republican Party was founded in 1854 by a group of renegade Democrats, Whigs, and political independents who opposed the expansion of slavery into new U.S. territories and states. What began as a single-issue, independent party became a major political force in the United States. Six years after the new party was formed, Republican nominee abraham lincoln won the U.S. presidential election. The Republican Party and its counterpart, the democratic party, became the mainstays of the nation's de facto two-party system.

Lincoln's victory in 1860 signaled the demise of the whig party and the ascendance of Republican politics. From 1860 to 1931, the Republicans dominated U.S. presidential elections. Only two Democrats were elected to the White House during the 70-year period of Republican preeminence.

The early Republican Party was shaped by political conscience and regionalism. Throughout the early and mid-nineteenth century, states in the North and South were bitterly divided over the issues of slavery and state sovereignty. In 1854 the enactment of the kansas-nebraska act inflamed political passions. Under the act residents of the new territories of Kansas and Nebraska could decide whether to permit slavery in their regions. In effect, the act invalidated the missouri compromise of 1820, which prohibited the extension of slavery in new areas of the United States. Opponents of slavery condemned the measure, and violence erupted in Kansas.

Antislavery parties had already sprung up in the United States. The abolitionist Liberty Party began in 1840, and the free soil party was formed in 1848. In much the same spirit, the Republican Party arose to protest the Nebraska-Kansas Act. The new group drew support from third parties and disaffected Democrats and Whigs. After organizational meetings in 1854 in Ripon, Wisconsin, and Jackson, Michigan, the Republican Party was born.

In 1856 the Republicans nominated their first presidential candidate, John C. Frémont, a former explorer who opposed the expansion of slavery in new U.S. territories and states. Although defeated in the national election by Democrat james buchanan, Frémont received one-third of the popular vote.

In 1860 Abraham Lincoln from Illinois was the Republican presidential nominee. Lincoln appealed not only to antislavery voters but to business owners in the East and farmers in the Midwest. The Democratic Party was in turmoil over slavery. The northern Democrats nominated stephen a. douglas, who tried to sidestep the issue, and the southern Democrats backed John C. Breckinridge, who denounced government efforts to prohibit slavery. Lincoln defeated both candidates.

Although Lincoln's election was a triumph for the Republicans, his support was concentrated primarily in the North. Shortly after Lincoln's victory, several southern states seceded from the Union, and the bloody u.s. civil war began.

Throughout the war Lincoln and his policies took a drubbing from the press and public. When Lincoln ran for reelection, the Republican Party temporarily switched its name to the Union Party. Lincoln sought a second term with Democrat andrew johnson as his running mate in order to deflect criticism of the Republican Party. Johnson, from Tennessee, was one of the few southerners to support the preservation of the Union. Despite his critics Lincoln defeated the Democratic nominee, George B. McClellan, who ran on a peace platform.

After the North's victory in 1865, the Republicans oversaw Reconstruction, a period of rebuilding for the vanquished South. Lincoln favored a more conciliatory attitude toward the defeated Confederacy. Radical Republicans, however, sought a complete overhaul of the South's economic and social system. After Lincoln's assassination in 1865, the Republicans' Reconstruction policies—such as conferring citizenship and voting rights to former slaves—created long-lasting resentment among many southern whites.

Republicans depended upon the support of northern voters and courted the vote of emancipated slaves. The party fanned hostility by reminding northern voters of the South's disloyalty during the war. The Republicans were the dominant party in the United States from 1860 to 1931, and the party's base among southern whites began to grow in the 1950s, when political loyalties began to shift.

During their long period of political dominance, Republicans sent the following candidates to the White House: ulysses s. grant, rutherford b. hayes, james garfield (died in office), chester a. arthur (vice president who succeeded Garfield), benjamin harrison, william mckinley (died in office), theodore roosevelt (vice president who succeeded McKinley and was later elected on his own), william howard taft, warren g. harding, calvin coolidge, and herbert hoover.

During the 1880s and 1890s, there was an important shift in party affiliation. Struggling Republican farmers throughout the Midwest, South, and West switched their political allegiance to the Democrats who promised them government assistance. The financially strapped farmers were concerned about the depressed national economy. Many turned to the populist movement headed by Democrat william jennings bryan. A brilliant orator, Bryan called for the free coinage of silver currency, whereas the Republicans favored the gold standard.

Despite his popularity Bryan was defeated by Republican William McKinley in the 1896 presidential election. The Democrats appealed to farmers, but the Republicans had captured the business and urban vote. After the U.S. economy improved during the McKinley administration, supporters dubbed the Republican Party "the Grand Old Party," or the GOP, a nickname that endured.

