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The United States Republican Party is the second oldest currently existing political party in the United States.

Creation



The Republican Party was first organized in 1854, growing out of the "anti-Nebraska" coalition of old Whigs, freesoil Democrats etc. who mobilized in opposition to Stephen Douglas's January 1854 introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Act into Congress, a bill which repealed the 1820 Missouri compromise prohibition on slavery north of latitude 36° 30' in the old Louisiana purchase territories, and so was viewed as an aggressive expansionist pro-slavery maneuver by many. Besides opposition to slavery, the new party put forward a progressive vision of modernizing the United States—emphasizing higher education, banking, railroads, industry and cities, while promising free homesteads to farmers. They 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. The Republicans absorbed the previous traditions of its members, most of whom had been Whigs, such as Alvan E. Bovay and Horace Greeley; others had been Democrats or members of third parties (especially the Free Soil Party and the American Party or Know Nothings). Many Democrats who joined up were rewarded with governorships: (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) or seats in the U.S. Senate (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.) 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.

Two small cities of the Yankee diaspora, Ripon, Wisconsinmarker and Jackson, Michiganmarker, claim to be the birthplace of the Republican Party (in other words, meetings held there were some of the first 1854 anti-Nebraska assemblies to call themselves by the name "Republican"). Ripon held the first county convention on March 20, 1854. Jackson held the first statewide convention where delegates including Abraham Lincoln from Illinois July 6, 1854 declared their new party opposed to the expansion of slavery into new territories and selected a state-wide 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 party initially had its base in the Northeast and Midwest. The party launched its first national convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker, in February 1856, with its first national nominating convention held in the summer in Philadelphiamarker, Pennsylvania.

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.

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 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 Republican Party; most of their adherents voted Democratic.

The Civil War and an era of Republican dominance: 1860–1896



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.

The Third Party System was dominated by the Republican Party (it lost in 1884 and 1892.) Lincoln proved brilliantly successful in uniting the factions of his party to fight for the Union. 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." Most of 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, the first temporary income tax, many excise taxes, paper money issued without backing ("greenbacks"), a huge national debt, homestead laws, railroads, and aid to education and agriculture. The Republicans denounced the peace-oriented Democrats as disloyal 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. During the war, upper middle-class men in major cities formed Union Leaguesmarker, to promote and help finance the war effort.
"Union" ticket in 1864; party men gave these to voters to deposit in the ballot box


Reconstruction: Blacks, Carpetbaggers and Scalawags

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 Leaguesmarker that effectively mobilized the voters, discussed issues, and when necessary fought off Ku Klux Klan (KKK) attacks. Thousands died on both sides.

Grant supported radical reconstruction programs in the South, the Fourteenth 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. Many of the founders of the GOP joined the movement, as did many powerful newspaper editors. They nominated Horace Greeley for president, who also gained the Democratic nomination, but the ticket 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."

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.

The Gilded Age: 1877–1890

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

As the Northern post-war economy boomed with industry, railroads, mines, and fast-growing cities, as well as prosperous agriculture, the Republicans took credit and promoted policies to keep the fast growth going. The Democratic Party was largely controlled by pro-business Bourbon Democrats until 1896. The GOP supported big business generally, the gold standard, high tariff, and generous pensions for Union veterans. By 1890, however, the Republicans had agreed to the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the Interstate Commerce Commission in response to complaints from owners of small businesses 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.

Foreign affairs seldom became partisan issues (except for the annexation of Hawaii, which Republicans favored and Democrats opposed). Much more salient were cultural issues. The GOP supported the pietistic Protestants (especially the Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Scandinavian Lutherans) who demanded Prohibition. That angered wet Republicans, especially German Americans, who broke ranks in 1890-1892, handing power to the Democrats.

Demographic trends aided the Democrats, as the German and Irish Catholic immigrants were mostly Democrats, and outnumbered the British and Scandinavian Republicans. During the 1880s, elections were remarkably close. The Democrats usually lost, but won in 1884 and 1892. In the 1894 Congressional elections, the GOP scored the biggest landslide in its history, as Democrats were blamed for the severe economic depression 1893-1897 and the violent coal and railroad strikes of 1894.

