Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States of America, along with the Democratic Party. It is often referred to as the GOP (for "Grand Old Party"). Former President George W. Bush was the eighteenth and most recent Republican to serve as president. After losses in the 2006 Congressional elections, Republicans lost their majority in both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. The Republicans' congressional minority status has been maintained in the wake of the 2008 elections and they hold a minority of state governorships and control a minority of state legislatures. After an intense primary season campaign, John McCain, Senator from Arizona, emerged as the Republican Party's nominee for president in the 2008 presidential election, but lost in the general election to Barack Obama, his Democratic Party opponent.
Founded in 1854 by Northern anti-slavery activists and modernizers, the Republican Party rose to prominence with the election of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president. The party presided over the American Civil War and Reconstruction and dominated the Third Party System, leading the nation to industrial leadership in the world. Early in the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt's presidency briefly associated the GOP with progressivism, but through its history it has shown strong support for industry, finance and economic growth. Thrown into minority status by the New Deal coalition, it gained equality and dominance in presidential elections in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan and his conservative followers opposed to Communism abroad and big government at home. Today, the Republican Party supports a strong pro-business platform, with further foundations in social conservatism, and economic libertarianism, with an active foreign policy seeking to enlarge world trade and fight terrorists.
Current structure and composition
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is responsible for promoting Republican campaign activities. It is responsible for developing, and promoting the Republican political platform, as well as coordinating fundraising and election strategy. Senator Mel Martinez of Florida is the Republican Party's current General Chairman; Mike Duncan is the chairman of RNC and chief operating officer. The chairman of the RNC is chosen by the President when the Republicans have the White House or otherwise by the Party's state committees. The RNC, under the direction of the party's presidential candidate, supervises the Republican National Convention, raises funds, and coordinates campaign strategy. On the local level there are similar state committees in every state and most large cities, counties and legislative districts, but they have far less money and influence than the national body.
The Republican House and Senate caucuses have separate fund raising and strategy committees. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) assists in House races, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in Senate races. They each raise over $100 million per election cycle, and play important roles in recruiting strong state candidates. The Republican Governors Association (RGA) is a discussion group that seldom funds state races.
Current ideology and factions
The Republican Party is a coalition of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, neoconservatives, libertarians, and members of the Religious Right.
The Republican Party is the more socially conservative and economically libertarian of the two major parties. The party generally supports lower taxes and limited government in some economic areas, while preferring government intervention in others. In the 1980s, the Republican Party was more strongly conservative than before. In his 1981 inaugural address, Republican President Ronald Reagan summed up his belief in limited government when he said, "In the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Since 1980, the GOP has contained what George Will calls "unresolved tensions between, two flavors of conservatism -- Western and Southern." The Western brand, wrote Will, "is largely libertarian, holding that pruning big government will allow civil society -- and virtues nourished by it and by the responsibilities of freedom -- to flourish." The Southern variety, however, reflects a religiosity based in evangelical and fundamentalist churches that is less concerned with economics and more with moralistic issues, such as opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Noting the waning influence of libertarian philosophy on contemporary Republican ideology, Will describes the current Republican Party as "increasingly defined by the ascendancy of the religious right."
Separation of powers and balance of powers
The Republican Party believes that making law is the province of the legislature and that judges, especially the Supreme Court, should not "legislate from the bench." Most Republicans point to Roe v. Wade as a case of judicial activism, where the court overturned most laws restricting abortion on the basis of a right to privacy derived from the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Some Republicans have actively sought to block judges who they see as being activist judges and they have sought the appointment of judges who will practice judicial restraint. Other Republicans, though, argue that it is the right of judges to extend the interpretation of the constitution and judge actions by the legislative or executive branches as legal or unconstitutional on previously unarticulated grounds.
The Republican party has supported various bills within the last decade to strip some or all federal courts of the ability to hear certain types of cases, in an attempt to limit judicial review. These "court stripping" laws have included removing federal review of the recognition of same-sex marriage with the Marriage Protection Act, the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance with the Pledge Protection Act, and the rights of detainees in Guantanamo Bay in the Detainee Treatment Act. These limitations were overruled by the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which held that the precedent of Marbury v. Madison on the court's ability to review the constitutionality of laws overruled the Congress' ability to make exceptions in Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.
Compared with Democrats, many conservatives believe in a more robust version of federalism with greater limitations placed upon federal power; however they do not support active roles for state or local government. They want less government and lower taxes at every level.
President Bush has promoted the "unitary executive theory" and has cited it in his signing statements about legislation passed by Congress. Basically it centers executive power in the White House staff, at the expense of the cabinet departments.
Republicans emphasize the role of corporate and personal decision making in fostering economic prosperity. They favor free-market policies supporting business, economic liberalism, and limited regulation. The party is split between those who want to lower taxes and those who want to lower spending and the national debt, with the former group dominant since 1981.
The predominant economic theory held by modern Republicans is Reaganomics. Popularized by Ronald Reagan, this theory holds that reduced income tax rates increase GDP growth and thereby generate more revenue for the government from the taxes on the extra growth. This belief is reflected, in part, by the party's long-term advocacy of tax cuts, a major Republican theme since the 1920s. Republicans believe that a series of income tax cuts since 2001 have bolstered the economy. Many Republicans consider the income tax system to be inherently inefficient and oppose graduated tax rates, which they believe are unfairly targeted at those who create jobs and wealth. They believe private spending is usually more efficient than government spending.
Republicans agree there should be a "safety net" to assist the less fortunate; however, they tend to believe the private sector is more effective in helping the poor than government is; as a result, many Republicans support giving government grants to faith-based and other private charitable organizations to supplant welfare spending. Members of the GOP also believe that limits on eligibility and benefits must be in place to ensure the safety net is not abused. Republicans strongly supported the welfare reform of 1996, which limited eligibility for welfare and successfully led to many former welfare recipients finding jobs.