After President McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt assumed the presidency. He pursued ambitious social reforms such as stricter antitrust laws, tougher meat and drug regulations, and new environmental measures. In 1912 Roosevelt and his followers broke off from the Republicans to form the Bull Moose Party. The third party split helped Democrat woodrow wilson defeat Republican candidate William Howard Taft.

After eight years of Democratic power, during which the U.S. fought in world war i, the Republicans returned to the White House in 1920 with Warren G. Harding. Unable to stave off or reverse the Great Depression, the Republicans lost control of the Oval Office in 1932.

During the Great Depression, the public became impatient with the ineffectual economic policies of Republican President Herbert

Hoover. Democrat franklin d. roosevelt swept into the White House with a promise of a new deal for all Americans. From 1932 to 1945, Roosevelt lifted the nation from its economic collapse and guided it through world war ii. During Roosevelt's administration the Republican Party lost its traditional constituency of African Americans and urban workers. harry s. truman followed Roosevelt in office and in 1948 withstood a strong challenge from Republican thomas e. dewey.

Republican dwight d. eisenhower won the presidency in 1952 and 1956. A popular World War II hero, Eisenhower oversaw a good economy and a swift end to the korean war. Eisenhower was succeeded in 1960 by Democrat john f. kennedy who defeated Eisenhower's vice president, Republican nominee richard m. nixon. In 1964 Republicans nominated ultra-conservative barry m. goldwater who was trounced at the polls by Democrat lyndon b. johnson, the incumbent. Johnson, Kennedy's vice president, had assumed the presidency after Kennedy's assassination in 1963.

When Republican Richard M. Nixon was elected president in 1968, he began the reduction of U.S. military troops in Southeast Asia. Nixon opened trade with China and improved foreign relations through a policy of detente with the former Soviet Union. During his term the shift of southern Democrats to the Republican Party accelerated. (In fact, from 1972 to 1988, the South was the most Republican region of the United States.)

The nadir for the Republican Party occurred in 1974 when Nixon left office in the midst of the watergate scandal, a botched attempt to burglarize and wiretap the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Implicated in the scandal's cover-up, Nixon became the only president in U.S. history to resign from office. He was succeeded by Vice President gerald r. ford of Michigan who served the remainder of Nixon's term and pardoned the disgraced president.

Ford lost the 1976 presidential election to Democrat jimmy carter of Georgia. A sour economy and the bungling of foreign affairs (most notably the Iran hostage crisis) led to Carter's defeat in 1980 by Republican challenger ronald reagan and his running mate, george herbert walker bush.

The Republicans controlled the White House for twelve years, with Reagan serving two terms and Bush one. During Reagan's tenure, southern Democrats turned in droves to the Republican Party, embracing Reagan's politically conservative message. Pointing to widespread ticket-splitting, many analysts believe voters embraced the charismatic Reagan, not the party. Bush became president in 1988 but was defeated in 1992, by Democrat bill clinton of Arkansas.

Although considered the party of business and the suburbs, the GOP has made significant inroads in traditionally Democratic areas such as labor and the South. An extremely conservative element dominated the Republican Party in the 1980s, but a more moderate wing began to exert influence in the late 1990s. Many of these moderates were elected to Congress in 1994, giving the Republicans control of both houses for the first time in more than 40 years.

The Republican Party in the New Millennium

The 2000 presidential election signaled the end of Bill Clinton's two-term tenure as president. Candidates from both the Republican and Democratic Parties were eager to replace him. As the presidential primaries began in New Hampshire on February 1, 2001, antiabortion activist Gary Bauer, Texas governor george w. bush, billionaire publisher Steve Forbes, Utah senator Orrin Hatch, former united nations ambassador Alan Keyes, and Arizona senator john mccain were vying for the top spot on the Republican Party ticket, while Vice President albert gore and former New Jersey senator and professional basketball player Bill Bradley were vying for the top spot on the Democratic ticket. Bush, then 54, and Gore, then 52, eventually earned their party's nomination in August. Sixty-five-year-old ralph nader won the nomination for the green party.

The presidential race pitted Gore as the Washington veteran with vast political experience on Capitol Hill and in the White House against the more folksy Bush who billed himself as a savvy outsider capable of bringing common sense, morality, and a "compassionate conservatism" to a scandal-ridden executive branch. Political opponents attacked Gore for his lack of charisma and Bush for his intellectual shortcomings. Although supporters maintained that the two candidates advocated widely divergent policies, many voters found little to distinguish them, while pundits and late-night talk show hosts took to characterizing Bush as "Gorelight" and Gore as "Bush-light" in reference to candidates' apparent attempts to water down their platforms to placate Middle America.