Ethnocultural politics: pietistic Republicans versus liturgical Democrats

 
Voting Behavior by Religion, Northern USA Late 19th century
  % Dem % GOP
Immigrant Groups    
Irish Catholics 80 20
All Catholics 70 30
Confessional German Lutherans 65 35
German Reformed 60 40
French Canadian Catholics 50 50
Less Confessional German Lutherans 45 55
English Canadians 40 60
British Stock 35 65
German Sectarians 30 70
Norwegian Lutherans 20 80
Swedish Lutherans 15 85
Haugean Norwegians 5 95
Natives: Northern Stock
Quakers 5 95
Free Will Baptists 20 80
Congregational 25 75
Methodists 25 75
Regular Baptists 35 65
Blacks 40 60
Presbyterians 40 60
Episcopalians 45 55
Natives: Southern Stock (living in North)
Disciples 50 50
Presbyterians 70 30
Baptists 75 25
Methodists 90 10


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 tavernkeepers, in contrast to the GOP, which had a strong dry element. "Romanism" meant Catholics, especially Irish Americans, who ran the Democratic 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. 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 referendums heated up politics in most states over a period of decade, 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.

The Progressive Era: 1896–1932

The election of William McKinley in 1896 is widely seen as a resurgence of Republican dominance and is sometimes cited as a realigning election.
1896 GOP poster warns against free silver.
The Fourth Party System was dominated by Republican presidents, with the exception of the two terms of Democrat Woodrow Wilson, 1913-1921. McKinley promised that high tariffs would end the severe hardship caused by the Panic of 1893, and that the GOP would guarantee a sort of 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 finance, railroads, industry and the middle classes for his support and cemented the Republicans as the party of business; 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. This emphasis on business was in part mitigated by Theodore Roosevelt, McKinley's successor after assassination, who engaged in trust-busting. McKinley was the first president to promote pluralism, arguing that prosperity would be shared by all ethnic and religious groups.

Theodore Roosevelt, who became president in 1901, had the most dynamic personality of the era 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 and he won after promising to continue McKinley's policies. More difficult to handle was conservative House Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon.



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 Company trust and Standard Oil. Roosevelt moved left in his last two years in office but was unable to pass major Square Deal proposals. He did succeed in naming his successor Secretary of War William Howard Taft who easily defeated Bryan again in the 1908.

President Teddy Roosevelt watches GOP team pull apart on tariff issue


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 W. 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. Insurgent Midwesterners led by George Norris revolted against the conservatives led by Speaker Cannon. The Democrats won control of the House in 1910, as the rift between insurgents and conservatives widened. In 1912 Roosevelt broke with Taft and tried for a third term. He was outmaneuvered by Taft and lost the nomination. Roosevelt led his delegates out of the convention and created a new party, the Progressive, or "Bull Moose" ticket in the election of 1912. Few party leaders followed him except Hiram Johnson of California. The Roosevelt-caused split in the Republican vote resulted in a decisive victory for Democrat Woodrow Wilson, temporarily interrupting the Republican era.

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). Golden Rule Jones was first elected mayor of Toledo as a Republican in 1897, but was reelected as an independent when his party refused to renominate him. 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.

TR's 1908 Farewell speeches sought Progressive goals but did not pass Congress


The party controlled the presidency throughout the 1920s, running on a platform of opposition to the League of Nations, high tariffs, and promotion of business interests. Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were resoundingly elected in 1920, 1924, and 1928 respectively. The breakaway efforts of Senator Robert LaFollette in 1924 failed to stop a landslide for Coolidge, and his movement fell apart. The Teapot Dome Scandalmarker 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 an 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.