The party opposes a single-payer universal health care system, such as that found in Canada or in most of Europe, sometimes referring to it as "socialized medicine" and is in favor of the current personal or employer based system of insurance, supplemented by Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor. The GOP has a mixed record of supporting the historically popular Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs, all of which Republicans initially opposed. On the one hand, congressional Republicans and the Bush administration supported a reduction in Medicaid's growth rate. On the other hand, congressional Republicans expanded Medicare, supporting a new drug plan for seniors starting 2006.
Republicans are generally opposed by labor unions and have supported various legislation on the state and federal levels, including right to work legislation and the Taft-Hartley Act which gives workers the right not to participate in unions, as opposed to a closed shop which prohibits workers from choosing not to join unions in workplaces. Republicans generally oppose increases in the minimum wage, believing that the minimum wage increases unemployment and discourages business.
A majority of the GOP's national and state candidates oppose abortion on religious or moral grounds, oppose the legalization of same sex marriage, and favor faith-based initiatives. There are some exceptions, though, especially in the Northeast and Pacific Coast states. They support welfare benefit reductions and oppose racial quotas, but are split regarding the desirability of affirmative action for women and minorities. Most of the GOP's membership favors capital punishment and stricter punishments as a means to prevent crime. Republicans generally strongly support constitutionally protected gun ownership rights.
Most Republicans support school choice through charter schools and education vouchers for private schools; and many have denounced the performance of the public school system and the teachers' unions. The party has insisted on a system of greater accountability for public schools, most prominently in recent years with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
The religious wing of the party tends to support organized prayer in public schools and the inclusion of teaching creationism or intelligent design alongside evolution. Although the GOP has voted for increases in government funding of scientific research, many members actively oppose the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research because it involves the harvesting and destruction of human embryos (which many consider ethically equivalent to abortion), while arguing for applying research money into adult stem cell or amniotic stem cell research.
National defense, counterterrorism and security policies
The Republican party supports unilateralism in issues of national security, believing in the ability and right of the United States to act without external or international support in its own self-interest. In general, Republican defense and international thinking is heavily influenced by the theories of neorealism and realism, characterizing the conflicts between nations as great struggles between forces of nature, such as Reagan's "evil empire" stance on the Soviet Union and George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil".
Republicans secured gains in the 2002 and 2004 elections with the War on Terror being one of the top issues favoring them. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the party supports neoconservative policies with regard to the War on Terror, including the 2001 war in Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The doctrine of pre-emptive war, wars to disarm and destroy dangerous foes before they can act, has been advocated by Dick Cheney and other members of the Bush administration, but the civil war within Iraq has undercut its influence. However, Rudy Giuliani, a prominent Republican presidential candidate, has recently stated that Republicans must keep America "on the offensive" against terrorists, stating his support of that policy.
The Bush administration supports the position that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to unlawful combatants, using the premise that they apply to soldiers serving in the armies of nation-states and not terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda. The Supreme Court overruled this position in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which held that the Geneva Conventions were legally binding and must be followed in regards to all enemy combatants.
Other international policies
Republicans support attempts to spread democracy in the Middle East and around the world. But, Republicans have reiterated the need for realism in international policy, when the Bush administration forged strong alliances with dictatorships such as Uzbekistan and Pakistan in pursuit of international policy goals.
The party, through former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, has advocated reforms in the UN to halt corruption such as that which afflicted the Oil-for-Food Program. Some Republicans oppose the Kyoto Protocol (although there is a section which supports it within the party), claiming that the treaty would hurt America's economy and do nothing to stop warming from major competitors such as China. The party strongly promotes free trade agreements, most notably NAFTA, CAFTA and now an effort to go further south to Brazil, Peru and Colombia.
Republicans are opposed to illegal immigration, mostly Latin American. The Bush administration made appeals to immigrants a high priority long-term political goal, but that goal is not a high priority in most local GOP parties. In general, the business community supports more immigration and social conservatives oppose it. In 2006, the White House supported and Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform that would eventually allow millions of illegal immigrants to become citizens, but the House, taking an enforcement only approach, refused to go along.
Business community. The GOP is a coalition of Main Street (locally owned businesses) and "Wall Street" (national corporations. It has strong support from every sector of the business community and the business lobbies in Washington provide major funding for the party. The GOP is probably weakest in the "Silican Valley" computer sector.
Gender. Since 1980 a "gender gap" has seen stronger support for the GOP among men than among women. In the 2006 House races, women voted 43% GOP while men voted 47%.
Race. Since 1964, the GOP has been weakly represented among African Americans, winning under 15% of the Black vote in national elections from 1980 to 2004. The party has nominated African American candidates for senator or governor in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, but they all lost. More recently, President Bush has pushed for Hispanic votes, winning 35% in 2000 and 44% in 2004. However the anti-immigration element in the party has systematically attacked Hispanics. In 2004 44% of Asian Americans voted for George W. Bush. In the 2006 House races, The GOP won 51% of white votes, 37% Asian votes, and 30% Hispanic votes, while winning only 10% of African American votes. The Republican Party became the party of abolition under Abraham Lincoln and from the Civil War until the New Deal , blacks strongly suported the GOP; in the Southern states, they were often not allowed to vote, but received Federal patronage appointments from the Republicans. Blacks switched to the Democrats in the 1930s when the New Deal offered them both patronage and welfare. In the South they began voting again after 1965, when a bipartisan coalition passed the Voting Rights Act, and ever since have formed 20% to 50% of the Democratic vote in the South.
