Last modified on July 5, 2024, at 23:18

Republican Party

Republican Party
"Republican Party Elephant" logo
Party Chairman Michael Whatley
Senate Leader
House Speaker Mike Johnson
House Leader Steve Scalise
Founded March 20, 1854
Headquarters 310 K Street SE
Washington, D.C.
Political ideology Conservatism
Classical Liberalism
Right-wing populism
Neoconservatism (RINO minority)
Political position Fiscal: Right-wing, Free Market
Social: Centre-Right to Right-wing, Conservative, Libertarian, Patriotic
International affiliation International Democrat Union
Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (regional partner)
Color(s) Red (unofficial)

The Republican Party (R) or informally the GOP (short for Grand Old Party), is one of the two major political parties in the United States and founded on the principles of opportunity, meritocracy and "one person, one vote."

The Republican Party is the only major U.S. political party that is pro-life. The Republican Party is also pro-free enterprise, pro-religious liberty, pro-school choice, pro-Second Amendment, and pro-traditional marriage, while opposing the defunding of police departments. At its first national convention, in 1856, the Republican Party platform stated, "It is the duty of Congress to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery."[1]

The Republican Party was created in 1854 by anti-slavery activists and has always stood for equal rights and the dignity of the individual. It soon swept to control of all the northern states, and in 1860 elected Abraham Lincoln president. The South seceded, and the Union side of the American Civil War was directed by Lincoln and the new party, with help from "War Democrats." The GOP (as it was increasingly made up of veterans of the GAR or Grand Army of the Republic) dominated the elections of the Third Party System (1854–1896) as well as the Fourth Party System or Progressive Era (1896–1932). However, the Democrats built a liberal New Deal Coalition under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and dominated the Fifth Party System (1932–1968), with the GOP only electing Dwight D. Eisenhower in that era. The Sixth Party System, since 1968, has been dominated by the GOP.

Unable to suppress minority voting rights for another century, in the 1960s Democrats sought to make Blacks dependent for food and housing on the Democratic party again with the War on Poverty, as Blacks had been in the pre-Civil War plantation system.[2] Throughout the voter suppression of the Jim Crow era and beyond the War on Poverty, Democrats were always determined that the party that freed the slaves would not become beneficiaries of the Freedmen's vote. The system of economic co-dependency and patronage between white liberal racists and African Americans that existed for centuries was renewed in the mid-1960s.[3] Only now the system of co-dependency was paid for with federal money rather than the private sector plantation system of the pre-Civil War era.[4]

20 of the 30 US Presidents since 1861 have been Republicans and since that same year, a Republican has won 24 of the last 38 presidential elections. The party's most recent candidates Free Soil Republicans Donald Trump of New York, along with his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, won the 2016 presidential election against Southern Democrat challengers Hillary Clinton of Arkansas and her running mate Tim Kaine of Virginia.

It is important to vote for someone who's more conservative on the issues rather than for someone who represents their party only by name due to the fact some Republicans are less conservative and more liberal/progressive than typical Republicans (see: RINO).

1877 Thomas Nast drawing of the Republican elephant.


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.[5] In the early 20th century, the traditional symbol of the Republican party in some Midwestern states was the eagle, as opposed to the Democratic cock (rooster). The eagle still appears on Indiana ballots.

A political term referring to the party is "G.O.P.", which was originally an acronym of "Grand Old Party". The term was coined in 1875.


Donald Trump has made the Republican Party more focused on immigration issues and blue-collar worker issues.

The Republican Party was established to successfully end the relics of slavery, barbarism and polygamy. Historically, the fundamental philosophy and political ideals of the Republican Party are founded on the idea that societal health is rooted in personal responsibility and actions. The Republican Party holds the belief that all material things are earned, not owed. This 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. President Ronald Reagan who became a Republican in the early 1960s after being a New Dealer at one time, 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 conservative foreign policy, including War on Terror, liberating of Afghanistan and Iraq, and strong support for democracy, especially in the Middle East. Many party members and politicians have shown a distrust of the United Nations due to the organization's incompetent bureaucracy, anti-capitalist undertone, corruption on the Security Council and in UN humanitarian programs. Along with demanding radical reforms in the UN, many Republican politicians also opposes the Kyoto Protocol due the protocol's unfair application to certain countries (especially the United States) and the fact that it prevents economic growth and slows the reduction of poverty.

The Republican Party generally supported free trade to promote democracy, 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, support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage at the federal level and by the states, favor faith-based charitable initiatives, support school choice and homeschooling, social welfare benefit reform, and oppose reverse racism, such as 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. Many in the party think it is unethical to force taxpayers 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.

In recent years, the Republican party has downplayed its emphasis on small government. Under the administration of George W. Bush, the federal government has been expanded to record levels, surpassing even the Great Depression era.[6] Additionally, the Bush administration has acted to nationalize the country's banking institutions in an effort to stymie the decline of the U.S. economy[7]

In 2016, the Republican Party adopted the most pro-life party platform in its entire history, with strong language recognizing the right to life of unborn human beings and condemning Planned Parenthood.[8] Between 1995 and 2018, the GOP become significantly more pro-life on the issue.[9]

Contrary to the claims of liberals and Democrats, the GOP better represent the poor in the U.S., while Democrats represent the wealthy.[10]


GOP Presidents by Andy Thomas; clockwise from right: Nixon, Ford, Lincoln, GHW Bush, Reagan, GW Bush, Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt

The party began in 1854, at the start of the Third Party System. The GOP (or "Grand Old Party" as it was nicknamed after 1880 by veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic, the GAR) dominated national politics as the victors of the American Civil War, including most of the Fourth Party System until 1932. Then the Fifth Party System (or "New Deal Coalition") was dominant until the late 1960s. Since 1968 the GOP has won 8 of 13 presidential elections (losing in 1976, 1992, 1996, 2008 and 2012). Its great rival is the party of segregation, slavery, Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan, the Democrat Party.

Third Party System: 1854–1896

The Republican party began as a spontaneous grassroots protest against the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed slavery into western territories where it had been forbidden by earlier compromises. The creation of the new party, along with the death of the Whig Party, realigned American politics. The central issues were new, as were the voter alignments, and the balance of power in Congress. The central issues became slavery, race, civil war and the reconstruction of the Union into a more powerful nation, with rules changed that gave the vote to Blacks and former slaves.

Issues: Slavery

Republican activists denounced the Kansas-Nebraska act as proof of the power of the Slave Power—the powerful class of slaveholders who were conspiring to control the federal government and to spread slavery nationwide. The name "Republican" gained such favor in 1854 because "republicanism" was the paramount political value the new party meant to uphold. The name also echoed the former Jeffersonian party of the First Party System. The party founders adopted the name "Republican" to indicate it was the carrier of "republican" beliefs about civic virtue, and opposition to aristocracy and corruption.[11]

Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president

Two small cities of the Yankee diaspora, Ripon, Wisconsin, and Jackson, Michigan, claim the birthplace honors.[12] Ripon held the first county convention on March 20, 1854. Jackson held the first statewide convention where delegates on July 6, 1854, declared their new party opposed to the expansion of slavery into new territories and selected a statewide slate of candidates. The Midwest took the lead in forming state party tickets, while the eastern states lagged a year or so. There were no efforts to organize the party in the South, apart from a few areas adjacent to free states. The new party was sectional, based in the northeast and northern Midwest—areas with a strong Yankee presence. It had only scattered support in slave states before the Civil War.[13]

The first presidential nomination in 1856 when to an obscure western explorer John C. Fremont, as the party crusaded against the Slave Power with the slogan, "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free men, Fremont and victory!" Democrats warned darkly that disunion and Civil War would result. The remnants of the Know Nothing movement prevented the new party from sweeping the North, and the Democrats elected James Buchanan. By 1858 the Know Nothings were gone and the Republicans swept the North. The 1860 election seemed a certain victory, for the party had majorities in states with a majority of the electoral votes. In the event, the opposition split three ways, and Abraham Lincoln coasted to an easy victory, carrying 18 states with 190 electoral votes, while the opposition carried 15 states (mostly in the South) with 123 electoral votes. Lincoln had 1.9 million popular votes.