Hoover, by nature an activist, attempted to do what he could to alleviate the widespread suffering caused by the Depression, but his strict adherence to what he believed were Republican principles precluded him from establishing relief directly from the federal government. The 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. The Democrats made major gains in the 1930 midterm elections, giving them congressional parity (though not control) for the first time since Woodrow Wilson's presidency.

The African American vote held for Hoover in 1932, but started moving toward Roosevelt. By 1940 the majority of northern blacks were voting Democratic.

Opposing the New Deal Coalition: 1932-1980

After Roosevelt took office in 1933, New Deal legislation sailed through Congress at lightning speed. In the 1934 midterm elections, ten Republican senators went down to defeat, leaving them with only 25 against 71 Democrats. The House of Representatives was also split in a similar ratio. The "Second New Deal" was heavily criticized by the Republicans in Congress, who likened it to class warfare and socialism. The volume of legislation, as well as the inability of the Republicans to block it, soon made the opposition to Roosevelt develop into bitterness and sometimes hatred for "that man in the White House."

Minority parties tend to factionalize and after 1936 the GOP split into a conservative faction (dominant in the West and Midwest) 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 with his moderate campaign. The GOP was left with only 16 senators and 88 representatives to oppose the New Deal, with Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. as the sole victor over a Democratic incumbent.

Roosevelt alienated many conservative Democrats, in 1937, by his unexpected plan to “pack” the Supreme Court via the Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937. Following a sharp recession that hit early in 1938, major strikes all over the country, and Roosevelt's failed efforts to radically reorganize the Supreme Court and federal courts, the GOP gained 75 House seats in 1938. Conservative Democrats, mostly from the South, joined with Republicans led by Senator Robert A. Taft to create the conservative coalition, which dominated domestic issues in Congress until 1964.

From 1939 through 1941, there was a sharp debate within the GOP about support for Britain in World War II. Internationalists, such as Henry Stimson and Frank Knox, wanted to support Britain and isolationists, such as Robert Taft and Arthur Vandenberg, strongly opposed these moves as unwise, if not unconstitutional. The America First movement was a bipartisan coalition of isolationists. In 1940, a total unknown, Wendell Willkie, at the last minute, won over the party, the delegates and was nominated. He crusaded against the inefficiencies of the New Deal and Roosevelt's break with the strong tradition against a third term. Pearl Harbor ended the isolationist-internationalist debate. The Republicans further cut the Democratic majority in the 1942 midterm elections. With wartime production creating prosperity, the Conservative coalition terminated most New Deal relief programs.

Senator Robert Taft of Ohio represented the 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.

As a minority party, the GOP had two wings: The "left wing" supported most of the New Deal while promising to run it more efficiently. The "right wing" opposed the New Deal from the beginning and managed to repeal large parts during the 1940s in cooperation with conservative southern Democrats in the conservative coalition. Liberals, led by Dewey, dominated the Northeast. Conservatives, led by Taft, dominated the Midwest. The West was split, and the South was still solidly Democratic. Dewey did not reject the New Deal programs, but demanded more efficiency, more support for economic growth, and less corruption. He was more willing than Taft to support Britain in the early years of the war. In 1944, a clearly frail Roosevelt defeated Dewey, who was now governor of New York, for his fourth term, but Dewey made a good showing that would lead to his selection as the candidate in 1948.

Roosevelt died in office in 1945, and Harry S. Truman became president. With the end of the war, unrest among organized labor led to many strikes in 1946, and the resulting disruptions helped the GOP. With the blunders of the Truman administration in 1945 and 1946, the slogans "Had Enough?" and "To Err is Truman" became Republican rallying cries, and the GOP won control of Congress for the first time since 1928, with Joseph William Martin, Jr. as Speaker of the House. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 was designed to balance the rights of management and labor. It was the central issue of many elections in industrial states in the 1940s and 1950s, but the unions were never able to repeal it.

In 1948, with Republicans split left and right, Truman boldly called Congress into a special session, and sent it a load of liberal legislation consistent with the Dewey platform, and dared them to act on it, knowing that the conservative Republicans would block action. Truman then attacked the Republican "Do-Nothing Congress" as a whipping boy for all of the nation's problems. Truman stunned Dewey and the Republicans with a plurality of just over two million popular votes (out of nearly 49 million cast), but a decisive 303-189 victory in the Electoral College.