As daylight turned to twilight on election night, it became evident that Florida's 25 electoral votes held the key to victory in the U.S. Presidential race. Early returns combined with exit polling results indicated that Gore had a commanding lead in the state. By 8:00 p.m. EST, all of the major television networks projected that Gore had defeated Bush to become the nation's next president.

However, the polls had not yet closed in the Florida's panhandle, which is in the Central time zone. A few hours later, the lead swung to Bush, forcing the networks to retract their projections. By 2:15 EST, Bush appeared to have a decisive lead of about 50,000 votes, and all of the major networks declared Bush the winner. A few hours later Bush's lead had shrunk to a few thousands votes, and the networks were again forced to retract their projections.

When the votes were finally tallied on November 8, minus the late-arriving overseas ballots, Bush was ahead of Gore by 1,784 votes, or less than .5 percent of the total number of votes tabulated for the U.S. Presidency in Florida. Under Florida Election Law, a recount was automatic in these circumstances, unless Gore refused, which he did not. The recount was

Republican National Political Convention Sites, 1856 to 2004
Year Site Year Site
source:The World Almanac and the 2000 Republican National Convention web page.
1880Chicago1956San Francisco
1888Chicago1964San Francisco
1892Minneapolis1968Miami Beach
1896St. Louis1972Miami Beach
1900Philadelphia1976Kansas City, MO
1912Chicago1988New Orleans
1920Chicago1996San Diego
1928Kansas City, KS2004New York City

performed by machine and was designed to correct any errors in the first machine tabulation of the vote. On November 10 the first recount was complete. Bush's lead had dwindled to 327 votes.

Emboldened by his gains in the machine recount, Gore sought a manual hand recount of votes cast in certain heavily-Democratic counties. Bush opposed any manual recount, which sparked a series of court battles that culminated before the U.S. Court. In bush v. gore 531 U.S. 98, 121 S.Ct. 525, 148 L.Ed. 2d 388 (U.S. 2000), the Supreme Court ruled that the system devised by the Florida Supreme Court to recount the votes cast in the state during the 2000 U.S. presidential election violated the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment to the federal Constitution. Because there was no time to create a system that was fair to both candidates, the Supreme Court effectively stopped the recount process in its tracks, allowing George W. Bush of Texas to win Florida's 25 electoral votes, enough to become the 43rd President of the United States. (Although Green Party candidate Ralph Nader won no electoral votes in any state presidential race, election experts have opined that he cost Gore thousands of popular votes in several closely contested states that Bush won. For example, 97,488 Florida voters selected Nader as their candidate.)

The 2000 election results marked the first time since 1954 that the GOP controlled the White House, Senate, and the House of Representatives. Although the Republicans lost 4 seats in the Senate and one seat in the House in 2000, they still had a nine-vote advantage in the House, while Republican Vice President Dick Cheney held the tie-breaking vote in the evenly-divided Senate. In 2002 the Republicans increased their Congressional advantage to 51–48 in the Senate (with one independent) and to 229–205 in the House (with one independent).

At the state level, Democrats gained three governorships in 2002 and Republicans lost one, with a total of 24 new governors taking office. This was the largest number of new governors since 1960. Prior to the election, party control of governors stood at 27 Republican, 21 Democratic, and two independents. After the election, party control stood at 26 Republican and 24 Democratic governors. Democrats picked up key posts in Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania and won surprise victories in Kansas and Wyoming. But Republicans won in the traditionally Democratic strongholds of Georgia, Hawaii, and Maryland. Overall, the governor's office switched party control in 20 states.

further readings

Boller, Paul F., Jr. 2004. Presidential Campaigns. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Gould, Lewis L. 2003. Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans. New York: Random House.

Moos, Malcolm. 1956. The Republicans: A History of Their Party. New York: Random House.

Wilson, James Q. 2003. American Government. 6th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

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Republican Party

Republican Party


The Republican Party is one of the two major parties in American politics and government. Like the Democratic Party, the Republican Partys organization reflects federalism and the separation of powers. Each state has a Republican state committee and most American cities, towns, and counties also have Republican committees. Usually, Republican voters choose members, officers, and chairs of these state and local committees. Through primaries and caucuses, they also choose delegates to represent them at Republican national conventions.