Besides opposition to slavery, the new party put forward a modernizing vision—emphasizing higher education, banking, railroads, industry and cities, while promising free homesteads to farmers. It vigorously argued that free-market labor was superior to slavery and the very foundation of civic virtue and true American values - this is the "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men" ideology explored by historian Eric Foner.[14] The Republicans absorbed the previous traditions of its members, most of whom had been Whigs, and some of whom had been Democrats or members of third parties (especially the Free Soil Party and Know-Nothings (American Party). Many Democrats who joined up were rewarded with governorships.[15] or seats in the U.S. Senate.[16] Since its inception, its chief opposition has been the Democratic Party, but the amount of flow back and forth of prominent politicians between the two parties was quite high from 1854 to 1896.

Ethnocultural voting

Historians have explored the ethnocultural foundations of the party, along the line that ethnic and religious groups set the moral standards for their members, who then carried those standards into politics. The churches also provided social networks that politicians used to sign up voters. The pietistic churches, heavily influenced by the revivals of the Second Great Awakening, emphasized the duty of the Christian to purge sin from society. Sin took many forms—alcoholism, polygamy and slavery became special targets for the Republicans. The Yankees, who dominated New England, much of upstate New York, and much of the upper Midwest were the strongest supporters of the new party. This was especially true for the pietistic Congregationalists and Presbyterians among them and (during the war), the Methodists, along with Scandinavian Lutherans. The Quakers were a small tight-knit group that was heavily Republican. The liturgical churches (Roman Catholic, Episcopal, German Lutheran), by contrast, largely rejected the moralism of the GOP; most of their adherents voted Democratic.[17]

Politics 1854–1860

John C. Frémont ran as the first Republican nominee 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 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 1856-60 as a divisive force that threatened civil war. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 ended the domination of the fragile coalition of pro-slavery southern Democrats and conciliatory northern Democrats which had existed since the days of Andrew Jackson. Instead, a new era of Republican dominance based in the industrial and agricultural north ensued. Republicans still often refer to their party as the "party of Lincoln" in honor of the first Republican President.

See also: Third Party System

Civil War: 1861–1865

Lincoln proved brilliantly successful in uniting the factions of his party to fight for the Union.[18] However he usually fought the Radical Republicans who demanded harsher measures. Most Democrats at first were War Democrats, and supportive until the fall of 1862. When Lincoln added the abolition of slavery as a war goal, many war Democrats became "peace Democrats." All the state Republican parties accepted the antislavery goal except Kentucky. In Congress, the party passed major legislation to promote rapid modernization, including a national banking system, high tariffs, an income tax, many excise taxes, paper money issued without backing ("greenbacks"), a huge national debt, homestead laws, and aid to education and agriculture. The Republicans denounced the peace-oriented Democrats as Copperheads and won enough War Democrats to maintain their majority in 1862; in 1864, they formed a coalition with many War Democrats as the "National Union Party" which reelected Lincoln easily, then folded back into the Republican party. During the war, upper-middle-class men in major cities formed Union Leagues, to promote and help finance the war effort.

Reconstruction: Blacks, Carpetbaggers and Scalawags

A cartoon threatening that the KKK will lynch scalawags (left) and carpetbaggers (right) on March 4, 1869, the day President Grant takes office. Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Independent Monitor, September 1, 1868. A full-scale scholarly history analyzes the cartoonː Guy W. Hubbs, Searching for Freedom after the Civil War: Klansman, Carpetbagger, Scalawag, and Freedman (2015).[19]

In Reconstruction, how to deal with the ex-Confederates and the freed slaves, or Freedmen, were the major issues. By 1864, Radical Republicans controlled Congress and demanded more aggressive action against slavery, and more vengeance toward the Confederates. Lincoln held them off, but just barely. Republicans at first welcomed President Andrew Johnson; the Radicals thought he was one of them and would take a hard line in punishing the South. Johnson, however, broke with them and formed a loose alliance with moderate Republicans and Democrats. 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 the veto. Johnson was impeached by the House, but acquitted by the Senate. With the election of Ulysses S. Grant in 1868, the Radicals had control of Congress, the party and the Army, and attempted to build a solid Republican base in the South using the votes of Freedmen, Scalawags and Carpetbaggers, supported directly by U.S. Army detachments. Republicans all across the South formed local clubs called Union Leagues that effectively mobilized the voters, discussed issues, and when necessary fought off Ku Klux Klan attacks. Thousands died on both sides.

Grant supported radical reconstruction programs in the South, the 14th Amendment, and equal civil and voting rights for the freedmen. Most of all he was the hero of the war veterans, who marched to his tune. The party had become so large that factionalism was inevitable; it was hastened by Grant's tolerance of high levels of corruption typified by the Whiskey Ring. The "Liberal Republicans" split off in 1872 on the grounds that it was time to declare the war finished and bring the troops home. Many of the founders of the GOP joined the movement, as did many powerful newspaper editors. They nominated Horace Greeley, who gained unofficial Democratic support, but was defeated in a landslide. The depression of 1873 energized the Democrats. They won control of the House and formed "Redeemer" coalitions which recaptured control of each southern state, in some cases using threats and violence.

Reconstruction came to an end when the contested election of 1876 was awarded by a special electoral commission 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.

In terms of racial issues, "White Republicans as well as Democrats solicited black votes but reluctantly rewarded blacks with nominations for office only when necessary, even then reserving the more choice positions for whites. The results were predictable: these half-a-loaf gestures satisfied neither black nor white Republicans. The fatal weakness of the Republican party in Alabama, as elsewhere in the South, was its inability to create a biracial political party. And while in power even briefly, they failed to protect their members from Democratic terror. Alabama Republicans were forever on the defensive, verbally and physically." [Woolfolk p 134]

Social pressure eventually forced most Scalawags to join the conservative/Democratic Redeemer coalition. A minority persisted and formed the "tan" half of the "Black and Tan" Republican party, a minority in every southern state after 1877. (DeSantis 1998)

Gilded Age: 1877–1894

The "GOP" (as it was now nicknamed) split into factions in the late 1870s. The Stalwarts, followers of Senator Conkling, defended the spoils system. The Half-Breeds, who followed Senator James G. Blaine of Maine, pushed for civil service reform. Independents who opposed the spoils system altogether were called "Mugwumps". In 1884 they rejected James G. Blaine as corrupt and helped elect Democrat Grover Cleveland; most returned to the party by 1888.

As the Northern post-bellum economy boomed with heavy and light 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. They supported free enterprise generally, hard money (i.e. the gold standard), high tariffs, and high pensions for Union veterans. By 1890, however, the Republicans had agreed to reform with the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the Interstate Commerce Commission, in response to complaints of large enterprise monopoly control by small business owners and farmers. The high McKinley Tariff of 1890 hurt the party and the Democrats swept to a landslide in the off-year elections, even defeating McKinley himself.

Ethnocultural Voters: pietistic Republicans versus liturgical 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 Catholics, especially Irish Americans, who ran the Democrat Party in every big city, 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 Democrats, and outnumbered the English and Scandinavian Republicans. 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). Religious lines were sharply drawn [Kleppner 1979]. Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Scandinavian Lutherans and other pietists in the North were tightly linked to the GOP. In sharp contrast, liturgical groups, especially the Catholics, Episcopalians, and German Lutherans, looked to the Democratic party for protection from pietistic moralism, especially prohibition. Both parties cut across the class structure, with the Democrats more bottom-heavy.