Eisenhower and Nixon: 1953–1974

Eisenhower and Nixon, 1953: the first Republican presidential inauguration in 24 years.


In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower, an internationalist allied with the Dewey wing, was drafted as a GOP candidate by a small group of Republicans led by Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. in order that he challenge Taft on foreign policy issues. The two men were not far apart on domestic issues. Eisenhower's victory broke a 20 year Democratic 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.

After the war the isolationists in the conservative wing opposed the United Nations, and were half-hearted in exercising opposition to the expansion of Communism around the world. Dwight Eisenhower, a NATO commander, defeated Taft in 1952 on foreign policy issues. Eisenhower was an exception to most presidents in that he usually let Nixon handle party affairs (controlling the national committee and taking the roles of chief spokesman and chief fundraiser). Richard Nixon was defeated in 1960 in a close election, dooming his moderate wing of the party.

The conservatives in 1964 made a comeback under the leadership of Barry Goldwater who defeated moderates and liberals such as (most prominently) Nelson Rockefeller and Margaret Chase Smith as the Republican candidate for the 1964 election. 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. In the presidential election of 1964, he was defeated by Lyndon Johnson in a landslide that brought down many senior Republican Congressmen across the country. Goldwater won five states in the deep South, the strongest showing by a Republican presidential candidate in the South since 1872. Goldwater blamed the magnitude of his defeat on the assassination of John F. Kennedy a year before the election, and on Johnson running a campaign of smears.

The New Deal Coalition collapsed in the mid 1960s in the face of urban riots, the Vietnam War, the opposition of many Southern Democrats to desegregation and the Civil Rights movement and disillusionment that the New Deal could be revived by Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. Nixon defeated both Hubert Humphrey and George C. Wallace in 1968. When the Democratic left took over their party in 1972, Nixon won reelection by carrying 49 states. His involvement in Watergate brought disgrace and a forced resignation in 1974 and any long-term movement toward the GOP was interrupted by the scandal. 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 Democrats made major gains in Congress, and 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.

Ronald Reagan was elected President in the 1980 election by a landslide vote, not predicted by most voter polling. Running on a "Peace Through Strength" platform to combat the Communist threat and massive tax cuts to revitalize the economy, Reagan's strong persona proved too much for Carter. 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.

Strength of parties in 1977
Party Republican Democratic Independent
Party ID (Gallup) 22% 47% 31%
Congressmen 181 354
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


Moderate Republicans of 1960-80

The term Rockefeller Republican was used 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 and his aide Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. reflected many of their views. An important leader in the 1950s was Connecticut Republican Senator Prescott Bush, father and grandfather of presidents 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 entrepreneurships, 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 NATOmarker. Geographically their base was the Northeast, from Pennsylvania to Maine.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. Ronald Reagan continued in the same theme, but George H. W. Bush was more closely associated with the moderates.

Realignment: The South becomes Republican

In the century after Reconstruction, the white South identified with the Democratic Party. The Democrats' lock on power was so strong, the region was called the Solid South. The Republicans controlled certain parts of the Appalachian mountains, and they sometimes did compete for statewide office in the border states. Before 1948, 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.

In 1948 Democrats alienated white Southerners in two ways. The Democratic National Convention adopted a strong civil rights plank, leading to a walkout by Southerners. Two weeks later President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981 integrating the armed forces. From 1948 onward, southern whites looked for political accommodation for their views.

