Republican Party

views updated May 21 2018


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 .

Republican Party

views updated Jun 11 2018


The Republican Party entered the 1930s as the heir to a vitalist reform tradition that underscored its historic role as the modernizing "national party." By 1940 this role was in complete eclipse and the party could no longer lay claim to the mantle of "the party of ideas" and the political embodiment of the national destiny. Nevertheless its role in the Great Depression was far more important than once recognized. It was apparent by 1938 that center-right congressional coalitions had a renewed vitality that lent force to a New Deal opposition that had begun to surface in 1935.

The party's assumption of the minority role in American politics had no parallel in its history. There had been no Democratic landslide under normal conditions since the election of 1852, prior to the formation of the Republican Party. The election of Warren Harding to the presidency in 1920 had brought about a decisive restoration of Republican dominance. Simultaneously, the conservative old guard of the Republican Party, after almost a decade of diminished influence, reassumed its role as the dominant faction in Republican councils. By 1920, adverse reaction to American participation in the League of Nations had drawn most insurgent western Republicans back into the party's fold, finally providing an opportunity to heal the split between conservative eastern Republicans and the western members of the party. Still, as the Depression dawned, the core of Republican old guard strength and control of the party's decision-making apparatus remained in the eastern United States, while the party's western members continued to articulate the discontent of a region visited by chronic agricultural depression. The western insurgents were too few to effectively challenge the conservative national leadership on most issues while the Republicans were the dominant national party during the 1920s. By the 1930s, however, they would take on new importance as the Roosevelt administration attempted to court them in the early days of the New Deal.


The division between old guard eastern conservatives and the party's western progressives was the party's most visible problem but perhaps not its most important. Throughout the 1920s tension remained in Republican ranks over basic issues of political economy and business-government relations. Some of the party's industrial base was more in sympathy with efforts at business-government "coordination" than the party's executive or congressional leadership. The industrial mobilization policies of the World War I had proven remarkably palatable to major American corporations. While the period occasioned the final abandonment of laissez-faire precepts and formally raised the federal government to the role of director of war-related industry, the very diversity and specialized expertise central to the operation of modern industrial processes gave industrial leaders a systematic advantage in dealing with often hastily constructed government agencies. The successful prosecution of the war effort left an indelible imprint on the minds of industrial managers. The war experience seemed to indicate what could be achieved through industrial self-government when the national economy was largely freed from the restraint of antitrust prosecution and directed toward mutually agreeable ends by the coordinating efforts of a benign government.

It is hardly surprising, then, that the wartime program of industrial self-government would evolve into the "associational" activities of the 1920s. Associationalism involved the deliberate cultivation and encouragement of voluntary institutions—particularly trade associations, professional groups, company unions, and farm cooperatives—to encourage cooperation within particular trades or industries. Throughout the 1920s, Republican leaders strove to implement their vision of an associative state. Indeed, the period after 1925 saw the rapid emergence of powerful trade organizations in a wide variety of basic industries, such as rubber, steel, and mining.

The onset of the Depression, however, would demonstrate the clear limits of voluntary associationalism during a period of privation and scarcity. As industrial profits declined, the Republican precedent of encouraging effective coordination among industrial groupings through governmental sponsorship would enable such interests to formulate demands for forms of governmental assistance that most elements of the Republican Party had never envisioned. Unwittingly, Republican associationalism had introduced business groupings to a form of cooperative planning that, under the impact of economic crisis, would carry many of them away from the GOP as the political realignment of the 1930s began.


The American economy suffered its most severe and enduring contraction during the period that began in October 1929. By 1931 it was apparent that voluntary efforts to maintain wage, employment, and price levels had been unsuccessful and that the Depression could no longer be viewed as normal in either duration or effect. Rising evidence of market failure and the continued existence of anti-statist impulses were reflected in a series of calls for planned production under the auspices of trade associations, which would be granted immunity from antitrust laws. This would permit industry's use of production quotas, pricing agreements, and entry controls, along with the legalization of formulas for the establishment of "reasonable prices" by corporate groupings. As these business groupings began to urge that they be given new power to plan and rationalize their own operations with government assistance, President Herbert Hoover continued to champion his lifelong belief in voluntary arrangements and refused to endorse the proposals for cartelization now suggested by both the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