Cultural issues, especially prohibition and foreign language schools became important because of the sharp religious divisions in the electorate. In the North, about 50% of the voters were pietistic Protestants (Methodists, Scandinavian Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Disciples of Christ) who believed the government should be used to reduce social sins, such as drinking. Liturgical churches (Roman Catholics, German Lutherans, Episcopalians) comprised over a quarter of the vote and wanted the government to stay out of the morality business. Prohibition debates and referenda heated up politics in most states over a period of decades, as national prohibition was finally passed in 1918 (and repealed in 1932), serving as a major issue between the wet Democrats and the dry GOP.[20]

Fourth Party System: 1896–1932: The Progressive Era

The election of William McKinley in 1896 was a realigning election that changed the balance of power, and introduced new rules, new issues and new leaders. It did not, however, see the emergence of a new major party. The Republican sweep of the 1894 Congressional elections presaged the McKinley landslide of 1896, which was repeated in 1900, thus locking the GOP in full control of the national government and most northern state governments. The GOP made major gains as well in the border states. The Fourth Party System was dominated by Republican presidents, with the exception of the two terms of Democrat segregationist Woodrow Wilson, 1912-1920.

McKinley and realignment

McKinley promised that high tariffs would end the severe hardship caused by the Panic of 1893, and that the GOP would guarantee pluralism in which all groups would benefit. He denounced William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic nominee, as a dangerous radical whose plans for "Free Silver" at 16-1 (or Bimetallism) would bankrupt the economy.

McKinley relied heavily on industry and the middle classes for his support and cemented the Republicans as the party of liberty; his campaign manager, Ohio's Mark 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.

Progressive Republicans

At the dawn of the 20th century, the Republican Party was regulating monopolies and promoting civil service reform, with progressivism finding a home within the GOP.

Theodore Roosevelt, who became president in 1901, had the most dynamic personality in the nation. Roosevelt had to contend with men like Senator Mark Hanna, whom he outmaneuvered to gain control of the convention in 1904 that renominated him. More difficult to handle was conservative House Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon.

When Booker T. Washington's autobiography, Up From Slavery, was published in 1901, it became a bestseller and had a major impact on the African American community, and its friends and allies. Washington in 1901 was the first African-American ever invited to the White House as the guest of President Theodore Roosevelt – white Democrats complained loudly, although Washington remained as an advisor to Roosevelt.[21]

Roosevelt achieved modest legislative gains in terms of railroad legislation and pure food laws. He was more successful in Court, bringing antitrust suits that broke up the Northern Securities trust and Standard Oil. Roosevelt moved left in his last two years in office but was unable to pass major Square Deal proposals.

Roosevelt did succeed in naming his successor Secretary of War William Howard Taft who easily defeated Bryan again in 1908.

Progressive insurgents vs. Conservatives

The GOP was divided between insurgents and stand-patters (liberals and conservatives, to use 21st-century terms). Theodore Roosevelt was an enormously popular president (1901–1909), and he transferred the office to William Howard Taft. Taft, however, did not have TR's enormous popularity nor his ability to bring rival factions together. When Taft sided with the standpatters under Speaker Joe Cannon and Senate leader Nelson Aldrich, the insurgents revolted. Led by George Norris the insurgents took control of the House away from Cannon and imposed a new system whereby committee chairmanships depended on seniority (years of membership on the committee), rather than party loyalty.

The tariff issue was pulling the GOP apart. Roosevelt tried to postpone the issue but Taft had to meet it head on in 1909 with the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act. Eastern conservatives led by Nelson A. Aldrich wanted high tariffs on manufactured goods (especially woolens), while Midwesterners called for low tariffs. Aldrich tricked them by lowering the tariff on farm products, which outraged the farmers. In a stunning comeback, the Democrats won control of the House in 1910, as the GOP rift between insurgents and conservatives widened.

Roosevelt sided with the insurgents and, after long indecision, decided to run against Taft for the 1912 nomination. Roosevelt had to steamroll over insurgent Senator Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin, turning an ally into an enemy. Taft outmaneuvered Roosevelt and controlled the convention. Roosevelt walked out and formed a third party, the "Progressive" or "Bull Moose" party. Very few officeholders supported him, and the new party collapsed by 1914. With the GOP vote divided in half, Democrat Woodrow Wilson easily won the 1912 election, and was narrowly reelected in 1916.

With the defeat of Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Bull Moose party, along with the election of Woodrow Wilson, the parties switched progressive leadership, and the Democrat Party has been the party of big government ever since.

State and local politics

The Republicans welcomed the Progressive Era at the state and local level. The first important reform mayor was Hazen S. Pingree of Detroit (1890–97) who was elected governor of Michigan in 1896. In New York City the Republicans joined nonpartisan reformers to battle Tammany Hall, and elected Seth Low (1902–03). Samuel "Golden Rule" Jones was first elected mayor of Toledo as a Republican in 1897, but was re-elected as an independent when his party refused to renominate him. In Iowa Senator Albert Cummins came up with the "Iowa Idea" that blamed the trust or monopoly problem on the high tariff, angering the eastern industrialists and factory workers. Many Republican civic leaders, following the example of Mark Hanna, were active in the National Civic Federation, which promoted urban reforms and sought to avoid wasteful strikes.

Harding-Coolidge-Hoover, 1920–1932

The party controlled the presidency throughout the 1920s, running on a limited government platform, 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 the elections of 1920, 1924 and 1928 as the Democrats were deeply split on prohibition and religion. Running on a campaign of returning to normalcy, Harding and Coolidge led a repudiation election of both the war as well as the big government progressivism of Woodrow Wilson.[22][23]

Calvin Coolidge

The breakaway efforts of Senator Robert LaFollette in 1924 failed to stop a landslide for Coolidge, and his movement fell apart. The Teapot Dome Scandal threatened to hurt the party but Harding died and Coolidge blamed everything on him, as the opposition splintered in 1924. The pro-business policies of the decade seemed to produce unprecedented prosperity—until the Wall Street Crash of 1929 heralded the Great Depression. 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. By 1932 the cities—for the first time ever—had become Democratic strongholds.

The African American vote held for Hoover in 1932, but started moving toward Roosevelt. By 1940 the majority of northern blacks were voting Democrat. Southern blacks who could vote (in border states) were split; disenfranchised blacks in the South probably preferred the Republicans.

The Great Depression cost Hoover the presidency with the 1932 landslide election of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt's New Deal coalition controlled American politics for most of the next three decades, excepting the two-term presidency of Republican Dwight Eisenhower.

Fifth Party System: 1932–1980

Graham Jackson shedding tears at news of FDR's death. The photo was widely circulated in Life magazine and interpreted to mean even Republicans cried at the death of FDR. It was later re-circulated in the 1960s to create the myth that African Americans were beneficiaries and part of the New Deal coalition. New Deal programs often specifically excluded Blacks by legislation passed by the Democrat Congress.[24]

Minority parties tend to factionalize and after 1936 the GOP split into a conservative faction (dominant in the West and Southeast) and a liberal faction (dominant in the Northeast) – combined with a residual base of inherited progressive Republicanism active throughout the century. In 1936 Kansas governor Alf Landon and his young followers defeated the Herbert Hoover faction. Landon generally supported most New Deal programs, but carried only two states in the Roosevelt landslide.

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, governor of New York, represented the Northeastern wing of the party. 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 1939-40. After the war, the isolationists wing strenuously opposed the United Nations, and was half-hearted in opposition to world Communism. Senator William F. Knowland of California, sobriquet Senator from Formosa (Taiwan).

Dwight Eisenhower, an internationalist allied with the Dewey wing, challenged Taft in 1952 on foreign policy issues. The two men were not far apart on domestic issues. Eisenhower's victory broke a 20-year Democrat lock on the White House. Eisenhower did not try to roll back the New Deal, but he did expand the Social Security system and built the Interstate Highway system.

The conservatives in 1964 made a comeback under the leadership of Barry Goldwater who defeated Nelson Rockefeller as the Republican candidate in the 1964 presidential convention. 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.

