The Republican Party is one of the two major political parties in the United States. The current President of the United States, George W. Bush, is a member of the party – and by rules common to both major U.S. parties, its head. Of the two major U.S. parties, the Republican party is the moderate/center-right party. The party could be considered "America's natural presidential party", since 18 of the 27 US Presidents since 1861 have been Republicans and that since that same year a Republican has won 23 of the last 37 presidential elections.
The party was born in the early 1850s by anti-slavery activists and individuals who believed that government should grant western lands to settlers free of charge. The first informal meeting of the party took place in Ripon, Wisconsin, a small town northwest of Milwaukee. The first official Republican meeting took place on July 6, 1854 in Jackson, Michigan. The name "Republican" was chosen because it alluded to equality and reminded individuals of Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party. At the Jackson convention, the new party adopted a platform and nominated candidates for office in Michigan. Since its inception, its chief opposition has been the Democratic Party, which supported slavery.
The official symbol of the Republican Party is the elephant. Although the elephant had occasionally been associated with the party earlier, a political cartoon by Thomas Nast, published in Harper's Weekly on November 7, 1874, is considered the first important use of the symbol. In the early 20th century, the traditional symbol of the Republican party in Midwestern states such as Indiana and Ohio was the eagle, as opposed to the Democratic cock. This symbol still appears on Indiana ballots.
The outstanding difference between the mind set and political ideals of the Republicans and that of the Democrats is that the Republican Party tends to emphasize more the ideal that societal health is rooted in personal responsibility and actions. The Republican Party holds the mindset that all material things are earned, not owed. This mindset is seen most often in the party's push for lower taxes. This is fought for in an attempt to treat all citizens equally despite income, race, gender, or religion. They also see taxes as a drag on the economy, and believe private spending is usually more efficient than public spending.
Republicans also show concerns about having big government in charge of such vital issues as food, shelter, or health care, as they believe the private sector and/or the individual are better suited to control their own lives. The much revered president Ronald Reagan was a Republican and has been quoted as saying "Government is not the solution, it is the problem."
The party tends to hold both conservative and libertarian stances on social and economic issues respectively. Major policies that the party has recently supported include a neoconservative foreign policy, including War on Terror, liberations of Afghanistan and Iraq, strong support for democracy especially in the Middle East, and distrust of the United Nations due to the organization's incompetent bureaucracy, anti-capitalist undertone and lackadaisical approach to issues such as fighting terrorism. Along with demanding radical reforms in the UN, it also opposes the Kyoto Protocol due the protocol's unfair application to certain countries (especially the United States) and that it prevents economic growth and slows the reduction of poverty.
It generally supports free trade, especially NAFTA and CAFTA. It is responsible for a series of across-the-board tax cuts since 2001 that have bolstered the economy and reduced the punitive aspect of the income tax. It has sought business deregulation, reduction of environmental regulations that restrict fair use of land and property, and other policies that are pro-capitalism. It supports gun ownership rights, and enterprise zones (low taxes for investing in poverty areas). On social issues the majority of its national and state candidates usually favor the death penalty, call for stronger state-level control on access to abortion, oppose the legalization of gender-neutral marriage, favor faith-based initiatives, support school choice and homeschooling, social welfare benefit reform, and oppose racial quotas.
In recent years the party has called for much stronger accountability in the public schools, especially through the "No Child Left behind Act" of 2001 (which also increased federal funding for schools). The party is split on the issue of federally funding embryonic stem cell research that involves the cloning and killing of human embryos, with many seeing it as unethical to force tens of millions of tax payers who believe this type of research is morally wrong to finance it. Historically Republicans have had a strong belief in individualism, limited government, and business entrepreneurship.
John C. Frémont ran as the first Republican for President in 1856, using the political slogan: "Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Frémont." Although Frémont's bid was unsuccessful, the party grew especially rapidly in Northeastern and Midwestern states, where slavery had long been prohibited, culminating in a sweep of victories in the Northern states and the election of Lincoln in 1860, ending 60 years of dominance by the slavery-supporting Democrats and ushering in a new era of Republican dominance based in the industrial north and on the end of slavery.