These divergent attitudes reflected a widening schism within conservative groupings that would hinder the Republican Party's desperate campaign efforts in the 1932 and its later attempts to oppose the recovery proposals of the early New Deal. Arrayed against the tradition of classical economics and the enduring pull of partisan loyalty was the notion of a cooperative effort to manage economic affairs in a fashion that recalled the unity of the wartime experience. The very lack of precision surrounding such notions of planning allowed interest groups that were traditionally hostile to government direction to view such efforts as little more than an exercise in self-direction. While Hoover would continue to command an absolute majority of support within the business community, in part due to his support of the protective tariff, the evergrowing clamor for positive intervention in economic affairs threatened permanent disruption of the Republican electoral coalition as the 1932 campaign approached. Paradoxically, Hoover's efforts to stimulate industrial cooperation through the development of trade associations in the 1920s had now placed him in the position of opposing the policy recommendations of many of the very groups he had helped foster.


On November 8, 1932, Roosevelt carried fortytwo states with 472 electoral votes, while Hoover carried six states with fifty-nine electoral votes. The only states outside New England that Hoover carried were Pennsylvania and Delaware. While the western United States clearly did not determine the electoral outcome, the capture of all of its electoral votes by Roosevelt broke down the northeastern-western alliance that had enabled Republicans to dominate presidential elections since 1896. Moreover, the turnover in Congress was considerably more dramatic and conclusive than had been predicted only days before. The Republicans lost 103 House seats, where the balance now stood at 313 Democrats to 117 Republicans. Most of these seats were lost in the Midwestern region of the country. In the Senate, Republican control was decisively repudiated, as the party lost twelve seats, ten in the midwestern and western states. Even amidst severe economic depression, the electoral results were shocking to individual Republicans grown accustomed to persistent electoral success.

By 1934, the pattern of early New Deal legislation was becoming more clearly discernable. One distinguishing feature was its effort to induce economic recovery through the use of the largest existing institutional structures capable of having an immediate effect. The early New Deal coalition sought the inclusion of all groups and classes, while attempting to effect a kind of political truce that recalled the unity and cohesion of wartime planning efforts. The crisis politics of the administration also sought the abatement of partisan political conflict in the name of a broader national unity.

By early 1934, the administration's recovery policies had substantially strengthened the cooperative farm bureaus and industrial trade associations conceived in the 1920s. These traditionally Republican constituencies had been quick to seize the opportunities provided by the pragmatic recovery approach of the early New Deal. During the first six months of the National Recovery Administration (NRA), for example, American industry developed codes of fair competition that covered the vast percentage of American industry and trade. While the creation of the NRA had reflected a variety of reform impulses, organized business was in the best position to seize the initiative in the code-drafting process.

The practical effect of the administration's incorporation of potential political opposition was felt throughout the Republican electoral coalition as 1934 dawned. Widespread approval by farmers of governmental limitations on agricultural production and the substantial business support accorded to the NRA code-drafting process further constricted the Republican Party's base of popular political support.


During early 1934 it was clear that the national committee's conservative leadership desired a congressional campaign that focused on the alleged excesses of the New Deal. This reflected the old guard view that much support of the New Deal was predicated on the "emergency" conditions that had existed during the 1933 to 1934 period. By this analysis, the general success of conservative appeals to the electorate remained self-evident despite the party's recent reversals, and efforts to "stagger to the left" could only result in the abrogation of both political principle and success at the polling booths. Even a partial restoration of prosperity and business confidence would diminish support for the Roosevelt administration; accordingly, substantial modification of electoral appeals was both unnecessary and unwise. The adoption of a policy of "holding fast" in the face of insurgence had been successful as recently as the election of 1920, and the old guard felt that such tactics would ultimately foster similar results. While entertaining no hope of "rolling back" the entire New Deal following the 1934 congressional elections, the old guard felt that the abatement of emergency conditions would result in Republican congressional gains. To the Republican's dismay, the Democrats, in defiance of both off-year tradition and contemporary expectations, again gained seats in Congress. The GOP's already diminished senatorial contingent fell from thirtyfive to twenty-five.