Any long-term movement toward the GOP was interrupted by the Watergate Scandal, which forced Nixon to resign in 1974 under threat of impeachment. Gerald Ford succeeded Nixon and gave him a full pardon—thereby giving the Democrats a powerful issue they used to sweep the 1974 off-year elections. Ford never fully recovered, and in 1976 he barely defeated Ronald Reagan for the nomination. The taint of Watergate and the nation's economic difficulties contributed to the election of Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976, running as a Washington outsider.

Civil Rights

Dr. Martin Luther King's meeting with Vice President Nixon marked national recognition of King as leader of the civil rights movement.[25]

Vice President Richard Nixon invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Washington, D.C., for a meeting on 13 June 1957. This meeting, described by Bayard Rustin as a “summit conference,” marked national recognition of King's role in the civil rights movement (Rustin, 13 June 1957). Seeking support for a voter registration initiative in the South, King appealed to Nixon to urge Republicans in Congress to pass the 1957 Civil Rights Act and to visit the South to express support for civil rights. Optimistic about Nixon's commitment to improving race relations in the United States, King told Nixon, “How deeply grateful all people of goodwill are to you for your assiduous labor and dauntless courage in seeking to make the civil rights bill a reality.”

Republican Attorney General Herbert Brownell originally proposed the Civil Rights Act of 1957. The bill passed 285–126 in the House with Republicans providing the majority of votes 167–19 and Democrats 118–107.[26] It then passed 72–18 in the Senate, with Republicans again supplying the majority of votes, 43–0 and Democrats voting 29–18. John Kennedy voted for the jury trial amendment which gutted Title IV concerning voting rights, rendering meaningless any efforts to secure injunctions against vote suppression.[27] It was the first federal civil rights legislation passed by the United States Congress since the Republicans passed the Civil Rights Act of 1875.

Strength of Parties 1977

How the Two Parties Stood after the 1976 Election:

Party Republican Democrat Independent
Party ID (Gallup) 22% 47% 31%
House 143 292
Senate 38 62
 % House popular vote nationally 42% 56% 2%
in the East 41% 57% 2%
in the South 37% 62% 2%
in the Midwest 47% 52% 1%
in the West 43% 55% 2%
Governors 12 37 1
State Legislators 2,370 5,128 55
31% 68% 1%
State legislature control 18 80 1 *
in the East 5 13 0
in the South 0 32 0
in the Midwest 5 17 1 *
in the West 8 18 0
States' one party control
of legislature and governorship
1 29 0

*The unicameral Nebraska legislature, in fact controlled by the Republicans, is technically nonpartisan.

Source: Everett Carll Ladd Jr. Where Have All the Voters Gone? The Fracturing of America's Political Parties (1978) p. 6

Moderate Republicans of 1960–80

Nelson Rockefeller

The term Rockefeller Republican was used mainly during 1960–80 to designate a faction of the party holding "moderate" views similar to those of the late Nelson Rockefeller, governor of New York from 1959 to 1974 and vice president under President Gerald Ford in 1974–77. Before Rockefeller, Tom Dewey, governor of New York 1942–54 and GOP presidential nominee in 1944 and 1948 was the leader. Dwight Eisenhower reflected many of their views. An important leader in the 1950s was Connecticut Republican Senator Prescott Bush, father and grandfather of presidents of George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. After Rockefeller left the national stage in 1976, this faction of the party was more often called "moderate Republicans," in contrast to the conservatives who rallied to Ronald Reagan.

Historically, Rockefeller Republicans were moderate or liberal on domestic and social policies. They favored New Deal programs, including regulation and welfare. They were very strong supporters of civil rights. They were strongly supported by big business on Wall Street (New York City). In fiscal policy, they favored balanced budgets and relatively high tax levels to keep the budget balanced. They sought long-term economic growth through entrepreneurship, not tax cuts. In state politics, they were strong supporters of state colleges and universities, low tuition, and large research budgets. They favored infrastructure improvements, such as highway projects. In foreign policy, they were internationalists and anti-Communists. They felt the best way to counter Communism was sponsoring economic growth (through foreign aid), maintaining a strong military, and keeping close ties to NATO. Geographically their base was the Northeast, from Pennsylvania to Maine.


The suburban electorate passed the city electorate in the 1950s, as Eisenhower showed unusual strength there. The history of suburban politics is encapsulated in Nassau County (New York), just east of New York City, where a moderate Republican party machine operated. Despite predictions that the New Deal spelled the demise of the political machine, Nassau provided fertile ground for a party organization that rivaled its big-city Democrat counterparts. The traditionally GOP county underwent a booming expansion during 1945–60, with an influx of new residents, many with previous Democrat Party affiliations. In established villages and new housing developments such as Levittown, under the canny leadership of J. Russel Sprague, the party used patronage and community organizing techniques to build its base among ethnic voters, young people, and new homeowners. The party expanded beyond its white Protestant base, with Italian Americans becoming particularly prominent in party leadership. Sprague was both party leader and county executive. That post was created in 1936 under a new charter engineered by Sprague to update a municipal apparatus unable to meet the infrastructure and development needs of a county that by 1960 had 1.3 million residents. Democrats and reformers had promoted charter revision for decades, and some consolidation of government services did take place. As county "boss," Sprague ruled with an iron hand. Nassau's pluralities for such candidates as Governor Thomas E. Dewey and President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Sprague's fundraising prowess made him a force in national party politics. He advocated a moderate, middle-of-the-road position that recognized expectations created by the New Deal while criticizing what were claimed to be Democrat excesses. After leaving elective office and party leadership, Sprague became a major campaign issue when the Democrats, in a 1961 historic upset, won the county executive post by both lambasting Sprague, tainted by a racetrack-stock scandal, and criticizing the developer-friendly "Spragueland" regime that had governed Nassau for decades. Soon after Sprague died in 1969, the Nassau GOP regained its control of the county government and reestablished virtual one-party rule until the 1990s.[28]

An even longer reign of power characterized GOP machine control of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, a rural and suburban area south of Philadelphia. William McClure controlled the GOP from 1875 until his death in 1907; his son John J. McClure, was in control from 1907 until his death in 1965. McLarnon (1998) has four main findings. First, political machines were not confined to big cities; the demographic and political peculiarities of suburban counties lent themselves to continued domination by political machines long after the heyday of the city machine had passed. Secondly, neither the New Deal, immigration restriction, nor the rise of organized labor destroyed all the old Republican machines. Delaware was one of several similar counties in southeastern Pennsylvania where the GOP continued to hold sway throughout the 20th century. Thirdly, not all blacks switched their electoral loyalties to the Democrat Party in 1936. The black population of Chester, Delaware County's industrial city, generally voted Republican for offices below the presidential level. Finally, the citizens of Delaware County supported and continues to support the Republican machine because the machine delivered and continues to deliver those things that the citizens want most. At the beginning of the century, the machine provided food, work, and police protection to Chester's European and black immigrants. During Prohibition, it supplied the county with liquor. Through the Depression, patronage and close alliances with local industrialists kept a significant portion of machine loyalists employed. In the 1950s and 1960s the machine kept taxes low, initiated a war on organized vice, successfully defeated all threats to home rule, and discouraged blacks from settling in historically white communities. The trash was collected, the snow plowed, the streets repaired. The buses ran on time, the playgrounds and parks were clean, and the schools acceptably average. These were the most important concerns of a majority of county's citizens. While the citizens and their concerns changed over time, two things seem to have remained constant: the McClures', and their successors' ability to read and react to the needs of the electorate; and the fact that rarely, if ever, has a desire for honest, democratic government been high on Delaware County voters' list of priorities.[29]

The first southern states to trend Republican were on the periphery: North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, and Florida. Democrat George Wallace lost these voters in his 1968 presidential bid. The voters who first migrated to the Republican party were suburban, prosperous New South types. The more Republican the South has become, the less racist.[30]