Republicans in the states and territories also choose members of the Republican National Committee (RNC). In addition to representing their states and territories in the RNC, RNC members also elect RNC officials, such as chairs and treasurers, choose the city that will host the next Republican national convention, and determine party rules and procedures, relating to such matters as the apportionment and selection of delegates from the states and territories and platform-making processes. At Republican national conventions, held during the summers of presidential election years, the major responsibilities of Republican delegates are to ratify or reject national platforms and to nominate presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Besides federalism, the separation of powers also divides and distributes the Republican Partys organization, authority, and functions. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) respectively serve the campaign needs of Republican candidates who run for election or reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Like the RNC, the NRCC and NRSC receive and distribute campaign funds and provide research, information, and literature on Republican policy positions, media and mailing services, and coordination among Republican candidates. The campaign finance role of the RNC, NRCC, and NRSC has diminished as Republican presidential and congressional candidates have become more dependent on individuals, state and local party committees, and interest groups, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Christian Coalition, for campaign spending and the delivery of campaign services, such as advertising, direct mail, and voter mobilization.

The Republican Party was established in 1854. Most of its founders were disaffected Democrats and former Whigs. The Republican Partys major, initial policy position was its opposition to the extension of slavery into new states and territories. It adopted this policy position from the Free Soil Party, which it soon absorbed. Like the Whig and Federalist parties that preceded it in the two-party system, the Republican Party supported high, protective tariffs, a national bank, federal supremacy over the states, and a flexible interpretation of the federal governments powers in the Constitution. With the Democratic Party divided over the slavery issue, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the first Republican president in 1860.

During the period of closely contested presidential elections from 1876 until 1896, Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist, popularized the use of the elephant as the unofficial symbol of the Republican Party, which was also nicknamed the Grand Old Party, or the GOP, because of the partys close association with the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union army veterans of the Civil War. In 1896 the Democratic Party nominated William Jennings Bryan for president. Bryan was a Nebraska congressman affiliated with both the Democratic and Populist parties. His rousing campaign speeches zealously denounced the GOPs positions on high tariffs and the gold standard for enriching big business and impoverishing farmers and laborers.

Orchestrated by Marcus Hanna, an Ohio businessman, the Republican presidential campaign portrayed Bryan as a dangerous economic radical and rural demagogue with an anti-urban, anti-immigrant bias and contended that high tariffs and the gold standard promoted a broad, national prosperity. The Republican landslide in the 1896 national elections established a long-term Republican realignment of voters that enabled the GOP to usually control the presidency and Congress from 1896 until 1932. Growing intra-party conflicts between the Old Guard, i.e., the conservative wing, and the Progressives, i.e., the GOPs liberal wing, helped Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, to win the 1912 and 1916 presidential elections.

The Great Depression that began in 1929 during the Republican presidency of Herbert Hoover discredited the Republican Partys reputation among many Americans for competent economic leadership and ended their association with national prosperity. Democratic president Franklin D. Roosevelts attractive leadership style and the popularity of New Deal economic policies broadened and diversified the coalition of the Democratic Party, thereby transforming it into the new majority party among voters. In particular, African Americans, who recently were the most loyal Republican voters, became the most loyal Democratic voters during the 1930s because of Roosevelt and the New Deal, despite the continuing association of the Democratic Party with Southern whites and segregation.

The Democratic realignment of the 1930s helped the Democratic Party to dominate American politics and government until the election of Republican president Richard M. Nixon in 1968. During those years, Republicans disagreed about how to defeat Democrats in elections and what ideological and policy alternatives they should offer American voters. Moderate and liberal Republicans, such as President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961), accepted most of the New Deals policy legacy and an internationalistic, bipartisan foreign policy in the cold war. These Republicans emphasized that the GOP could manage liberal Democratic policies with greater efficiency and fiscal responsibility and could achieve civil rights for African Americans more sincerely and effectively than the Democratic Party, with its powerful anti-civil rights Southern wing in Congress. Meanwhile, conservative Republicans, such as Senators Robert A. Taft of Ohio and Barry Goldwater of Arizona, criticized the moderate-liberal wing of the GOP for me too-ism and argued that the GOP would perform better in federal elections if it offered voters a distinctly conservative ideological and policy alternative to liberal Democratic policies and candidates. This conservatism included an emphasis on less domestic spending, greater protection of states rights and property rights through opposition to new civil rights bills, and a more nationalistic, aggressive, and partisan American foreign policy in the Cold War. Nonetheless, except for the 1964 presidential election, moderate and liberal Republicans dominated the GOPs presidential nominations and major platform planks at Republican national conventions from 1940 until 1980.