There seemed to be few, if any, positive portents for the Republican Party as 1935 dawned. The all-class coalition of the early New Deal had inaugurated political movement that had been almost entirely away from the Republican electoral coalition. By the middle of that year, however, it was apparent that the administration's effort to maintain an all-class coalition of interests was beginning to break down. Despite the initial success of American industry in structuring the NRA to further trade association objectives, its fragile unity had broken down by early 1935. Once the sense of panic characteristic of 1932 and 1933 passed, it gradually became clearer to American industry that the price exacted for exemption from the antitrust laws was higher than had been anticipated. The administration's sympathy toward efforts to raise wage rates and encourage industrial unionism, as well as its ability to license business through the NRA code-making process, limited the previous prerogatives of industrial managers. It was becoming apparent to business leaders that the administration of the NRA apparatus involved input from groups, such as organized labor, that stressed political agendas beyond trade association control. Ultimately, individual business enterprise had submitted only to a process that it felt it could control; when the rise of other political forces made this difficult, enthusiasm rapidly waned. Thus, the pattern of government support so eagerly courted by industrial leaders after 1930 was being abruptly reconsidered as the NRA experience unfolded.


Throughout 1935, Republican strategists were preoccupied with efforts to regain the western states that had deserted the party's presidential candidate in 1932. It was felt that such efforts required the selection of a presidential candidate from a western state who would also be acceptable to the party's eastern wing. Republican preconvention maneuvering was shaped by the rapprochement that had been achieved between eastern conservatives and the representatives of the Republican governor of Kansas, Alfred Landon.

It rapidly became apparent that Landon was the only available candidate who was acceptable to eastern conservatives and who also offered the prospect of regaining the party's lost western base. A former Bull Mooser who had since maintained a record of party regularity, Landon could not be immediately identified as a candidate from either the conservative or progressive wing of the party. From its inception, the Landon movement progressed with the benign tolerance of eastern party leaders and scored an easy first ballot victory at the Republican convention of 1936. Thus, while the original Landon effort has been correctly identified as reflecting the influence of younger, more liberal elements within the party, its easy march to the nomination had been the result of deliberate abstention on the part of the party's eastern conservative leaders. As the Landon forces attempted to lay the basis for an effective nationwide campaign, however, it would become apparent that the remarkable first ballot victory and the acceptance of a platform with a liberal tinge had only masked the fundamental division over political strategy.

Roosevelt's overwhelming victory in 1936 is an excellent example of historical event that, by upstaging the uncertainties that preceded it, appears after the fact to have been inevitable. Little seemed inevitable in mid-1936, however. Despite the removal of the threat posed by a possible Huey Long candidacy, political conditions continued to be subject to a wide variety of interpretations. Nor was the situation at all clarified by the public opinion polls then in operation. In July 1936 the Gallup poll accorded President Roosevelt the support of only 51.8 percent of the electorate. This represented a drop of four points since Gallup's June poll. When electoral sentiment was analyzed by the Gallup organization on a state-by-state basis, thirteen states, with a total of ninety-nine electoral votes, were said to be "safely Republican." Even more significant was the fact that the Gallup organization credited Landon with leads in eleven additional states, representing a total of 173 electoral votes. If these analyses of "trends" were accurate, the Republicans would amass 272 electoral votes and win the election. The now renowned 1936 Literary Digest poll, whose 1932 counterpart had come within a percentage point of forecasting the actual popular vote that year, continued throughout the campaign to predict a massive Landon victory. Confusion over the direction of political trends was also frequently reflected in much serious journalistic commentary. Although the New York Times announced editorial support for Roosevelt, its electoral analysis continued to forecast a close, hard-fought election. Massive Republican congressional gains were predicted in the New York Times throughout the year.


Republican leaders, who had anticipated at least the restoration of the party as a competitive force, were suddenly instead faced with a devastating electoral repudiation. The Landon-Knox ticket had succeeded in carrying only the states of Maine and Vermont and had garnered over 45 percent of the vote in only four states. Overall, the Republican presidential ticket had won but 36.5 percent of the popular vote. The election results were also devastating to the party's already drastically reduced congressional contingent. Republicans found their numbers in the House reduced from 104 to eightynine and in the Senate from twenty-five to sixteen.

In one day, patterns of electoral analysis that had guided Republican political strategists since the election of 1896 had been abruptly overturned. The Democratic electoral coalition had been decisively established as the majority party within the electorate. Subsequently, Republicans would continue to travel a road of reevaluation and reassessment, while awaiting a turn of political fortune that might enable the party to bid for majority status.

The Republican Party's efforts at electoral adjustment were aided by an intellectual transformation occurring within the business community. By 1935 much of American heavy industry had experienced a strong negative reaction to the increased role of government in macroeconomic management. This had dramatically affected the ability of the Republican Party to alter electoral appeals. But with the introduction after 1936 of Keynesian principles of economic management, important segments of the business community came to gradually support an activist fiscal and monetary policy. The gradual adoption of these attitudes by a number of business elites presaged a substantial modification of the polarized political debates over political economy characteristic of the early 1930s and the 1936 election.