Rise of the right

Barry Goldwater

Barry Goldwater crusaded against the Rockefeller Republicans, beating Rockefeller narrowly in the California primary of 1964. That set the stage for a conservative resurgence, based in the South and West, in opposition to the Northeast. Brennan (1995) stresses that conservatives in the late 1950s and early 1960s had many internal problems to overcome before they could mount an effective challenge to the hegemony of the distrusted Eastern Establishment, typified by Nelson A. Rockefeller. The conservative movement had some newspapers and magazines (especially William F. Buckley's National Review) and one charismatic national leader, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. The movement gained momentum once they had established a unity out of diverse elements on the Right with a common commitment to a militant anti-Communism, and once they had succeeded in mobilizing a grassroots base inside a number of state and local organizations in the Sun Belt on behalf of a draft Goldwater campaign in 1960. Although Nixon was acceptable to the conservatives, they worried that he compromised with Rockefeller in 1960. His defeat in 1960 removed a major obstacle and also gave ammunition to those who wanted "a choice, not an echo" (to echo a Goldwater slogan). After 1960 liberals and moderates in the Republican party failed to appreciate the magnitude of the challenge they faced on the grass-roots level. Taking up media bias, they too equated their conservative opponents in the party with the "lunatic fringe" and did not take them seriously until they found themselves deposed by a grassroots insurgency of the sort unknown in the party since 1912.[31] Goldwater's landslide defeat opened the way to a liberal Democrat resurgence, but did little to help the liberal wing of the GOP. The failures of the Great Society, especially a wave of major urban riots and a surge in violent crime, led to major gains in 1966, and to Nixon's election in the chaotic 1968 election. The Democrats became deeply divided on the Vietnam war (which did not divide the GOP), and on issues of race, when Alabamian George C. Wallace set up a third party that carried much of the deep South.

As Goldwater faded to a lesser role after 1964, a new conservative hero emerged: in the largest and most trendy state film star Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California in 1966 and reelected in 1970.

With the rise of conservatism, the national Republican Party became more ideologically homogeneous. This change occurred as conservative politicians and voters joined the party and their liberal counterparts abandoned the GOP. Events in New York State during the 1960s and 1970s facilitated this transformation. Here, ideological conservatives formed a third party for the express purpose of changing a state GOP that both symbolized and contributed to the national GOP's liberal viewpoint. The Conservative Party relied on the state's unique election law to crash the New York GOP, either by forcing its way in or by imposing a lethal electoral price. The GOP-Conservative Party relationship began in 1962 at sword's point but achieved a high degree of harmony in 1980. Initially, New York Republicans, led by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, successfully marginalized the new party. As the conservative movement matured, however, the balance of power began to shift. When Nixon was elected president in 1968, the Conservative Party gained an external ally who proved invaluable. The third party achieved partial acceptance in 1970 with the election of James Buckley to the Senate. For much of the ensuing decade, however, Conservatives struggled with success suffering a series of damaging setbacks. Only in the late 1970s, did the party recover when it embraced a more modest agenda. Finally, the 1980 election settled the overall contours of the relationship between the two parties. Conservatives formed their party to force the state GOP to the right, to drive liberal Republicans from office, and allow ideologically conservative national Republicans to succeed in the state. By 1980, it had achieved these goals changing the nature of politics in the state. This resolution affected politics beyond the state by diminishing the importance of ideological liberals in the national GOP, thus freeing a more ideologically consistent national Republican Party to promote the rise of conservatism.[32]

Sixth Party System

Realignment: Republican inroads in the Solid South

See also: The South#Politics

In the century after Reconstruction ended in 1877, the white South identified with the Democrat Party. The Democrats' lock on power was so strong, the region was called the "Solid South." The Republicans controlled certain parts of the Appalachian and Ozark mountains (where slavery was never strong during the Civil War due to the lack of large plots of fertile soil), but they sometimes did compete for statewide office in the border states. Before 1964, the southern Democrats saw their party as the defender of the southern way of life, which included a respect for states' rights and an appreciation for traditional southern values. They repeatedly warned against the aggressive designs of Northern liberals and Republicans, as well as the civil rights activists they denounced as "outside agitators." Thus there was a serious barrier to becoming a Republican.

However, since 1964, the Democrat lock on the South has been broken. The long-term cause was that the region was becoming more like the rest of the nation and could not long stand apart in terms of racial segregation. Modernization that brought factories, businesses, and cities, and millions of migrants from the North; far more people graduated from high school and college. Meanwhile, the cotton and tobacco basis of the traditional South faded away, as former farmers moved to town or commuted to factory jobs. While liberal academics allege that the shift of the South to the Republican Party began in the 1960s, the evidence that it really began in the 1920s and the 1950s is undeniable.[33]


The immediate cause of the political transition involved civil rights. The civil rights movement caused enormous controversy among southern Democrats with many attacking it as a violation of states' rights. When segregation was outlawed by a Republican appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice and by the bi-partisan Civil Rights acts of 1964 and 1965, a die-hard element resisted integration, led by Democrat governors Orval Faubus of Arkansas, Lester Maddox of Georgia, and, especially George Wallace of Alabama. These governors appealed to a less-educated, blue-collar electorate that on economic grounds was dependent on the Democrat Party, but opposed segregation. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act, most Southerners accepted the integration of most institutions, except public schools. With the old barrier to becoming a Republican removed, traditional Southerners joined the new middle class and the Northern transplants in moving toward the Republican party. Integration thus liberated Southern politics, just as Martin Luther King had promised. Meanwhile, the newly enfranchized black voters were bought off with Johnson's War on Poverty and supported Democrat candidates at the 85-90% level.

The South's transition to a Republican stronghold took decades. First the states started voting Republican in presidential elections—the Democrats countered that with a Southern Strategy that could carry some states in the region, such as Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980, and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996; the strategy did not work with Al Gore in 2000, or John Edwards in 2004. Barack Obama held Florida, North Carolina and Virginia and a sweep of House and Senate seats.

Since the 1970s some states elected Republican senators. Republicans made some inroads into legislatures and governorships and gerrymandering protected the African American and Hispanic vote (as required by the Civil Rights laws), but split up the remaining white Democrats so that Republicans mostly would win. In 2006 the Supreme Court endorsed nearly all of the redistricting engineered by Tom DeLay that swung the Texas Congressional delegation to the GOP in 2004.

In addition to its white middle-class base, Republicans attracted strong majorities from the evangelical Christian vote, which had been nonpolitical before 1980. The national Democrat Party's support for liberal social stances such as abortion drove many former Democrats into a Republican party that was embracing the conservative views on these issues. Conversely, liberal Republicans in the northeast began to join the Democrat Party. In 1969 in The Emerging Republican Majority, Kevin Phillips, argued that support from Southern whites and growth in the Sun Belt, among other factors, was driving an enduring Republican electoral realignment. Today, the South is again solid, but the reliable support is for Republican presidential candidates. Exit polls in 2004 showed that Bush led Kerry by 70-30% among whites, who comprised 71% of the Southern voters. Kerry had a 90-9% lead among the 18% of the voters who were black. One-third of the Southerners said they were white evangelicals; they voted for Bush by 80-20%.[34]

Despite the shift towards the Republican Party on the presidential level, the South remained solidly Democratic on the state level through the 1980s, 1990s, and even into the 2000s in several states.[35] The Republican Party only became dominant in the state-level in the 2010 elections, when it captured several state legislatures, among many other victories.[36] After the 2014 elections, the GOP controlled every state legislature in the South with the sole exception of the Kentucky State House, in which the Democrats maintained a slim majority.[36] Additionally by 2015, the GOP was dominant in every level of government across the South.[36][37] In 2016, the GOP took the Kentucky State House in a landslide, making every legislature in the South GOP-controlled.[38][39]

Reagan Era

Main article: Reagan Era

In 1980, Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination and easily beat Carter and a breakaway Republican 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 Democrat 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,[40] meaning Reagan came within fewer than 3,800 votes of winning in all fifty states.