By 1964, the Democratic lock on the South was decisively 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.The immediate cause of the political transition involved civil rights. The civil rights movement caused enormous controversy in the white South with many attacking it as a violation of states' rights. When segregation was outlawed by court order and by the Civil Rights acts of 1964 and 1965, a die-hard element resisted integration, led by Democratic governors Orval Faubus of Arkansas, Lester Maddox of Georgia, and, especially George Wallace of Alabama. These populist governors appealed to a less-educated, blue-collar electorate that on economic grounds favored the Democratic Party, but supported segregation. After 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 enfranchised black voters supported Democratic 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 by nominating Southerners who could carry some states in the region, such as Jimmy Carter in 1976, and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996; however, the strategy did not work with Al Gore in 2000. Then the states began electing Republican senators to fill open seats caused by retirements, and finally governors and state legislatures changed sides. Georgia was the last state to fall, with Sonny Perdue taking the governorship in 2002. Republicans aided the process with redistricting that 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 gerrymandering 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 Democratic 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 Democratic Party. In 1969 in The Emerging Republican Majority, Kevin Phillips, argued that support from Southern whites and growth in the Sun Beltmarker, 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 70 percent to 30 percent among whites, who constituted 71 percent of the Southern voters. Kerry had a 90-percent-to-9-percent lead among the 18 percent of the voters who were black. One third of the Southerners said they were white evangelicals; they voted for Bush, 80 percent to 20 percent.

Reagan to Bush: 1980–2009

The Reagan Era

Ronald Reagan produced a major realignment with his 1980 and 1984 landslides. In 1980, the Reagan coalition was possible because of Democratic losses in most social-economic groups. In 1984, Reagan won nearly 60% of the popular vote and carried every state except his Democratic opponent Walter Mondale's home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia, creating a record 525 electoral vote total (of 538 possible). Even in Minnesota, Mondale won by a mere 3,761 votes, meaning Reagan came within less than 3,800 votes of winning in all fifty states.

Political commentators, trying to explain how Reagan had won by such a large margin, coined the term "Reagan Democrat" to describe a Democratic voter who had voted for Reagan in 1980 and 1984 (and for George H.W. Bush in 1988), producing their landslide victories. They were mostly white, blue-collar, and were attracted to Reagan's social conservatism on issues such as abortion, and to his hawkish foreign policy. Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, concluded that Reagan Democrats no longer saw Democrats as champions of their middle class aspirations, but instead saw it as being a party working primarily for the benefit of others, especially African Americans and social liberals.

Reagan reoriented American politics. He claimed credit in 1984 for an economic renewal—“It's morning in America again!” was the successful campaign slogan. Income taxes were slashed 25% and the punitive rates abolished. The frustrations of stagflation were resolved, as no longer did soaring inflation and recession pull the country down. Working again in bipartisan fashion, the Social Security financial crises were resolved for the next 25 years. Reagan chose not speak publicly about the HIV-AIDS epidemic until 1987.

In foreign affairs, bipartisanship was not in evidence. Most Democrats doggedly opposed Reagan's efforts to support the Contra guerrillas against the Sandinista government of Nicaraguamarker, and to support the dictatorial governments of Guatemala, Hondurasmarker and El Salvador against Communist guerrilla movements. He took a hard line against the Soviet Unionmarker, alarming Democrats who wanted a nuclear freeze, but he succeeded in increasing the military budget and launching the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)—labeled "Star Wars" by its opponents—that the Soviets could not match. When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Moscow, many conservative Republicans were dubious of the growing friendship between him and Reagan. Gorbachev tried to save communism in Russia first by ending the expensive arms race with America, then (1989) by shedding the East European empire. Communism finally collapsed in Russiamarker in 1991. President George H. W. Bush, Reagan's successor, tried to temper feelings of triumphalism lest there be a backlash in Russia, but the palpable sense of victory in the Cold War was a success that Republicans felt validated the aggressive foreign policies Reagan had espoused. As Haynes Johnson, one of his harshest critics admitted, "His greatest service was in restoring the respect of Americans for themselves and their own government after the traumas of Vietnam and Watergate, the frustration of the Iran hostage crisis and a succession of seemingly failed presidencies."