After 1936, then, new efforts to reestablish a government-business alliance were undertaken. These patterns of positive response again suggest the impact of attitudinal changes by political elites on the formulation of mass political appeals. In 1939, Fortune's "Round Table" surveys of executive opinion found that stagnation and chronic unemployment were now regarded as the greatest dangers facing the economy.


For the first time since 1928 the Republican Party gained seats in the congressional elections of 1938. The party, apparently moribund in 1937, scored remarkable gains throughout the nation the following year. In senatorial races the GOP won eleven of twenty-seven contests for a net gain of eight seats. The minority contingent in the Senate increased from fifteen to twenty-three, and six of the eight new Republican senators displaced reliable liberal supporters of the administration. The Republicans also registered substantial gains in the House of Representatives, where they almost doubled their strength, increasing their numbers from 89 to 169. Many of the defeated Democrats had come from the industrial sections of the East and Midwest, and many were recently elected congressmen who had been swept into office by the 1932, 1934, and 1936 Democratic landslides. The Republican restoration greatly enhanced the prospects for cooperation with conservative Democrats, thus establishing a pattern of political deadlock that would subsequently become the norm in American political life.

Despite its decent to minority status after 1932, the Republican Party had retained its historical connection to political power while invoking symbolic identification with national values and belief systems that were meaningful to millions of voters. The abrupt succession of Republican electoral defeats had concealed the extent to which the party still reflected general attitudes of a somewhat wider nature. While the fear evoked by economic crisis had produced a call for government assistance, even from conservative groups, the abatement of this sense of emergency by 1937 demonstrated the persistence of previous ideological patterns. Even the disastrous dislocation of the 1930s did not dispel decades of support for the idea of limited government activity. The notions of individualism, selfhelp, and the general legitimacy of entrepreneurial activity remained important components of the American belief system.

Given the persistence of these belief patterns, any voter reaction against the administration after 1936 had the potential of resulting in GOP electoral gains. The rise of a candidly urban liberalism after 1936 had finally enabled Republicans to minimize their own internal divisions and to develop cohesive party responses to efforts to expand the New Deal. Simultaneously, a downward trend in the business cycle, increased divisiveness within the enlarged Democratic Party, and a general unease with the continued exercise of larger-than-life efforts by Roosevelt presented the Republicans with opportunities not of their own making. Thus, the events of 1937 to 1938 had done more than reawaken submerged feelings of congressional independence; they had given renewed intensity to expressions of partisanship on the part of the minority party. After the success achieved in the 1938 elections, the Republican congressional delegation remained cohesive, providing some three-quarters of the anti-administration votes on most major controversial measures by 1939. Revived Republican partisanship thus became the indispensable component of the modern conservative congressional coalition. The party's return to competitive status also suggested clear limitations to the reform impulse that flourished in the Congress and the nation from 1932 through 1937.

By the election of 1940 an important transformation of the ideological wings of the Republican Party was underway. Essentially the GOP had to come to terms with the new centers of urban power established by the New Deal. As a result, the urbanized northeastern wing of the party would come to be represented by a Dewey-Rockefeller liberal wing that stood in contrast to the old guard representation of the 1930 period. Changes in the western Republican contingent came to be symbolized by the rise of Robert Taft, who stood in vivid contrast to the Republican insurgents of the pre-New Deal period. Thus, the modern postwar Republican Party can be said to be a result of the New Deal's electoral success.



Berkowitz, Edward, and Kim McQuaid. Creating the Welfare State: The Political Economy of Twentieth-Century Reform. 1992.

Graham, Otis L. Toward a Planned Society: From Roosevelt to Nixon. 1976

Hawley, Ellis. The New Deal and the Problem of Monopoly: A Study in Economic Ambivalence. 1966.

Hawley, Ellis. "Herbert Hoover, the Commerce Secretariat and the Vision of an 'Associative State.'" Journal of American History 61 (1974): 116–40

Hawley, Ellis. "The New Deal and Business." In The New Deal: The National Level, edited by John Braeman, Robert H. Bremner, and David Brody. 1975.

Himmelberg, Robert R. The Origins of the National Recovery Administration: Business, Government, and the Trade Association Issue, 1921–1933. 1976.