Reagan opened his presidency proclaiming "Government is the problem".

Running on a "Peace Through Strength" platform to combat the Communist threat and massive tax cuts to revitalize the economy, Reagan's strong but genial persona proved too much for the ineffective and sour Carter in 1980. Reagan's election also gave Republicans control of the Senate for the first time in decades. Dubbed the "Reagan Revolution" he fundamentally altered several long standing debates in Washington, namely dealing with the Soviet threat and reviving the economy. His election saw the conservative wing of the party gain control. While reviled by liberal opponents in his day, his proponents contend his programs provided unprecedented economic growth, and spurred the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Currently regarded as one of the most popular and successful presidents in the modern era (1960–present), he inspired Conservatives to greater electoral victories by being re-elected in a landslide against Walter Mondale in 1984 but oversaw the loss of the Senate in 1986.

The so-called "Reagan Democrats" were Democrats before the Reagan years, and afterward, but who voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 (and for George H.W. Bush in 1988), producing their landslide victories. They were primarily Southern Democrats and ethnic Catholics in the Northeast and were frustrated by their seeing abandonment on cultural issues by the Democrat Party's national leaders.

Reagan's Vice-President, George H.W. Bush, a World War II war hero, was elected in 1988 but was defeated in 1992 as domestic issues took prominence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and end of the Cold War. Democrat challenger Bill Clinton strategically repositioned the Democrats to the right. Ross Perot's candidacy was instrumental in Clinton's victory as he took Republican votes with his criticism of deficits and the free trade movement. Perot won 19% of the popular vote, and Clinton, still a largely unknown quantity in American politics with 41% of! the popular vote took office. Despite his loss, Bush left office in 1993 with a 56 percent job approval rating.

The Gingrich revolution

Main articles: Republican Revolution (1994) and Contract with America

House Republican Minority Whip Newt Gingrich-led the "Republican Revolution" of 1994 and its famous Contract with America. It was the first time since the 1952 elections that the Republicans secured control of both houses of Congress, which, with the brief exception of the Senate during 2001-2002, lasted until the 2006 mid-term elections. Democrats had 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 the 1994 mid-term election, Republican congressional candidates ran on a platform of promising floor votes to force members of Congress to go on record on a series of popular reforms—something the Democrats had stifled for decades. These measures and others formed the Contract with America, which represented the first effort to have a party platform in a mid-term election. Seven of the ten Contract items actually became Law. The budget reforms, coupled with reduced defense spending after the Cold War, and the earlier Reagan Tax Cuts for Business Research and Development in the 1980s, led to a high tech consumer boom, rising incomes for all groups, and unprecedented, sustained economic growth in the late 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. One Contract item, which required Democrats in a two-thirds majority to pass a Constitutional amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress, failed.

In 1995, a budget battle with President 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 ensuring Clinton another term after the majority of Americans voters voted against him.

War on Terror

Main article: War on Terror

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 2001, Republicans lost control of the Senate by a single seat.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorist attacks on the United States, however, Bush pursued a "War on Terrorism" that included the liberation of Afghanistan from the radical Islamic Taliban regime and the USA 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 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 United States presidential election, 2004 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, 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, won 251 Electoral votes and 48% of the popular vote to Bush's 51%. It was the first time anyone won a popular majority since 1988. 2004 marked the seventh consecutive election in which the Democrat nominee failed to reach that threshold.

The wilderness years 2009–2010

After smashing defeats in 2006 and 2008, the GOP lost control of Congress, the White House, and many states. They confronted the president, who still retained some popularity, but were able to chip away at support for his domestic policies, as the recession of 2008 dragged on. In June 2009, public opinion was favorable toward Obama personally but increasingly dubious about his plans to overhaul health care, rescue the auto industry and close the prison at Guantánamo Bay. But with a positive job approval rating of 51%, Obama has the backing of most Democrats, even as Republicans turn negative, with only 23% supporting him. Support for Obama's foreign policies and terrorism policies remains high at 57-59%. Meanwhile, the GOP weaknesses were glaring: the June poll found that the Republican Party is viewed favorably by only 28% of Americans, the lowest rating ever in a New York Times/CBS News poll. In contrast, 57% said that they had a favorable view of the Democrat Party.[41] However, it should be noted that this poll was conducted by the mainstream media and thus is a clear example of liberal bias.

Rise of the Tea Party movement

Tea Party movement March on DC, 2009.
For a more detailed treatment, see Tea Party Movement.

The Tea Party movement, which began around 2009 and supports small government, fiscal conservatism, American independence, and border security, made huge gains in the 2010 election, defeating establishment Republicans and RINOs. They continued to make gains in later elections, including the 2014 elections in Texas and the 2015 Kentucky elections, and some commentators, including liberals[42] and conservatives,[43][44][45] even believe it was responsible for Donald Trump's 2016 victory.

Despite little action on the federal level, GOP-controlled governments at the state level did deliver to voters, such as through tax reductions.[46]

Trump Era

For further information, see 2016 U.S. presidential election#General election results

Republican businessman Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election in a major and historic upset that took the establishment, pollsters and analysts completely by surprise, even winning states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, which Republicans had not won for years.[47][48] The Republican Party kept control of the House and Senate, outperforming expectations.[49][50]

The public's fascination with Donald Trump dominated the first half of 2016 more than any candidate of either party. Trump spent virtually nothing on media advertising.

In addition, the Republican Party performed well—much better than expected—in state races, winning trifectas in Kentucky, Iowa, Missouri, and New Hampshire, and Democrats only had six trifectas and total control in five states, a record low.[51][52] The GOP won 25 trifectas, the largest since 1952.[53] After the election, the GOP controlled the highest amount of governorships since 1922,[54] and it controlled the most state legislative chambers in history.[55] After West Virginia Governor Jim Justice left the Democratic Party and joined the GOP, the GOP had 34 Republican governors, the most since 1922.[56]

While the GOP increased its vote share across the entire nation, Trump made the largest gains in the rural Midwest and Rust Belt, traditionally a Democrat blue collar stronghold.[57]

Because of the large gains, the GOP had a massive opportunity to pass common sense conservative legislation and repeal leftist social and economic quagmires.[53] At the beginning of 2017, Congressional Republicans were also more united during Trump's presidency than in any other time in recent U.S. political history.[58] However, despite these opportunities, the 115th U.S. Congress saw many missed opportunities to advance conservative policies and priorities.[59]

In May 2017, the RNC raised a record $10.8 million,[60] while the DNC raised $4.29 million, the lowest raised in the month since 2003.[61][62] The RNC broke another record in June 2017, raising $13.4 million,[63][64] as well as July.[65] In 2017 overall, the RNC raised over $130 million, a large amount for an off-election year,[66] and the National Republican Congressional Committee also raised a record $85 million in 2017.[67] The Republican Party and the Trump campaign continued raising large sums of money.[68]

A September 2018 Gallup poll found that the GOP's favorability rating reached the highest level since 2011.[69]

In Kentucky, voters overwhelmingly rejected the Democrats' racist agenda, electing the state's first black Attorney General and first Republican in 70 years, Daniel Cameron. Four years earlier, Kentucky voters elected conservative Republican Jenean Hampton as the state's first black statewide elected official, and the Republican governor they elected, Matt Bevin, had adopted four children from Ethiopia.


Democrats lost ground with Latino voters in 2020. Republicans are slowly winning over Latino voters.[70]

Contemporary Party

The contemporary Republican Party represents a wide array of interests such as the conservative evangelicals, economic libertarians, and anti-globalists. 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. Unlike the Democrat Party, the Republican Party routinely allows dissenting factions such as the Log Cabin Republicans to speak at National Conventions.