Congressional ascendancy in 1994

After the election of Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1992, the Republican Party, led by House Republican Minority Whip Newt Gingrich campaigning on a Contract With America, were elected to majorities to both houses of Congress in the Republican Revolution of 1994. It was the first time since 1952 that the Republicans secured control of both houses of U.S. Congress, which, with the exception of the Senate during 2001-2002, was retained through 2006. This capture and subsequent holding of Congress represented a major legislative turnaround, as Democrats controlled both houses of Congress for the forty years preceding 1995, with the exception of the 1981-1987 Congress in which Republicans controlled the Senate.

In 1994, Republican Congressional candidates ran on a platform of major reforms of government with measures such as a balanced budget amendment and welfare reform. These measures and others formed the famous Contract with America, which represented the first effort to have a party platform in an off-year election. The Republicans passed some of their proposals, but failed on others such as term limits. 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 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, likely due to Newt Gingrich and the Republican Congress' unpopularity after the budget battle.

The Second Bush Era

George W. Bush, son of former president George H. W. Bush (1989-1993), won the 2000 Republican presidential nomination over his competitors, Arizona Senator John McCain, former Transportation Secretary, Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole, and others. With his victory in the 2000 election against the Vice President Al Gore of the Democratic Party, the Republican Party gained control of the Presidency and both houses of Congress for the first time since 1952, only to lose control of the Senate by one vote when Vermontmarker Senator James Jeffords left the Republican Party to become an independent in 2001 and chose to vote with the Democratic caucus.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Bush gained widespread political support as he pursued the War on Terrorism that included the invasion of Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. In March 2003, Bush ordered for an invasion of Iraq because of intelligence alleging the possession of weapons of mass destruction. Bush had near-unanimous Republican support in Congress plus support from many Democratic leaders.

The Republican Party fared well in the 2002 midterm elections, solidifying its hold on the House and regaining control of the Senate, in the run-up to the war in Iraq. This marked the first time since 1934 that the party in control of the White House gained seats in a midterm election in both houses of Congress. (Previous occasions were in 1902 and following the Civil War.) Bush was renominated without opposition as the Republican candidate in the 2004 election, and titled his political platform "A Safer World and a More Hopeful America." It expressed Bush's optimism towards winning the War on Terrorism, ushering in an ownership society, and building an innovative economy to compete in the world. Bush was re-elected by a slightly larger margin than in 2000, and Republicans gained seats in both houses of Congress. Bush told reporters "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style."

He announced his agenda in January 2005, but his popularity in the polls waned and his troubles mounted. Failure to find Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and mounting combat casualties led popular support for his policies to fall. His campaign to add personal savings accounts to the Social Security system and make major revisions in the tax code were postponed. He succeeded in selecting conservatives to head four of the most important agencies, Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, John Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States and Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. He failed to win conservative approval for Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, replacing her with Samuel Alito, whom the Senate confirmed in January 2006. Bush and McCain secured additional tax cuts and blocked moves to raise taxes. Through 2006, they strongly defended his policy in Iraq, saying the Coalition was winning. They secured the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act.



In the November 2005 off-year elections, New York City, Republican mayoral candidate Michael Bloomberg won a landslide re-election, the fourth straight Republican victory in what is otherwise a Democratic stronghold. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger failed in his effort to use the ballot initiative to enact laws the Democrats blocked in the state legislature.

Scandals prompted the resignations of Congressional Republicans House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, Mark Foley, and Bob Ney. In the 2006 midterm elections, the Republicans lost control of both the House of Representatives and Senate for the 110th Congress to the Democrats. Exit polling suggested that corruption was a key issue for many voters.

In the Republican leadership elections that followed the general election, Speaker Hastert did not run and Republicans chose John Boehner of Ohio for House Minority Leader. Senators chose whip Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for Senate Minority Leader, and chose their former leader Trent Lott as Senate Minority Whip by one vote over Lamar Alexander, who assumed their roles in January, 2007. In the October and November gubernatorial elections of 2007, Republican Bobby Jindal won election for governor of Louisianamarker, Republican incumbent Governor Ernie Fletcher of Kentuckymarker lost, and Republican incumbent Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippimarker won re-election.