Keller, Morton. In Defense of Yesterday: James Beck and the Politics of Conservatism. 1958.

Kennedy, David. Over Here: The First World War and American Society. 1980.

Leuchtenburg, William E. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal 1932–1940.1963.

Leuchtenburg, William E. "The New Deal and the Analogue of War" In Change and Continuity in Twentieth-Century America, edited by John Braeman, Robert Bremner, and Everett Walters. 1966.

Literary Digest 18 (January 1936): 10–11.

Overacker, Louise. "Campaign Funds in a Depression Year." In American Political Science Reviewer 27 (1933): 772.

The Regulation of Businessmen: Social Conditions of Government Economic Control, edited by Robert Lane. 1954.

Romasco, Albert U. The Politics of Recovery: Roosevelt's New Deal. 1983.

Wolfskill, George. The Revolt of the Conservatives: A History of the American Liberty League, 1934–1941. 1962.

Clyde P. Weed

Republican Party

views updated May 21 2018

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

Republican Party

views updated May 17 2018


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
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.

Republican Party

views updated May 17 2018


The Republican party was organized in response to the kansas-nebraska act (1854), which allowed slavery in the Kansas and Nebraska territories. This was a repudiation of the missouri compromise (1820), which had prohibited all slavery in the territories west and north of Missouri and for a generation had served as the basis of all sectional accommodation on slavery and territorial settlement. This new political organization was initially known as the Anti-Nebraska party.

As a coalition of former Whigs, antislavery Democrats, former Know-Nothings, and abolitionists who had been in the Liberty and Free-Soil parties, Republicans differed among themselves on such issues as currency, banking, and tariffs. But they all agreed on the need to stop the extension of slavery in the territories. In his "House Divided" speech of 1858 abraham lincoln expressed this view, noting that he wanted to "arrest the further spread of it [slavery], and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction." Republicans were also motivated by the fear that freedom was actually on the defensive and that a "slave-power conspiracy" threatened the liberty of all Americans.

Especially after the decision in dred scott v. sandford (1857), Republicans feared a nationalization of slavery. Lincoln worried there might soon be "another Supreme Court decision, declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not permit a state to exclude slavery from its limits.… We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free; and we shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave state." The implications of Dred Scott were clear to Republican leaders. Lincoln argued that "the logical conclusion" from Chief Justice roger brooke taney's opinion was "that what Dred Scott's master might lawfully do with Dred Scott, in the free State of Illinois, every other master might lawfully do with any other one, or one thousand slaves, in Illinois, or in any other free State." In 1856, Senator Henry Wilson, a future vice-president, stated that the party's "object is to overthrow the Slave Power of the country."

This battle with the slave-power conspiracy did not mean an all-out assault on slavery wherever it existed. Most Republicans agreed, however reluctantly, that the Constitution did not permit the federal government to interfere with slavery in the states. Some Republicans, including Lincoln, even acknowledged the constitutional obligation to return fugitive slaves, although many other leading Republicans, including salmon p. chase, william seward, and thaddeus stevens, were active in defending fugitive slaves and their white allies.

Whatever their differences over the fugitive slave laws, Republicans agreed that the Constitution was fundamentally antislavery. This interpretation was at odds with both the southern view and the abolitionist view of william lloyd garrison that the Constitution was a proslavery compact and thus a "covenant with death." Republicans tied their constitutional theory to the declaration of independence to argue that the thrust of the Constitution—the intent of the Framers—was against slavery.

The constitutional principles of the antebellum Republican party can be organized around the party's election slogan—Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men—and by the party's endorsement of the principles of the Declaration of Independence.

"Free Soil" had two meanings for the Republicans. First, it meant closing the territories to slave settlement. Until the civil war mooted the issue, Republicans consistently opposed allowing any new slave states into the Union and fought against allowing masters to bring their slaves into any of the territories. They argued that Congress had full authority to prohibit all slavery in the territories. This left the party in a constitutional quandary after the ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford. Republicans could not maintain their Free Soil position without opposing the Supreme Court. They tried to extricate themselves from this dilemma by asserting that Taney's rulings on the power of Congress over slavery in the territories and on the status of free blacks to sue in federal courts were obiter dicta that had no legitimate constitutional authority. The Republican editor Horace Greeley declared in the New York Tribune that Taney's opinion was "atrocious," "wicked," "abominable," and had no more constitutional authority than what might be heard in any "Washington bar-room."