In the past, the Republican voter coalitions have generally comprised businessmen, military veterans and evangelical Protestants. Some groups have realigned: blacks went from the GOP to the Democrats beginning in the 1930s, while some white Southerners became Republicans in the 1980s. Catholics switched from 80% Democratic in 1960 to 50-50 in recent years, primarily due to the embrace of abortion by the Democrats (though the Hispanic community still votes predominantly Democrat due to its support for illegal immigration and sanctuary cities). Extremely wealthy businessmen (such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett) have switched to the Democrat party, though small businessmen generally remain in the Republican party. In recent years youth (influenced by Hollywood values) and better educated professionals (influenced by professor values) have moved to the Democrats, while blue collar workers have become more Republican, due mainly to Democrats support for globalist ideals at the expense of manufacturing job losses.

Republican Presidents

  1. Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865)
  2. Ulysses S. Grant (1869–1877)
  3. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877–1881)
  4. James Garfield (1881)
  5. Chester A. Arthur (1881–1885)
  6. Benjamin Harrison (1889–1893)
  7. William McKinley (1897–1901)
  8. Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909)
  9. William Howard Taft (1909–1913)
  10. Warren G. Harding (1921–1923)
  11. Calvin Coolidge (1923–1929)
  12. Herbert Hoover (1929–1933)
  13. Dwight Eisenhower (1953–1961)
  14. Richard Nixon (1969–1974)
  15. Gerald Ford (1974–1977)
  16. Ronald Reagan (1981–1989)
  17. George H. W. Bush (1989–1993)
  18. George W. Bush (2001–2009)
  19. Donald Trump (2017–2021)

Notable Republicans (Non-presidential)

An incomplete list of notable Republican leaders and politicians who were not elected president:

See also



  • American National Biography (20 volumes, 1999) covers all politicians no longer alive; online at many academic libraries.
  • Abramson, Paul R. et al. Change and Continuity in the 2004 and 2006 Elections (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Batchelor, John Calvin. "Ain't You Glad You Joined the Republicans?" A Short History of the GOP. 1996. 399 pp. well-written popular history, well illustrated
  • Chace, James. 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft, and Debs - The Election That Changed the Country. (2004). 323 pp.
  • Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections (4th ed 2003) 1600pp, vast compilation of data, esp., since 1945
  • Foner, Eric. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War (1970), influential history of ideas and ideology; online edition
  • Gienapp, William E. The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852-1856 (1987), quantitative voting studies, by state
  • Goldberg, Robert Alan. Barry Goldwater (1995),
  • Gould, Lewis. Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans (2003), the best scholarly overview.
  • Hodgson, Godfrey. The World Turned Right Side Up: A History of the Conservative Ascendancy in America (1996). by British journalist
  • Jensen, Richard. Grass Roots Politics: Parties, Issues, and Voters, 1854-1983 (1983) online edition
  • Jensen, Richard. The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, 1888-1896 (1971)
  • Kleppner, Paul, et al. The Evolution of American Electoral Systems (1983), applies party systems model
  • Kleppner, Paul. The Third Electoral System 1853-1892: Parties, Voters, and Political Cultures (1979), analysis of voting behavior, with emphasis on region, ethnicity, religion and class. online edition
  • Marcus, Robert. Grand Old Party: Political Structure in the Gilded Age, 1880-1896 1971.
  • Morgan, H. Wayne. From Hayes to McKinley; National Party Politics, 1877-1896 (1969) online edition, good survey of era
  • Mayer, George H. The Republican Party, 1854-1966. 2nd ed. (1967), narrative.
  • Parmet, Herbert S. Eisenhower and the American Crusades (1972) online edition
  • Patterson, James T. Mr. Republican: A Biography of Robert A. Taft (1972)
  • Perlstein, Rick. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2002) well written, broad account of 1964
  • Perlstein, Rick. Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2008), 896pp; covers 1965 to 1972
  • Reinhard, David W. The Republican Right since 1945 (1983) online edition
  • Rutland, Robert Allen. The Republicans: From Lincoln to Bush (1996) popular narrative
  • Shafer, Byron E. and Anthony J. Badger, eds. Contesting Democracy: Substance and Structure in American Political History, 1775-2000 (2001), long essays by specialists on each time period: excerpt and text search
    • includes: "'To One or Another of These Parties Every Man Belongs;": 1820–1865 by Joel H. Silbey; "Change and Continuity in the Party Period: 1835–1885" by Michael F. Holt; "The Transformation of American Politics: 1865–1910" by Peter H. Argersinger; "Democracy, Republicanism, and Efficiency: 1885–1930" by Richard Jensen; "The Limits of Federal Power and Social Policy: 1910–1955" by Anthony J. Badger; "The Rise of Rights and Rights Consciousness: 1930–1980" by James T. Patterson; and "Economic Growth, Issue Evolution, and Divided Government: 1955–2000" by Byron E. Shafer
  • Schlesinger, Arthur Meier, Jr. ed. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2000 (various multivolume editions, latest is 2001). For each election includes good scholarly history and selection of primary document. Essays on the most important election are reprinted in Schlesinger, The Coming to Power: Critical presidential elections in American history (1972)
  • Smith, Richard Norton. An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover, (1987) full-length scholarly biography.
  • Summers, Mark Wahlgren. Rum, Romanism & Rebellion: The Making of a President, 1884 (2000) online edition
  • Sundquist, James L. Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States (1983) online edition
  • Thelen, David. Robert M. La Follette and the Insurgent Spirit 1976. short interpretive biography

Since 1980

  • Barone, Michael, and Grant Ujifusa, The Almanac of American Politics 2008: The Senators, the Representatives and the Governors: Their Records and Election Results, Their States and Districts (2007) covers all incumbent Congressmen and governors with amazing detail. New edition published every two years since 1975.
  • Aistrup, Joseph A. The Southern Strategy Revisited: Republican Top-Down Advancement in the South (1996)
  • Black, Earl and Black, Merle. The Rise of Southern Republicans. (2002). 442 pp.
  • Cannon, Lou. President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime (2000), online edition
  • Critchlow, Donald T. The Conservative Ascendancy: How the GOP Right Made Political History (2007), by a leading conservative historian
  • Edwards, Lee. The Conservative Revolution: The Movement That Remade America. (1999). 391 pp. by a conservative
  • Ehrman, John, The Eighties: America in the Age of Reagan (2005) by a conservative historian
  • Frank, Thomas. What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2005), a liberal attack excerpt and text search
  • Green, John Robert. The Presidency of George Bush. (2000). 1989-1993
  • Lamis, Alexander P. ed. Southern Politics in the 1990s (1999)
  • Layman, Geoffrey. The Great Divide: Religious and Cultural Conflict in American Party Politics. (2001). 435pp.
  • Levy, Peter B. Encyclopedia of the Reagan-Bush Years Greenwood Press, 1996 online edition
  • Lublin, David. The Republican South: Democratization and Partisan Change. Princeton U. Press, 2004. 272 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Patterson, James T. Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush vs. Gore. (2005), standard scholarly synthesis.
  • Pemberton, William E. Exit with Honor: The Life and Presidency of Ronald Reagan (1998) favorable biography by historian; online edition
  • Reeves, Richard. President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination (2005) detailed analysis by conservative historian
  • Rymph, Catherine. Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism from Suffrage through the Rise of the New Right. U. of North Carolina Press, 2006. 338 pp.
  • Sabato, Larry J. ed. The Sixth Year Itch: The Rise and Fall of the George W. Bush Presidency (2007), in-depth essays by scholars
  • Sabato, Larry J. Divided States of America: The Slash and Burn Politics of the 2004 Presidential Election (2005).
  • Sabato, Larry J. and Bruce Larson. The Party's Just Begun: Shaping Political Parties for America's Future (2001).
  • Schaller, Michael and Rising, George. The Republican Ascendancy: American Politics, 1968-2001. Harlan Davidson, 2002. 210 pp. Short survey by liberal scholars
  • Steely, Mel. The Gentleman from Georgia: The Biography of Newt Gingrich. Mercer U. Press, 2000. 431 pp.
  • Taylor, Andrew J. Elephant's Edge: The Republicans as a Ruling Party. 2005. 336 pp. academic study of how GOP turned small advantages into power excerpt and text search
  • Wilentz, Sean. The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008 (2008) by a liberal historian. excerpt and text search
  • Wooldridge, Adrian and John Micklethwait. The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America sophisticated study by two British journalists (2004). excerpt and text search