With the end of the Civil War came the upheavals of Reconstruction under Democratic President Andrew Johnson (who had bitter disputes with the Republicans in Congress, who eventually impeached him) and Ulysses S. Grant, a Republican. For a brief period, Republicans assumed control of Southern politics (due especially to the former slaves receiving the vote while it was denied to many whites who had participated in the Confederacy), forcing drastic reforms and frequently giving former slaves positions in government. After Reconstruction came to an end, the southern states became known as the "Solid South", giving overwhelming majorities of its electoral votes and Congressional seats to the Democrats until 1964.
Though states' rights was a cause of both Northern and Southern states before the War, control of the federal government led the Republican Party down a national line. The patriotric unity that developed in the North because of the war led to a string of military men as President, and an era of international expansion and domestic protectionism. As the rural Northern antebellum economy mushroomed with industry and immigration, supporting innovation, invention, entrepreneurship and business became the hallmarks of Republican policy proposals. From the Reconstruction era up to the turn of the century, the Republicans benefitted from the Democrats' racist origin and their association with the Confederate States of America. The Republican Party, therefore dominated national politics--albeit with strong competition from the Democrats, especially during the 1880s. With the two-term presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, the party became known for its strong advocacy of commerce, industry, and veterans' rights, which continues to this day.
During the 1880s and 1890s, the Republicans struggled against the Democrats' efforts, winning several close elections and losing two to Grover Cleveland (in 1884 and 1892).
The election of William McKinley in 1896 is widely seen as a resurgence of Republican dominance and is sometimes cited as a realigning election. The progressive, protectionist, political and beloved McKinley was the last Civil War veteran elected President and embodied the Republican ideals of economic progress, invention, education, and patriotism. He confirmed the Republicans as a pro-enterprise party; his campaign manager, Marcus Hanna was a highly effective political strategist and fund-raiser which meant McKinley outspent his radical rival William Jennings Bryan by a large margin.
After McKinley's assassination, President Theodore Roosevelt tapped McKinley's Industrial Commission for his trust-busting ideas and continued the federal and nationalist policies of his predecessor. In order to ensure fair competition in the economy Roosevelt took steps to abolish "trusts" or cartels which then dominated many key markets within the economy. This led Republicans into conflict with the most powerful commercial interests in the country, led by John D. Rockefeller, the richest man in the world.
Roosevelt decided not to run again in 1908 and chose William Howard Taft to replace him, but the widening division between progressive and conservative forces in the party resulted in a third-party candidacy for Roosevelt on the United States Progressive Party, 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 high tariffs, the promotion of business interests, opposition to the League of Nations, and overall isolationism after Wilson's turbulent internationalism. Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were resoundingly elected in 1920, 1924, and 1928 respectively. These years saw the party firmly committed to laissez-faire economics, but the Great Depression cost it the presidency with the election of socialist Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932. Roosevelt's New Deal Coalition controlled American politics for the next two decades, concluding with the two-term presidency of popular Republican World War II General Dwight Eisenhower.
The post-war emergence of the United States as one of two superpowers and rapid social change caused the Republican Party to divide into a conservative wing (dominant in the West and Southeast) and a liberal wing (dominant in New England) - combined with a residual base of inherited Midwestern Republicanism active throughout the century. A Republican like Senator Robert Taft of Ohio represented the Midwestern wing of the party that continued to oppose New Deal reforms and continued to champion isolationism. Thomas Dewey of New York represented the Northeastern wing of the party that was closer to Democratic liberalism and internationalism. In the end, the isolationists were marginalized by those who supported a strong U.S. role in opposing the Soviet Union throughout the world, as embodied by President Eisenhower. However, this development did not represent the end of the story. The seeds of conservative dominance in the Republican party were planted in the nomination of conservative Barry Goldwater over liberal Nelson Rockefeller as the Republican candidate for the 1964 presidential election.