Family status. In recent elections, Republicans have found their greatest support among whites from married couples with children living at home. Unmarried and divorced women were far more likely to vote for Kerry in 2004.
Income. The differences in voting among income groups are small, though the poorest voters favor the Democratic Party. Bush won 41% of the poorest 20% of voters in 2004, 55% of the richest twenty percent, and 53% of those in between. In the 2006 House races, the voters with incomes over $50,000 were 49% Republican, while those under were 38%.
Education. In terms of education, the GOP is slipping from its traditional position of dominance among the best educated. In 1988, the elder Bush got 52% of the total vote, but won 62% of voters with a bachelor's degree (but no higher degree). In 2004, the younger Bush got 52%. Among voters with a Masters' degree or higher, in 1988 the elder Bush won 50% while in 2004 the younger Bush received 42%. Compensating for this drop were the gains George W. Bush made among voters with 12 to 15 years of school. Bush had a slim advantage with college graduates at 52%, those with some college (54%) and high school graduates (52%). Democrats have large and increasing majorities among the fast growing population with post-graduate study (44% for Bush). In 2006 the best Republican showing was 49% among voters with a bachelor degree.
Age. The Republicans and Democrats are about equally strong in different age groups, with Democrats doing slightly better among younger Americans and Republicans among older Americans. In 2006, the GOP won only 38% of the voters aged 18-29.
Sexual Orientation. Exit polls conducted in 2000, 2004 and 2006 indicate that 23-25% of gay and lesbian Americans voted for the GOP. In recent years, the party has opposed same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples, inclusion of sexual orientation in hate crimes laws, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
Religion. Religion has always played a major role for both parties but, in the course of a century, the parties' religious compositions have changed. Religion was a major dividing line between the parties before 1960, with Catholics, Jews, and the Protestant white South heavily Democratic, and Northeastern Protestants heavily Republican. Most of the old differences faded away after the realignment of the late 1960s that undercut the New Deal Coalition. Voters who attend church weekly gave 61% of their votes to Bush in 2004; those who attend occasionally gave him only 47%, while those who never attend gave him 36%. 59% of Protestants voted for Bush, along with 52% of Catholics (even though Kerry was Catholic). Since 1980, large majorities of evangelicals have voted Republican; 70-80% voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004, and 70% for GOP House candidates in 2006. Jews continue to vote 70-80% Democratic, reaching 87% in 2006. Democrats have close links with the African American churches, especially the Baptists, while their historic dominance among Catholic voters has eroded to 50-50. The main line traditional Protestants (Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians) have dropped to about 55% Republican (in contrast to 75% before 1968). Their church membership have dropped in that time as well, and the conservative evangelical rivals have grown.
Region. Since 1980, geographically the Republican "base" ("red states") is strongest in the South and West, and weakest in the Northeast and the Pacific Coast. The Northeast actually does well for the GOP in state contests (with GOP governors like Mitt Romney in states like Massachusetts) but not in presidential ones (except New Hampshire). The Midwest has been roughly balanced since 1854, with Illinois becoming more Democratic and Minnesota and Wisconsin more Republican since 1990. Since the 1930s the Democrats have dominated most central cities, the Republicans now dominate rural areas, and the majority of suburbs.
The South has become solidly Republican in national elections since 1980, and has been trending Republican at the state level since then at a slower pace. In 2004 Bush led Kerry by 70%-30% among Southern whites, who comprised 71% of the Southern electorate. Kerry had a 70-30 lead among the 29% of the voters who were black or Hispanic. One-third of these Southern voters said they were white evangelicals; they voted for Bush by 80-20; but were only 72% Republican in 2006.
Conservatives and Moderates. The Republican coalition is quite diverse, and numerous factions compete to frame platforms and select candidates. The "conservatives" are strongest in the South, where they draw support from religious conservatives. The "moderates" tend to dominate the party in New England, and used to be well represented in all states. From the 1940s to the 1970s under such leaders as Thomas Dewey, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nelson Rockefeller, and Richard Nixon, they usually dominated the presidential wing of the party. Since the 1970s they have been less powerful, though they are always represented in the cabinets of Republican presidents. In the 2006 elections, Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee, arguably the last moderate-to-liberal Northeastern Republican of major prominence, lost his re-election bid. New Hampshire's two Republican congressmen lost to their Democratic opponents. In Vermont, Jim Jeffords, a Republican Senator who became an Independent in 2001 due to growing disagreement with President Bush and the party leadership. As of 2007, the most recent national opinion polls of voters evaluating 2008 candidates show that two candidates are dominant: Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. More conservative Republicans like Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Sam Brownback trail far behind.
Since the 1980s, talk radio audiences and successful hosts have tended to be conservative, and typically favor the Republicans. Some well known radio hosts include Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Michael Reagan, Howie Carr, and Michael Savage.
Republicans have controlled the White House for 26 of the previous 38 years, and they maintained majorities in both houses of Congress from 1995 through 2006, except for 18 months in the Senate while it was controlled by the Democrats from January 3-20, 2001 and June 6, 2001 – November 12, 2002. However, as a result of the 2006 midterm elections, the Democratic Party became the majority party in the House of Representatives as well as the United States Senate in the 110th Congress. Karl Rove had long proclaimed his intention of forcing a relaignment like that of 1896, but failed. The American political universe was very evenly divided 1998-2004, but shifted to the Democrats in 2006 and the shift continues in the polls in 2007.
Two approaches to projecting future trends give opposite results. Emphasizing geography, some commentators point to the growth of suburbs, particularly in the Sun Belt where the Republicans dominate politics, and the population decline of the historically liberal Rust Belt cities of the Northeast. (Population shifts gave Bush six more electoral votes between 2000 and 2004.) President Bush's victory in 2004 in ninety-seven of the hundred fastest-growing counties in the country was solid evidence of Republican strength in quickly growing exurbs and in the booming metropolitan areas of the South. By 2010, the Census projections show that states that voted for President Bush in 2004 will gain six Congressional seats and electoral votes, while states that voted for John Kerry will lose six.