Despite the Democratic realignment of the 1930s, a substantial minority of African Americans remained Republicans because they perceived the Republican Party, with its Lincoln legacy, to be more sincere and effective on civil rights. To black Republicans, the noisy defection of some Southern Democrats to Strom Thurmonds Dixiecrat presidential candidacy in 1948, because of their opposition to Trumans doomed civil rights legislation, proved that the Democratic Party would also be sharply divided between its Northern and Southern wings on civil rights. In the 1964 presidential election, however, Barry Goldwater, one of the few Republican senators to vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, received most of the Southern white vote and only around 6 percent of the black vote. As the presence and influence of conservative Southern whites steadily increased within the Republican Party, fewer white Republican politicians supported liberal policies on race, such as affirmative action, court-ordered busing, and antipoverty programs.

During the 1970s, conservative Republicans, such as Ronald W. Reagan, often disagreed with the moderate policies of Republican presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, especially regarding détente with the Soviet Union and China. After nearly defeating Ford for the GOPs 1976 presidential nomination, Reagan was nominated and elected president in 1980. Reagans policy goals prioritized the conservative agenda of major tax cuts, defense spending increases, reduced federal regulation of the economy, less domestic spending, a return of more domestic policy responsibilities to the states, and a more aggressive foreign policy. Aided by Republican control of the Senate from 1981 to 1987, Reagan increased the number of conservative federal judges, especially those with conservative judicial positions on abortion, crime control, school prayer, and other social issues. The conservative domination of the GOP by the end of Reagans presidency (1981-1989) was also a consequence of the growing political influence of the religious right, especially in the South.

Although William J. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, won the 1992 presidential election against Republican incumbent George H. W. Bush, the Republicans won control of both houses of Congress in 1994. For the first time since the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877), most members of Congress from the South were Republicans. When Republicans in Congress impeached Clinton and tried unsuccessfully to convict him during 1998 and 1999, polls indicated that many Americans perceived the Republican leadership of Congress, especially Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, to be harsh, extreme, and unreasonable in its relationship with the president.

Realizing the need for the GOP to express a more inclusive and less divisive type of conservatism, George W. Bush, the Republican presidential nominee in 2000, promised an ideology and domestic policy agenda based on compassionate conservatism during his successful presidential campaign. Bushs compassionate conservatism included cultivation of minority voters, especially Latinos, and his proposal to use faith-based initiatives to provide some federally funded social services. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Bushs perspectives, actions, and objectives in foreign and defense policy were influenced by neoconservative positions. Neoconservatism advocates and justifies the use of American military force, including preemptive attacks and invasions, to protect the security of the United States and its allies, especially Israel, and to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Neoconservatives are willing to engage in these actions, including nation-building efforts in American-occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, without the support and participation of most U.S. allies.

After Bush was reelected in 2004 with 44 percent of the Latino vote and a victory margin of over three million popular votes, Karl Rove, Bushs top political strategist, hoped that Bushs presidency would stimulate a Republican realignment of voters similar to that of 1896. As Bushs second term progressed, however, the president experienced low public approval ratings, and more Republicans in Congress openly disagreed with each other and Bush over the Iraq war, deficit spending, and immigration. The Democrats won control of Congress in the 2006 elections with net gains of twenty-nine House seats and six Senate seats. Polls and media analyses indicated that voters were reacting against lobbying scandals, the Iraq war, inadequate health care, and Republican control of both the presidency and Congress.

SEE ALSO Bush, George H. W.; Bush, George W.; Left and Right; Multiparty Systems; Nixon, Richard M.; Political Parties; Reagan, Ronald; Republic


Phillips, Kevin P. 1969. The Emerging Republican Majority. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House.

Rae, Nicol C. 1989. The Decline and Fall of the Liberal Republicans: From 1952 to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sean J. Savage

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Republican Party

Republican Party US political party. It was organized in 1854, as an amalgamation of the Whig Party and Free-Soilers, with workers and professional people who had formerly been known as Independent Democrats, Know-Nothings, Barnburners, or Abolitionists. Its first successful presidential candidate was Abraham Lincoln (elected 1860). During the early 20th century, the Republicans were generally the minority party to the Democratic Party in Congress, especially in the House of Representatives. Later, there was a reversal. There was a Republican president for all but four years between 1969 and 1993. Under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, the Republican Party seemed to have captured the popular vote until Bill Clinton's charismatic campaign restored Democratic fortunes. In 1994 the Republicans regained control of the Senate and House of Representatives, and retained majorities in the 1998 elections. The Republicans recaptured the presidency in 2000 elections, when George W. Bush defeated the Democrat candidate, Al Gore, by the narrowest of margins, but lost majority control of the Senate. Today, the Republican Party is considered to be more conservative than the Democratic Party.

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Republican Party

Re·pub·li·can Par·ty one of the two main U.S. political parties (the other being the Democratic Party), favoring a conservative stance, limited central government, and a strong national defense.

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