Republicans also believed that "Free Soil" should dictate national policy on western lands. Thus, the party supported the homestead act and the morrill act as ways of stimulating western settlement.

The Republican commitment to "Free Labor" centered on the dignity of labor, the importance of individual enterprise in nineteenth-century northern society, and a middle class culture of hard work. One Iowa Republican proclaimed that America's greatness was based on the fact that "even the poorest and humblest in the land, may, by industry and application, attain a position which will entitle him to the respect and confidence of his fellowmen." Free labor was also the opposite of slave labor. Free labor meant "Free Men" to Republicans. While the party opposed the extension of slavery, Republicans acknowledged that the national government had no power to end slavery in the states. But, wherever the national government had power over slavery, Republicans wanted to exercise that power.

Tied to the free-labor and free-men beliefs of Republicans was strong support, at least for the era, for black rights. Republicans were horrified by Chief Justice Taney's assertion in Dred Scott that blacks could not be citizens of the United States or sue in federal courts. In states like Massachusetts, where blacks could vote, Republicans worked for full integration. In states like Iowa, Wisconsin, and Connecticut, where blacks could not vote, Republicans worked to remove race as a criterion for suffrage. Not all Republicans were racial egalitarians, but most believed in minimal equality for blacks, even if they opposed full social and political equality. The connection between some racial fairness and free labor was articulated by Lincoln in his debate with stephen a. douglas at Quincy, Illinois: "There is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence—the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas that he is not my equal in many respects, certainly not in color—perhaps not in intellectual and moral endowments; but in the right to eat the bread without leave of anybody else which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every other man."

The party was also committed to "Free Speech" and other basic civil liberties. Republicans believed that the South had violated the bill of rights by suppressing freedom of expression and that the South and slavery stood for the suppression of freedom of speech and violence against any who dared to oppose slavery. This belief was given credence by the banning of Uncle Tom's Cabin in most of the South and such incidents as the caning of Senator charles sumner by Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina and the expulsion from South Carolina and Louisiana of two Massachusetts commissioners who were attempting to negotiate an end to the arrest of free black sailors entering those states. Republicans believed that the Bill of Rights restricted the states, as well as the federal government, and that barron v. city of baltimore (1833), the leading precedent on this issue (which reached the opposite conclusion), had been wrongly decided.

The greatest test of Republican constitutional theory was secession and the Civil War. Republicans firmly believed that the Union was "perpetual" and could not be broken by any state or group of states. Republicans rejected the radical Garrisonian view that there should be "no union with slaveholders." The Republicans rejected the southern notion that secession was permissable. Lincoln declared in his inaugural, "I hold that, in contemplation of universal law and the Constitution, the Union of the United States is perpetual."

In the Civil War era Republicans constitutionalized much of their thought and theory. The thirteenth amendment ended slavery, the fourteenth amendment overturned the doctrine of Dred Scott on black citizenship, and the fifteenth amendment enfranchised blacks on the same basis as whites. Through the privileges and immunities and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, Republicans appeared to apply the Bill of Rights to the states, thus overturning Barron v. Baltimore. Finally, through the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, Republicans seemed to guarantee substantive equality to blacks all over the nation. Supreme Court decisions in the slaughterhouse cases (1873), civil rights cases (1883), and plessy v. ferguson (1896) undermined the Republican goals of a nationalization of civil rights and civil liberties. The late-nineteenth-century Supreme Court, although dominated by Republicans, failed to interpret the new amendments in light of the party's antebellum constitutional theory.

Paul Finkelman


Fehrenbacher, Don E. 1978 The Dred Scott Case. New York: Oxford University Press.

Finkelman, Paul 1981 An Imperfect Union: Slavery, Federalism, and Comity. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Foner, Eric 1970 Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hyman, Harold M. and Wiecek, William M. 1982 Equal Justice Under Law: Constitutional Developments, 1837–1877. New York: Harper & Row.

Republican Party

views updated May 29 2018

Republican Party

The Republican Party, sometimes referred to as the Grand Old Party or GOP, formed in the 1850s in response to the divisions and indecisiveness of the Democratic Party and Whig Party regarding the issue of slavery . Those against slavery migrated to the Republican Party, as did those who favored federal government action in the development of the economy. Republicans were highly interested in developing a government favorable to business and banking interests.

The first Republican president of the United States was Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865; served 1861–65). He led the Union to victory in the American Civil War (1861–65), thereby abolishing the practice of slavery.