Democratic commentators Ruy Teixeira and John Judis, on the other hand, say non-geographic social indicators show a trend toward Democrats. They point to the rapid increase in college graduates (who are trending Democratic), and the possible decrease in white and rural Republican bases. They also point to an increasing Democratic presence in formerly Republican strongholds such as Montana, which as of the November 2006 elections has two Democratic senators, a Democratic governor, and Democratic control of the state senate.
Despite the 2004 election results, the 2006 midterm elections marked a shift toward the Democratic Party as it won the House for the first time since 1994 and gained a one-seat majority in the the Senate. Some factors leading to this shift were opposition to the Iraq War and Republican corruption and scandals involving Tom DeLay, Mark Foley, and Jack Abramoff. The split inside the GOP on immigration policy further hurt the party, as favorable economic conditions were unable to save the Republicans from losing their majority.
Skeptics ask whether the Republican Party can simultaneously contain both libertarians and social conservatives, or whether it can contain both elements that want to remove illegal immigrants and a business community that uses them as necessary employees. Republican optimists also point to the success of Roosevelt's Democratic coalition, which held together even more disparate elements. For the most part until 2007, the Republican Party has remained fairly cohesive, as both strong economic libertarians and strong social conservatives are opposed to the Democrats, who they see as both the party of bigger and more secular government.
- For more detailed history & bibliography until 1980, see U.S. Republican Party, history.
Third party system: 1854-1896
Establishment The Republican Party was established in 1854 by a coalition of former Whigs, Northern Democrats, and Free-Soilers who opposed the expansion of slavery and held a vision for modernizing the United States.
The new party was created as an act of defiance against what activists denounced as the Slave Power—the powerful class of slaveholders who were conspiring to control the federal government and to spread slavery nationwide. The party founders adopted the name "Republican," echoing the 1776 republican values of civic virtue and opposition to aristocracy and corruption. The new party emphasized a vision of modernizing higher education, banking, railroads, industry, and cities, while promising free homesteads to farmers. The party initially had its base in the Northeast and Midwest. The party enjoyed its first national convention in Pittsburgh in February of 1856, with its first nominating convention coming that summer in Philadelphia.
John C. Frémont ran as the first Republican nominee for President, using the slogan: "Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Frémont." Although Frémont lost, his party showed a strong base. It dominated in New England, New York, and the northern Midwest, and had a strong presence in the rest of the North. It had almost no support in the South, where it was roundly denounced in 1856-1860 as a divisive force that threatened civil war.
The Civil War and an era of Republican dominance: 1860-1896 The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 began a new era of Republican dominance based in the industrial Northeast and agricultural Midwest. Republicans still often refer to their party as the "party of Lincoln." Lincoln proved brilliantly successful in uniting all the factions of his party to fight for the Union. However, he often disagreed with the Radical Republicans who demanded harsher measures toward the South. In Congress, the party passed major legislation to promote rapid modernization, including a national banking system, high tariffs, the first temporary income tax, many excise taxes, paper money issued without backing ("greenbacks"), a huge national debt, homestead laws, and land grants to aid higher education, railroads and agriculture.
The Republicans denounced the northern anti-war Democrats as disloyal Copperheads and won enough War Democrats to maintain their majority in 1862, and reelect Lincoln by a landslide in 1864. During Reconstruction, 1865-1877, how to deal with the ex-Confederates and the freed slaves or Freedmen were the major issues. President Andrew Johnson, a Democrat that had been nominated as Lincoln's running-mate by the National Union (Republican) convention, broke with the Radicals in 1866. The showdown came in the Congressional elections of 1866, in which the Radicals won a sweeping victory and took full control of Reconstruction, passing key laws over Johnson's vetoes. The Radicals imposed Republican rule on the South—a coalition of Freedmen, Scalawags, and Carpetbaggers, who were deeply resented by the conservative ex-Confederates.
Elected in 1868, Ulysses S. Grant supported radical reconstruction programs in the South, the Fourteenth Amendment, equal civil and voting rights for the freedmen; most of all, Grant was the hero of the war veterans, who marched to his tune. Reconstruction came to an end when the contested election of 1876 was awarded to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes who promised, through the unofficial Compromise of 1877, to withdraw federal troops from control of the last three Southern states. The region then became the Solid South, giving overwhelming majorities of its electoral votes and Congressional seats to the Democrats until 1964.
As the Northern post-war economy boomed with industry, railroads, mines, and fast-growing cities, as well as prosperous agriculture, the Republicans took credit and promoted policies to keep the fast growth going. The Democratic Party was largely controlled by pro-business Bourbon Democrats until 1896. The GOP supported big business generally, hard money (i.e., the gold standard), high tariffs, and generous pensions for Union veterans. By 1890, the Republicans had agreed to the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Interstate Commerce Commission in response to complaints from owners of small businesses and farmers. Civil service reform was a bipartisan program that eliminated most patronage by 1900. Foreign affairs seldom became partisan issues (except for the annexation of Hawaii, which Republicans favored and Democrats opposed). Much more salient were cultural issues. The GOP supported the pietistic Protestants (especially the Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Scandinavian Lutherans) who demanded Prohibition. That angered wet Republicans, especially German Americans, who broke ranks in 1890-1892, handing power to the Democrats.