Any enduring Republican majority, however, was put on hold when the Watergate Scandal forced Richard Nixon to resign under a threat of impeachment created by elements within the Democratic Party opposed to U.S efforts to fight communist totalitarianism. Gerald Ford succeeded Nixon under the 25th Amendment and struggled to forge a political identity separate from his predecessor. The taint of Watergate and the nation's economic difficulties contributed to the election of Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976, a Washington outsider who would later be regarded as the worst president of the 20th century.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination and easily beat Carter with his strong communication skills and message of economic freedom and strength against the Soviet Union. 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 Democrat 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.
The so-called "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 lived in the Northeast and were attracted to Reagan's libertarian-conservative views, and to his strong stance on national security issues.
Reagan's Vice-President, George H.W. Bush, a World War II war hero, was elected in 1988 but was defeated in 1992 despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to Bill Clinton who repositioned the Democrats subsantially to the right. Ross Perot's candidacy was instrumental in Clinton's victory as he took Republican votes with his policies of zero deficits. Perot won 19% of the popular vote, and Clinton, still a largely unknown quantity in American politics, was able to win the election due to Perot splitting the Republican vote in many states. Despite his defeat, George H.W. Bush left office in 1993 with a 56 percent job approval rating.
House Republican Minority Whip Newt Gingrich-led the "Republican Revolution" of 1994 and its famous Contract With America. 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, has been retained through the present time. This capture and subsequent holding of Congress represented a major legislative turnaround, as Democrats controlled both houses of Congress for the forty years preceding 1994, with the exception of the 1981-1987 Congresses (in which Republicans controlled the Senate).
In that mid-term election, 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 Contract with America, which represented the first effort to have a party platform in a mid-term election. The Republicans passed some of their proposals, which lead to economic growth during the second half of the 1990s. Democratic President Bill 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 also 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 victory in the 1996 election. That year the Republicans nominated Bob Dole, who was unable to transfer his success in Senate leadership to a viable presidential campaign. Ross Perot ran again (this time on Reform Party ticket), once again draining away a large percentage of Dole's support and insuring Clinton another term after the majority of Americans voters voted against him.
With the election of George W. Bush (son of former president George H. W. Bush) in an extremely close 2000 election, the Republican party controlled both the presidency and both houses of Congress for the first time since 1952. However, after Vermont senator Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party to become an independent aligned with the Democrats in June of 2001, Republicans lost control of the Senate by a single seat.
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, however, Bush pursued a "War on Terrorism" that included the liberation of Afghanistan from the radical Islamist Taliban regime and the Patriot Act. By early 2002, the Taliban was removed from power in Afghanistan. On March 20, 2003, U.S. and allied nations initiated "Operation Iraqi Freedom" to liberate the Iraqi people from the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. By May 1, 2003, the regime of Saddam was declared officially over. Once US and allied military forces entered Iraq, they discovered that various international terrorists had been given sanctuary by Saddam and ran their terrorist operations from Iraq. Notable terrorists found included Muhammad Zaidan aka Abu Abbas and Sabri Khalil al-Banna aka Abu Nidal.
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 liberation of Iraq. This marked just the third time since the Civil War that the party in control of the White House gained seats in both houses of Congress in a midterm election (others were 1902 and 1934).
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 Terror, ushering in an Ownership Era, and building an innovative economy to compete in the world.
On November 2, 2004, Bush was re-elected emphatically, while Republicans gained seats in both houses of Congress, leaving Democrats in disarray. Bush carried 31 of 50 states for 286 Electoral College votes. In that election, he also received more popular votes than any previous presidential candidate, 62.0 million votes. Democrat challenger, Senator John Kerry, carried a mere 19 states and the District of Columbia, earning him 251 Electoral College votes and only 48 percent of the popular vote to Bush's 51 percent, the first popular majority since his father was elected in 1988. That election also marked the seventh consecutive election in which the Democratic nominee failed to reach that threshold.
The counties where Bush led in the popular vote amount to 83% of the geographic area of the U.S. (excluding Alaska, which did not report results by borough/census area, but had all electoral districts but one of the two in Juneau vote for Bush).
The election marked the first time an incumbent president was reelected while his political party increased its numbers in both houses of Congress since Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 election. It was the first time for a Republican since William McKinley in the 1900 election.