The period of rebuilding the South following the Civil War is known as Reconstruction (1865–77), and toward the end of that era, Republicans recognized the importance of guaranteeing African Americans voting and other rights and made promises toward that end. Regardless of color, Republicans needed Southern representatives in Congress. By the 1890s, however, that faction of Republicans most interested in securing those rights had died or left politics. The fight for African American rights at that time looked to be a losing battle, and Republicans no longer required Southern support because national trends were working in their favor. Promises were broken, and the party lost the support of the African American population almost entirely over the next few decades.

Because the majority of the poor population most adversely affected by the Great Depression (1929–41) was African American, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45) won the loyalty of blacks during that era as he provided financial relief and jobs.

As African Americans escalated their efforts to win civil rights in the 1950s, it was not clear which political party would take a leadership role. Democrats pursued economic policies African Americans supported, but Republicans, particularly in the North, supported civil rights legislation. As Democrats gradually became more supportive of civil rights in the early 1960s, they gained the support of African Americans. (See Civil Rights Movement .)

The 1990s was a decade of renewed Republican power in American politics. Democrat Bill Clinton (1946–; served 1993–2001) had led America through four years of liberal politics, and despite the fact that the national debt decreased remarkably under his leadership, Republican voters gave power once again to the Republican Party in Congress.

The 1994 midterm election focused on moral themes, and the Republican Party used Clinton's adultery, support of homosexuals in the military, and questionable personal ethics to create an atmosphere of untrustworthiness. Republicans won fifty-four seats in the House of Representatives and four in the Senate, which gave them control of both. To the surprise of many, however, Clinton managed to be reelected president two years later, and Republican leadership had to compromise their legislative agenda.

The first election of the twenty-first century saw Republican George W. Bush (1946–; served 2001–) elected to the White House as the nineteenth Republican president. Current ideology embraces lower taxes and limited government in most economic areas. Within the party, there are two branches of conservatism. One holds that limited government will allow society to flourish. The other concentrates less on economics and more on moral issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. This second ideology is strongly in favor of the intermingling of church and state.

The Republican Party emphasizes the role of individuals being economically responsible for themselves, although they mostly agree that there should be limited assistance for the less fortunate. Generally speaking, the party believes the private sector is more effective in helping the poor than is the government. Republicans are, for the most part, opposed to labor unions and usually oppose increases in the minimum wage. Neither are they in favor of strict environmental standards because they believe such legislation hurts business. The party as a whole has always supported a strong national defense. More recently, it supports the idea that the United States has the right to act without international or outside support if doing so is in support of self-interest.

Republican Party

views updated May 17 2018

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.

Republican Party

views updated May 18 2018

Republican Party

The Republican Party, formally called the Republican Union, was formed in 1914 by an offshoot of the Liberal Party and other opposition groups and ruled Bolivia from 1921 to 1934. Marred by continual infighting, the Republicans espoused a traditional liberal ideology like their predecessors, the Liberals. Juan Bautista Savedra, the first Republican president (1921–1925), passed some social legislation but also permitted the massacre of miners at Uncía in 1923. Hernán Siles Zuazo, president from 1926 to 1930, supported university reform, but had to deal with the beginnings of the Great Depression. Siles tried to remain in office past his term, but a military junta overthrew his government and in 1931 gave the reins of power to Daniel Salamanca, one of the founders of the party. As the economic and social situation worsened, Salamanca dragged Bolivia into the disastrous Chaco War, bringing about his own downfall in 1934 and the demise of the Republican Party as a political force.

See alsoBolivia, Political Parties: Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR) .


The best analysis of the Republican period is in Herbert S. Klein, Parties and Political Change in Bolivia: 1880–1952 (1969), pp. 64-159. See also David Alvéstegui, Salamanca, su gravitación sobre el destino de Bolivia, 4 vols. (1957–1970); Porfirio Díaz Machicado, Historia de Bolivia, vols. 1-3 (1954–1955).

Additional Bibliography

Irurozqui, Marta. "A bala, piedra y palo": La construcción de la ciudadanía política en Bolivia, 1826–1952. Sevilla, Spain: Diputación de Sevilla, 2000.

Lorini, Irma. El nacionalismo en Bolivia de la pre y posguerra del Chaco (1910–1945). La Paz, Bolivia: Plural Editores, 2006.

                                             Erick D. Langer

Republican Party

views updated Jun 11 2018

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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