From 1860 to 1912, the Republicans took advantage of the association of the Democrats with "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion." Rum stood for the liquor interests and the tavern keepers, in contrast to the GOP, which had a strong dry element. "Romanism" meant Roman Catholicism, especially the Irish, who staffed the Democratic Party in the large cities, and whom the Republicans denounced for political corruption. "Rebellion" stood for the Confederates who tried to break the Union in 1861, and the Copperheads in the North who sympathized with them.
Demographic trends aided the Democrats, as the German and Irish Catholic immigrants were mostly Democrats, and outnumbered the British and Scandinavian Republicans. During the 1880s, elections were remarkably close. The Democrats usually lost, but won in 1884 and 1892. In the 1894 Congressional elections, the GOP scored the biggest landslide in its history, as Democrats were blamed for the severe economic depression 1893-1897 and the violent coal and railroad strikes of 1894.
Fourth party system: 1896-1932
The Progressive Era The election of William McKinley in 1896 marked a new era of Republican dominance and is sometimes cited as a realigning election. He relied heavily on finance, railroads, industry and the middle classes for his support and cemented the Republicans as the party of business. His campaign manager, Ohio's Marcus Hanna, developed a detailed plan for getting contributions from the business world, and McKinley outspent his rival William Jennings Bryan by a large margin. McKinley was the first president to promote pluralism, arguing that prosperity would be shared by all ethnic and religious groups.
Theodore Roosevelt was the most dynamic personality of the era. He became the President after McKinley was assassinated in 1901. After promising to continue McKinley's policies, he won reelection in 1904. He then veered left, attacking big business and busting the trusts. Roosevelt anointed William Howard Taft in 1908, but Taft worked more with the conservatives led by Senator Nelson W. Aldrich, although more trusts were broken up under Taft than Roosevelt. The Payne-Aldrich tariff angered Midwestern insurgents. The widening division between progressive and conservative forces in the party resulted in a third-party candidacy for Roosevelt on the Progressive, or "Bull Moose" ticket in the election of 1912. He finished ahead of Taft, but the split in the Republican vote resulted in a decisive victory for Democrat Woodrow Wilson, temporarily interrupting the Republican era.
The party controlled the presidency throughout the 1920s, running on a platform of opposition to the League of Nations, high tariffs, and promotion of business interests. Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were resoundingly elected in 1920, 1924, and 1928 respectively. Although the party did very well in large cities and among ethnic Catholics in presidential elections of 1920-24, it was unable to hold those gains in 1928.
In October 1929, the stock market crashed, giving rise to the Great Depression. Hoover, by nature an activist, attempted to do what he could to alleviate the widespread suffering caused by the Depression, but his strict adherence to what he believed were Republican principles precluded him from establishing relief directly from the federal government. The Democrats made major gains in the 1930 midterm elections, giving them congressional parity (though not control) for the first time since Woodrow Wilson's presidency.
Fifth party system: 1933-1980
Opposing the New Deal Coalition: 1933-1953
In 1932, Hoover was swamped in a landslide defeat to Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal Coalition, which became a dominant element of American political life for the middle third of the century. Democrats also gained large majorities in both houses of Congress.
After Roosevelt took office in 1933, New Deal legislation sailed through Congress at lightning speed. In the 1934 midterm elections, ten Republican senators went down to defeat, leaving them with only 25 against 71 Democrats. The House of Representatives was also split in a similar ratio. The "Second New Deal" was heavily criticized by the Republicans in Congress, who likened it to class warfare and socialism. The volume of legislation, as well as the inability of the Republicans to block it, soon made the opposition to Roosevelt develop into bitterness and sometimes hatred for "that man in the White House."
Little known Governor Alfred Landon of Kansas ran an ineffective moderate campaign as the Roosevelt landslide of 1936 swept 46 states. The GOP was left with only 16 senators and 88 representatives to oppose the New Deal.
Roosevelt alienated many conservative Democrats, in 1937, by his unexpected plan to “pack” the Supreme Court via the Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937. Following a sharp recession that hit early in 1938, major strikes all over the country, and Roosevelt's failed efforts to purge the conservatives from the court, the GOP gained 75 House seats in 1938. Conservative Democrats, mostly from the South, joined with Republicans led by Senator Robert A. Taft to create the conservative coalition, which dominated domestic issues in Congress until 1964.
From 1939 through 1941, there was a sharp debate within the GOP about support for Britain in World War II. Internationalists, such as Henry Stimson and Frank Knox, wanted to support Britain and isolationists, such as Robert Taft and Arthur Vandenberg, strongly opposed these moves as unwise, if not unconstitutional. The America First movement was a bipartisan coalition of isolationists. In 1940, a total unknown, Wendell Willkie, at the last minute, won over the party, the delegates and was nominated. He crusaded against the inefficiencies of the New Deal and Roosevelt's break with the strong tradition against a third term. Pearl Harbor ended the isolationist-internationalist debate. The Republicans further cut the Democratic majority in the 1942 midterm elections. With wartime production creating prosperity, the Conservative coalition terminated most New Deal relief programs.
As a minority party, the GOP had two wings: The "left wing" supported most of the New Deal while promising to run it more efficiently. The "right wing" opposed the New Deal from the beginning and managed to repeal large parts during the 1940s in cooperation with conservative southern Democrats in the conservative coalition. Liberals, led by Dewey, dominated the Northeast. Conservatives, led by Taft, dominated the Midwest. The West was split, and the South was still solidly Democratic. Dewey did not reject the New Deal programs, but demanded more efficiency, more support for economic growth, and less corruption. He was more willing than Taft to support Britain in the early years of the war.
In 1944, a clearly frail Roosevelt defeated Dewey, who was now governor of New York, for his fourth term, but Dewey made a good showing that would lead to his selection as the candidate in 1948.