External links





  2. The Welfare State Did What Slavery Couldn't Do, Wendy McElroy, Mises Institute, 09/09/2020.
  3. Lyndon Johnson was a civil rights hero. But also a racist, by Adam Serwer, MSNBC, 04/11/14
  4. The Dixiecrat Myth
  8. Ertelt, Steven; Bilger, Micaiah (July 18, 2016). Republicans Adopt Most Pro-Life Platform Ever Condemning Abortion and Planned Parenthood. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  9. Williams, Thomas D. (October 20, 2018). Pew: Republicans Trend Increasingly Pro-Life as Democrats Align with Abortion Industry. Breitbart News. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  10. Starr, Penny (October 21, 2018). Economic Profile of 50 States Reveals Republicans Represent the Poor, Democrats the Rich. Breitbart News. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  11. Gould (2003) pp 14-15; republicanism is explored in depth by Foner (1970).
  12. There is also a myth that the town of Exeter, New Hampshire was first by six months, but nothing came of the secret meeting there and scholars dismiss the claim.
  13. There was some strength in border cities such as St. Louis, Louisville, Wheeling, and Baltimore.
  14. Foner, Eric. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men. 1993.
  15. They included Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts, Kinsley Bingham of Michigan, William H. Bissell of Illinois, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, Samuel J. Kirkwood of Iowa, Ralph Metcalf of New Hampshire, Lot Morrill of Maine, and Alexander Randall of Wisconsin).
  16. The senators included Bingham and Hamlin, as well as James R. Doolittle of Wisconsin, John P. Hale of New Hampshire, Preston King of New York, Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, and David Wilmot of Pennsylvania.
  17. Kleppner (1979) has extensive detail on the voting behavior of groups.
  18. Goodwyn 2005
  19. Hubbs, Guy W. (May 15, 2015). "Searching for Freedom after the Civil War: Klansman, Carpetbagger, Scalawag, and Freedman". University Alabama Press.
  20. See Kleppner (1979)
  21. Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, "A Patriot's History of the United States" (2007)
  22. Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover: Meet the Presidents
  23. The Great American History Fact-finder: The Who, What, Where, When, and why of American History
  28. Marjorie Freeman Harrison, "Machine Politics Suburban Style: J. Russel Sprague and the Nassau County (New York) Republican Party at Midcentury." PhD dissertation Columbia U. 2005. 388 pp. DAI 2005 66(5): 1925-A. DA3174807
  29. John Morrison McLarnon, "Ruling Suburbia: A Biography of the McClure Machine of Delaware County, Pennsylvania." PhD dissertation U. of Delaware 1998. 616 pp. DAI 1998 58(12): 4780-A. DA9819160
  31. Brennan (1995) p, 59
  32. Timothy J. Sullivan, "Crashing the Party: The New York State Conservative and Republican Parties, 1962-1980." PhD dissertation U. of Maryland, College Park 2003. 458 pp. DAI 2004 64(11): 4181-A. DA3112508
  33. Trande, Sean (April 30, 2013). Southern Whites' Shift to the GOP Predates the '60s. Real Clear Politics. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  34. See exit polls
  35. Trande, Sean (September 9, 2010). Misunderstanding the Southern Realignment. Real Clear Politics. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 Hamby, Peter (December 9, 2014). The plight of the Southern Democrat. CNN. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  37. Cohn, Nate (December 4, 2014). Demise of the Southern Democrat Is Now Nearly Complete. The New York Times. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  38. Loftus, Tom (November 9, 2016). GOP takes Ky House in historic shift. Courier-Journal. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  39. Brammer, Jack & Blackford, Linda (November 8, 2016). Republicans take the Kentucky House after 95 years of Democratic control. Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  41. Jeff Zeleny and Dalia Sussman, "Obama Poll Sees Doubt on Budget and Health Care New York Times June 17, 2009
  42. Donald Trump Hasn’t Killed the Tea Party. He Is the Tea Party. New York (May 19, 2016). Retrieved on December 7, 2016.
  43. How the Tea Party Helped Trump Win the Election. Fox News (November 12, 2016). Retrieved on December 7, 2016.
  44. The Tea Party Movement Is Alive and Well—And We Saw Trump Coming. Politico Magazine (November 19, 2016). Retrieved on December 7, 2016.
  45. Sarah Palin: Trump Movement Began with the GOP Establishment’s ‘Shocking Betrayals’ of Tea Party Voters. Breitbart News (November 25, 2016). Retrieved on December 7, 2016.
  46. Persons, Sally (May 31, 2017). Republican governors elected in 2010 delivering to their states what Congress hasn’t. The Washington Times. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  47. Trump wins presidency, defeats Clinton in historic election upset. Fox News. November 8, 2016. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  48. Blake, Aaron (November 9, 2016). Donald Trump just blew up the electoral map. The Washington Post. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  49. Bresnahan, John (November 9, 2016). Republicans hold the Senate in a stunner. Politico. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  50. Hughes, Siobhan (November 9, 2016). Democrats Gain Seats in House, But GOP Retains Majority. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  51. Greenblatt, Alan (November 9, 2016). Republicans Add to Their Dominance of State Legislatures. Governing. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  52. Siegel, Josh (November 9, 2016). Republicans Maintain Strong Control of State Capitols. Here’s What That Means. The Daily Signal. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  53. 53.0 53.1 Lieb, David A. (December 29, 2016). GOP-Controlled States Aim to Reshape Laws. Chicago Tribune (from the Associated Press). Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  54. Lieb, David A. (November 9, 2016). Republicans governorships rise to highest mark since 1922. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  55. Bosman, Julie & Davey, Monica (November 11, 2016). Republicans Expand Control in a Deeply Divided Nation. The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  56. Leahy, Michael Patrick (August 7, 2017). 34 States Have Republican Governors, Most Since 1922. Breitbart News. Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  57. How Trump Reshaped the Election Map. The New York Times. November 9, 2016. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  58. Stucky, Phillip (April 2, 2017). Trump Smashes Records With Party Unity. The Daily Caller. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  59. Sherfinski, David; Dinan, Stephen (January 3, 2019). Republicans relinquish Congress with whimper: 'More missed opportunities than anything'. The Washington Times. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
    See also:
  60. Kew, Ben (June 21, 2017). Dems Fundraising Lowest Since May 2003; RNC Raises Record $10.8 Million. Breitbart News. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  61. Persons, Sally (June 21, 2017). DNC hits another fundraising low. The Washington Times. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  62. Bowden, John (June 21, 2017). Democrats raised just $4.3M in May. The Hill. Retrieved June 22, 2017.
  63. Kew, Ben (July 20, 2017). RNC Breaks Another Fundraising Record, Raises Record $13.4 Million in June. Breitbart News. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  64. Siegel, Josh (July 20, 2017). RNC announces it raised $13.5 million in June, a record for a month in a non-presidential year. Washington Examiner. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  65. Kew, Ben (August 21, 2017). RNC Breaks Another Fundraising Record as Democrats Struggle. Breitbart News. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  66. Multiple references:
  67. Moran, Sean (January 15, 2018). NRCC Raised a Record $85 Million Ahead of Contentious 2018 Midterm Elections. Breitbart News. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  68. Singman, Brooke; Dorman, Sam (January 3, 2020). Trump campaign, GOP raised nearly a half-billion dollars in 2019. Fox News. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  69. Multiple references:
  70. Democrats lost ground with Latino voters in 2020. Will the midterms be worse?, Vox, Sep 20, 2022.