With President George W. Bush of the party ineligible for a third term and Vice President Dick Cheney not pursuing their party's nomination, Arizona Senator John McCain quickly emerged as the Republican Party's presidential nominee, receiving President Bush's endorsement on March 6, six months before official ratification at the 2008 Republican National Convention. On August 29 Sen. McCain announced Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running-mate, making her the first woman on a Republican Presidential ticket. They went on to lose the election to Democrat Barack Obama and his running-mate, Joe Biden.

Post-Second Bush era

Following the 2008 elections, the Republican party had suffered several significant defeats, losing control of the presidency and of congress. The 2006 midterm elections returned control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats for the first time since 1994. The Republicans also lost ground in the Senate, barely maintaining the 41 seats needed to sustain a filibuster, although this changed when Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic Party. Many national polls of Republicans consider the party to be with no clear "leader". Many different potential presidential candidates for the 2012 elections have been suggested.

In the 2009 elections, Republicans were successful in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections, but lost New York's 23rd congressional district.

See also



Notes

  1. Foner, Eric. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men. Oxford, 1993.
  2. 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.
  3. The Origins of the Republican Party
  4. Gould 2003
  5. Kleppner (1979) has extensive detail on the voting behavior of groups.
  6. Goldwyn 2005.
  7. Woolfolk p. 134.
  8. DeSantis 1998.
  9. Shafer and Badger (2001)
  10. Paul Kleppner, The Third Electoral System 1853-1892 (1979) p 182
  11. Kleppner 1979
  12. Kleppner 1979.
  13. Everett Carll Ladd Jr. Where Have All the Voters Gone? The Fracturing of America's Political Parties (1978) p.6
  14. The unicameral Nebraska legislature, in fact controlled by the Republicans, is technically nonpartisan.
  15. CNN.com Election 2004
  16. Johnson, Haynes (1989). Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years. 28.


References

Secondary Sources

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  • Gould, Lewis. Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans (2003), the best overview.
  • Jensen, Richard. Grass Roots Politics: Parties, Issues, and Voters, 1854-1983 (1983)
  • Kleppner, Paul, et al. The Evolution of American Electoral Systems (1983), applies party systems model
  • MacNeil, Neil. Forge of Democracy: The House of Representatives (1963)
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1854 to 1932

  • Dearing, Mary. Veterans in Politics: The Story of the GAR (1952)
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  • Foner, Eric. Reconstruction, 1863-1877 (1998)
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1932 to 1980

  • Barone, Michael, and Grant Ujifusa, The Almanac of American Politics 1976: The Senators, the Representatives and the Governors: Their Records and Election Results, Their States and Districts (1975); new edition every 2 years
  • Aistrup, Joseph A. The Southern Strategy Revisited: Republican Top-Down Advancement in the South (1996)
  • Black, Earl and Merle Black. The Rise of Southern Republicans (2002)
  • Brennan, Mary C. Turning Right in the Sixties: The Conservative Capture of the GOP (1995)
  • Jensen, Richard. "The Last Party System, 1932-1980," in Paul Kleppner, ed. Evolution of American Electoral Systems (1981)
  • Ladd Jr., Everett Carll with Charles D. Hadley. Transformations of the American Party System: Political Coalitions from the New Deal to the 1970s 2d ed. (1978)
  • Montgomery, Gayle B. and Johnson, James W. One Step From The White House (1998).
  • Parmet, Herbert S. Eisenhower and the American Crusades (1972)
  • Patterson, James T. Mr. Republican: A Biography of Robert A. Taft (1972)
  • Patterson, James. Congressional Conservatism and the New Deal: The Growth of the Conservative Coalition in Congress, 1933-39 (1967)
  • Perlstein, Rick. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2002), on 1964
  • Reinhard, David W. The Republican Right since 1945 (1983)
  • Shelley II, Mack C. The Permanent Majority: The Conservative Coalition in the United States Congress (1983)
  • Sundquist, James L. Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States (1983)


Primary sources




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