Roosevelt died in office in 1945, and Harry S. Truman became president. With the end of the war, unrest among organized labor led to many strikes in 1946, and the resulting disruptions helped the GOP. With the blunders of the Truman administration in 1945 and 1946, the slogans "Had Enough?" and "To Err is Truman" became Republican rallying cries, and the GOP won control of Congress for the first time since 1928, with Joseph William Martin, Jr. as Speaker of the House. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 was designed to balance the rights of management and labor. It was the central issue of many elections in industrial states in the 1940s and 1950s, but the unions were never able to repeal it.
In 1948, with Republicans split left and right, Truman boldly called Congress into a special session, and sent it a load of liberal legislation consistent with the Dewey platform, and dared them to act on it, knowing that the conservative Republicans would block action. Truman then attacked the Republican "Do-Nothing Congress" as a whipping boy for all of the nation's problems. Truman stunned Dewey and the Republicans with a plurality of just over two million popular votes (out of nearly 49 million cast), but a decisive 303-189 victory in the Electoral College.
Eisenhower and Nixon: 1953-1974 After the war the isolationists in the conservative wing opposed the United Nations, and were half-hearted in exercising opposition to the expansion of Communism around the world. Dwight Eisenhower, a NATO commander, defeated Taft in 1952 on foreign policy issues. The two men were not far apart on domestic issues. Eisenhower was an exception to most presidents in that he usually let Nixon handle party affairs (controlling the national committee and taking the roles of chief spokesman and chief fundraiser). Richard Nixon was defeated in 1960 in a close election, dooming his liberal wing of the party. The conservatives made a comeback in 1964 as Barry Goldwater defeated Nelson Rockefeller in the primary. Goldwater was strongly opposed to the New Deal and the United Nations, but he rejected isolationism and containment, calling for an aggressive anti-Communist foreign policy. He was defeated by Lyndon Johnson in a landslide that brought down many senior Republican Congressmen across the country. Goldwater blamed the magnitude of his defeat on the assassination of John F. Kennedy a year before the election, and on Johnson running a campaign of smears.
The New Deal Coalition collapsed in the mid 1960s in the face of urban riots, the Vietnam war, the opposition of many Southern conservatives to desegregation and the Civil Rights movement and disillusionment that the New Deal could be revived by Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. Nixon defeated both Hubert Humphrey and George C. Wallace in 1968. When the Democratic left took over their party in 1972, Nixon won reelection by carrying 49 states. His involvement in Watergate brought disgrace and a forced resignation in 1974. The Democrats made major gains in Congress, and in 1976 defeated Gerald Ford in a close race.
Since the 1970s, Republican identification has increased substantially among whites inside and outside of the South with the most dramatic gains occurring among married voters, men, and Catholics. Within these subgroups, however, Republican gains have occurred mainly or exclusively among self-identified conservatives. As a result, the relationship between ideology and party identification has increased dramatically. This has important implications for voting behavior. Increased consistency between ideology and party identification has contributed to higher levels of party loyalty in presidential and congressional elections. In terms of party affiliation, the most dramatic change came among whites in the South. In the 1960s they were 36 points more Democratic than Republican; in 2002-04 they were 17 points more Republican. That was a remarkable realignment with a 53 point shift toward the GOP. Among whites in the North the shift toward the GOP was 18 points. Blacks remained 75 points more Democratic.
The Reagan era
Ronald Reagan produced a major realignment with his 1980 and 1984 landslides. In 1980, the Reagan coalition was possible because of Democratic losses in most social-economic groups. In 1984, Reagan won nearly 60% of the popular vote and carried every state except his Democratic opponent Walter Mondale's home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia, creating a record 525 electoral vote total (of 538 possible). Even in Minnesota, Mondale won by a mere 3,761 votes, meaning Reagan came within less than 3,800 votes of winning in all fifty states.
Political commentators, trying to explain how Reagan had won by such a large margin, used the term "Reagan Democrat" to describe a Democratic voter who had defected to vote for Reagan. The Reagan Democrats were Democrats before the Reagan years, and afterwards, but who voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 (and for George H. W. Bush in 1988), producing their landslide victories. They were mostly white, blue-collar, lived in traditionally Democratic areas, and were attracted to Reagan's social conservatism on issues such as abortion, and to his hawkish foreign policy. They did not continue to vote Republican in 1992 or 1996, so the term fell into disuse except as a reference to the 1980s. The term is not generally used to describe those southern whites who permanently changed party affiliation from Democratic to Republican during the Reagan administration. Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, analyzed white, largely unionized auto workers in suburban Macomb County, Michigan, just north of Detroit. The county voted 63% for Kennedy in 1960 and 66% for Reagan in 1984. He concluded that Reagan Democrats no longer saw Democrats as champions of their middle class aspirations, but instead saw it as being a party working primarily for the benefit of others, especially African Americans and social liberals. Democrat Bill Clinton targeted the Reagan Democrats with considerable success in 1992 and 1996. Also significant in those years was the entrance of Ross Perot into the presidential race; almost all of the Republican voters who deserted Bush moved to Perot. With Perot taking 30% of the independent vote in 1992 (along with 17% of the Republican vote and 13% of the Democratic vote), Clinton was able to win the presidency with the votes of only 43% of the electorate. Perot ran again in 1996 and won only 8% of the popular vote.
Reagan reoriented American politics. He claimed credit in 1984 for an economic renewal—“It's morning in America again!” was the campaign slogan. Income taxes were slashed 25% and the punitive rates abolished. The frustrations of stagflation were resolved, as no longer did soaring inflation and recession pull the country down. Deregulation, handled in bipartisan fashion, removed the last traces of the New Deal, with the exception of Social Security. Working again in bipartisan fashion, the Social Security financial crises were resolved for the next 25 years.