In terms of winning presidential elections, the Republican Party has been the most successful political party in U.S. history. Since the American Civil War, Grover Cleveland is the only non-incumbent Democrat who has won the office of President of the United States under "ordinary" circumstances (meaning no third party, no Great Depression, no disputed count in Illinois, no assassination of the previous president, no Watergate).
From 1860 through 1912, 10 men were elected President of the United States -- Grover Cleveland being the only Democrat.
Woodrow Wilson, who won in 1912, only won because William Howard Taft (the Republican incumbent) split the party vote with former President Theodore Roosevelt who ran as the Progressive Party candidate. Wilson only garnered 41.6% of the popular vote, compared to a combined 50.6% of Roosevelt and Taft.
Following Wilson, there were three more Republicans. It took a major economic depression to get another Democrat elected (in 1932).
John F. Kennedy (the next Democratic non-incumbent to win the White House) won the 1960 election as the result of voter fraud in Chicago (and several other locations), with a mere 0.2% difference in the popular vote.
It took the aftermath of the Watergate scandal to get the next, non-incumbent Democrat elected in 1976 in a very close election in which Democrat Jimmy Carter received 50.1% of the popular vote to Gerald Ford's 48.0%.
The next non-incumbent Democrat victory occured in 1992, in which third party candidate H. Ross Perot took away 19% of the popular vote from the Republican candidate, incumbent George H.W. Bush. And even though Bill Clinton was twice elected, he never once had a majority of the vote (43.0% in 1992; 49.2% in 1996). More people (the majority of voters) voted against Clinton for President than ever voted for him.
Since the birth of the Republican Party, the average Republican margin of victory over their opponents in Presidential elections has been around 12% to the Democrat's margin of victory over their opponents at around 8%. Also since the birth of the Republican Party, Democrats only garnered a majority of the vote a total of 7 times in 38 elections, while Republicans earned a majority 17 times in those same 38 elections.
In the 20th century, only 7 U.S. Presidents gained a larger margin of victory over their opponents in their second election. Five of those seven were Republicans. It must be noted that this statistic cannot be applied to incumbents who entered office without being elected, as their re-election was actually their first election -- i.e. Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford)
- Nixon from a 0.7% margin of victory in 1968 to a 23.2% MOV in 1972.
- Reagan from a 9.7% MOV in 1980 to a 18.2% MOV in 1984.
- FDR (the only Democrat) from a 17.% MOV in 1932 to a 24.3% MOV in 1936.
- Eisenhower from a 10.7% MOV in 1952 to a 15.4% MOV in 1956.
- McKinley from a 4.2% MOV in 1896 to a 6.1% MOV in 1900.
- Clinton from a 5.6% MOV in 1992 to a 8.5% MOV in 1996.
- GWB from a -0.5% MOV in 2000 to a 2.8% MOV in 2004.
Of the 11 U.S. presidents to be re-elected (i.e. elected a second time) since the Civil War, 7 were Republicans and only 4 Democrats. All seven of those Republicans were re-elected with a higher percentage of the vote , while only 3 of those Democrats received a greater percentage for their re-election bid. And this doesn't even include Franklin Delano Roosevelt's third and fourth terms, where he received less votes in his third term than in his second term, and even less in his fourth term than in his third term.)
The contemporary Republican Party represents a wide array of interests such as the conservative evangelicals and the economic libertarians. The party has had some internal conflict over attitudes about how governments should run and how large they should be, what the party stands for, and what the party's attitude towards neo-conservatism should be especially in regard to foreign policy. The party is also divided over immigration issues with some members (such as George W. Bush) favoring workers visas and permits and some other members favoring strict control of immigration and strong action against illegal immigration.
Presidents from the party
- Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)
- Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)
- Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)
- James Garfield (1881)
- Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885)
- Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)
- William McKinley (1897-1901)
- Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)
- William Howard Taft (1909-1913)
- Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)
- Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)
- Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)
- Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961)
- Richard Nixon (1969-1974)
- Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977)
- Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)
- George H. W. Bush (1989-1993)
- George W. Bush (2001-2009)