In foreign affairs, bipartisanship was not in evidence. Most Democrats doggedly opposed Reagan's efforts to support the Contra guerrillas against the Communist Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Reagan started a "second cold war" with a hard line against the Soviet Union, alarming Democrats who wanted a nuclear freeze. Reagan succeeded in increasing the military budget and launching the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)—labeled "Star Wars" —that the Soviets could not match. When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Moscow, many conservative Republicans were dubious of the growing friendship between him and Reagan. Gorbachev tried to save communism in Russia first by ending the expensive arms race with America, then (1989) by shedding the East European empire. Communism finally collapsed in Russia in 1991. President George H. W. Bush, Reagan's successor, tried to temper feelings of triumphalism lest there be a backlash in Russia, but the palpable sense of victory in the Cold War was a success that Republicans felt validated the aggressive foreign policies Reagan had espoused. As Haynes Johnson, one of his harshest critics admitted, "His greatest service was in restoring the respect of Americans for themselves and their own government after the traumas of Vietnam and Watergate, the frustration of the Iran hostage crisis and a succession of seemingly failed presidencies." Yet the restoration of faith in the government was an ironic twist for the man who personally distrusted government so much.
The capture of the House and Senate in 1994
After the election of Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1992, the Republican Party, led by House Republican Minority Whip Newt Gingrich campaigning on a Contract With America, elected majorities to both houses of Congress in the Republican Revolution of 1994. It was the first time since 1952 that the Republicans secured control of both houses of U.S. Congress, which, with the exception of the Senate during 2001-2002, was retained through 2006, then lost. This capture and subsequent holding of Congress represented a major legislative turnaround, as Democrats controlled both houses of Congress for the forty years preceding 1995, with the exception of the 1981-1987 Congress in which Republicans controlled the Senate.
In 1994, Republican Congressional candidates ran on a platform of major reforms of government with measures such as a balanced budget amendment and welfare reform. These measures and others formed the famous Contract with America, which represented the first effort to have a party platform in an off-year election. The Republicans passed some of their proposals, but failed on others such as term limits. President Clinton opposed some of the social agenda initiatives but he co-opted the proposals for welfare reform and a balanced federal budget. The result was a major change in the welfare system, which conservatives hailed and liberals bemoaned. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives failed to muster the two-thirds majority required to pass a Constitutional amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress. In 1995, a budget battle with Clinton led to the brief shutdown of the federal government, an event which contributed to Clinton's reelection in 1996 over Republican Bob Dole, who was unable to transfer his success in Senate leadership to a viable presidential campaign. Ross Perot once again draining away millions of Republican voters.
With the victory of George W. Bush in the exceedingly close 2000 election against the Democratic candidate, Vice President Al Gore, the Republican Party gained control of the Presidency and both houses of Congress for the first time since 1952, only to lose control of the Senate by one vote when Vermont Senator James Jeffords left the Republican party to become an independent in 2001 and chose to vote with the Democratic caucus. In the 2000 presidential election, George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore by a margin of 543,816 votes, but weon the electoral college after a recount in Florida.
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Bush gained widespread political support as he pursued the War on Terrorism that included the invasion of Afghanistan and USA PATRIOT Act. After winning Congressional support in October, 2002, in March 2003, Bush ordered Iraq invaded with a coalition of allied countries after attempting diplomatic solutions through the United Nations. Bush had near unanimous Republican support in Congress plus support from many Democratic leaders. However by 2007 almost all the Democrats had reversed themselves as that party united in opposition to the war in Iraq.
The Republican Party fared well in the 2002 midterm elections, solidifying its hold on the House and regaining control of the Senate, in the run-up to the war in Iraq. This marked the first time since 1934 that the party in control of the White House gained seats in a midterm election in both houses of Congress. Bush was renominated without opposition for the 2004 election and titled his political platform "A Safer World and a More Hopeful America". It expressed Bush's commitment to winning the War on Terrorism, ushering in an "Ownership Era," and building an innovative economy to compete in the world.
On November 2, 2004, Bush was re-elected, while Republicans gained seats in both houses of Congress. Bush won the election with 286 electoral votes, with Senator John Kerry receiving 251. Bush received 62 million popular votes to 59 million for Kerry. With 51% of the popular vote, Bush achieved the first popular majority for any candidate since 1988, when his father was elected.
Bush told reporters "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style." He announced his agenda in January 2005, which many Americans saw as divisive. His popularity in the polls waned and his troubles mounted. His campaign to add personal savings accounts to the Social Security system and make major revisions in the tax code were postponed. Bush succeeded in selecting conservatives to head four of the most important agencies, Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, John Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States and Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. He failed to win conservative approval for Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, replacing her with Samuel Alito, whom the Senate confirmed in January 2006. He secured additional tax cuts and blocked moves to raise taxes. Through 2006, Bush strongly defended his policy in Iraq, saying the Coalition was winning. He secured the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act.
In September 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed large sections of New Orleans, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Louisiana. The Bush Administration's response to this crisis was widely viewed as inadequate, and the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was forced to resign.
In the November 2005 off-year elections, New York City, Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg won a landslide re-election, the fourth straight Republican victory in what is otherwise a Democratic stronghold; in June 2007, Bloomberg became an independent and explored the possibilities of a run for president in 2008 as a third party candidate. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger failed in his effort to use the ballot initiative to enact laws the Democrats blocked in the state legislature. Schwarzenegger then reversed course and cooperated closely with Democrats, leading to his landslide reelection in 2006.
Scandals prompted the resignations of Congressional Republicans House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, Mark Foley, and Bob Ney. In the 2006 midterm elections, the Republicans lost control of both the House of Representatives and Senate for the 110th Congress. The main issues were Bush's falling popularity, widespread unease with the war in Iraq, and corruption and scandal in Congress.
In the Republican leadership elections that followed the general election, Speaker Hastert did not run and Republicans chose John Boehner of Ohio for House Minority Leader. Senators chose whip Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for Senate Minority Leader, and chose their former leader Trent Lott as Senate Minority Whip by one vote over Lamar Alexander. They assumed their roles in January, 2007. In 2007 the Democrats blasted away at scandals involving Attorney General Gonzales, but were unable to impose a troop withdrawal deadline regarding Iraq. Bush pushed hard for immigration reform, in cooperation with most Democrats but with serious opposition inside the conservative movement to what was denounced as "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.
- See also: 2008 United States presidential election
President Bush is constitutionally ineligible to seek another term and Vice President Dick Cheney has announced that he will not seek the Republican presidential nomination. This leaves the field wide open for the nomination.
The leaders in September 2007 were former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and Arizona Senator John McCain, who dropped sharply from his leading position after endorsing immigration reform. Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee entered as a dark horse but shot to the top rank in December 2007, and won the Iowa caucus. His base is primarily evangelical Christians, who are about 35% of the GOP vote, but he does quite poorly among other segments of the Republican party. By mid-January 2008 Thompson and Giuliani were doing poorly, and McCain held the lead followed by Huckabee and Romney. Both Thompson and Giuliani dropped out in late January. Romney dropped out after a poor showing in the February 5th primaries.
Minor candidates include Texas Representative Ron Paul. Those who entered but dropped out are Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo, former Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore and former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, and California Representative Duncan Hunter. Other candidates who considered running who did not enter include former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, and former New York Governor George Pataki.
Symbols and name
The term Grand Old Party is a traditional nickname for the Republican Party, and the acronym G.O.P. is a commonly used designation. The first known reference to the Republican Party as the "grand old party" came in 1876. The first use of the abbreviation G.O.P. is dated 1884.
After the 2000 election, the color red became associated with the GOP although it has not been officially adopted by the party. On election night 2000, for the first time ever, all major broadcast networks utilized the same color scheme for the electoral map: red states carred by the GOP, and blue states by Democrats/ The color red is unofficial and informal, but it is widely recognized by the media and the public to represent the GOP. Partisan supporters now often use the color red for promotional materials and campaign merchandise.
Lincoln Day, Reagan Day, or Lincoln-Reagan Day, is the primary annual fundraising celebration held by many state and county organizations of the Republican Party. The events are named after Republican Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
- Ronald Reagan's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981. The American Presidency Project. Retrieved on 2006-11-19.
- George Will, "What Goeth Before the Fall," The Washington Post Oct 5, 2006 at 
- Podhoretz, John (2004). Bush Country: How George W. Bush Became the First Great Leader of the 21st Century---While Driving Liberals Insane, p. 116.
- House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources (2003-04-07). New Report Shows Welfare Reform Success in Increasing Work and Raising Incomes. Press release. Retrieved on 2006-11-18.
- Wachino, Victoria (2005-03-10). The House Budget Committee's Proposed Medicaid and SCHIP Cuts Are Larger Than Those The Administration Proposed. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved on 2006-11-18.
- Crane (2004).
- Eilperin, Juliet. Watts Walks a Tightrope on Affirmative Action, The Washington Post, 1998-05-12. Retrieved on 2007-01-22.
- Blanton, Dana. National Exit Poll: Midterms Come Down to Iraq, Bush, FOX News, 2006-11-08. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.
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- Exit Polls. CNN (2004-11-02). Retrieved on 2006-11-18.
- Harvard Sitkoff, A New Deal for Blacks (1978).
- Affordable Family Formation–The Neglected Key To GOP’s Future by Steve Sailer
- Unmarried Women in the 2004 Presidential Election (PDF). Report by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, January, 2005. Page 3: "The marriage gap is one of the most important cleavages in electoral politics. Unmarried women voted for Kerry by a 25-point margin (62 to 37 percent), while married women voted for President Bush by an 11-point margin (55 percent to 44 percent). Indeed, the 25-point margin Kerry posted among unmarried women represented one of the high water marks for the Senator among all demographic groups."
- Data based on exit polls reported in The New York Times, November 10, 1988, p. 18.
- Crane (2004).
- Republican Party on the Issues. Retrieved on 2007-02-21.
- Robert Booth Fowler et al, Religion and Politics in America: Faith, Culture, and Strategic Choices (2004)
- Earl Black and Merle Black. Politics and Society in the South (2005)
- Gould (2003).
- Franklin, Will (2005-06-08). Checking In On That Emerging Democratic Majority. Retrieved on 2006-10-18.
- Judis, John B., Teixeira, Ruy. Movement Interruptus, The American Prospect, 2005-01-04. Retrieved on 2006-11-18.
- Wooldridge, Adrian and John Micklethwait. The Right Nation (2004).
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- Alan I. Abramowitz, and Kyle L. Saunders, "Exploring the Bases of Partisanship in the American Electorate: Social Identity vs. Ideology," Political Research Quarterly, vol. 59, no. 2, pp. 175-187, June 2006 ISSN 1065-9129 Online at SAGE; see also Jonathan Knuckey, "Explaining Recent Changes in the Partisan Identifications of Southern Whites," Political Research Quarterly, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 57-70, March 2006 online at SAGE. Knuckey emphasizes the national ideological shift to the right as the main cause of southern realignment.
- David K. Nichols, "Lessons of the Bush Defeat: The Conservative Electorate of 1992," at |url=http://www.ashbrook.org/publicat/monos/bushdef/nichols.html
- Johnson, Haynes (1989). Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years. 28.