- This article is about the modern United States Republican Party. For the older Republican Party, which is now known as the Democratic-Republican Party, see Democratic-Republican Party (United States).
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The Republican Party (often GOP for Grand Old Party) is one of the two major political parties in the United States. The President of the United States, George W. Bush, is a member of the party – and its leader – and it currently has majorities in the Senate and the House, as well as in governorships and state legislative seats. The GOP is currently the more conservative of the two major parties.
Organized in Ripon, Wisconsin on February 28, 1854, as a party opposed to the expansion of slavery into new territories, it is not to be confused with the Democratic-Republican party of Thomas Jefferson or the National Republican Party of Henry Clay. The first convention of the U.S. Republican Party was held on July 6, 1854, in Jackson, Michigan. Many of its initial policies were inspired by the defunct Whig Party. Many of its early members came from the Free Soil Party and American Party. Since its inception, its chief opposition has been the Democratic Party.
Its 2004 political platform A Safer World and a More Hopeful America expresses commitment to: "Winning the War on Terror", "Ushering in an Ownership Era"; "Building an Innovative Economy to Compete in the World", "Strengthening Our Communities", and "Protecting Our Families".
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  (http://www.harpweek.com/09Cartoon/BrowseByDateCartoon.asp?Year=2003&Month=November&Date=7). In the early 20th century, the traditional symbol of the Republican Party in Midwestern states such as Indiana and Ohio was the eagle, as opposed to the Democratic rooster. This symbol still appears on Indiana ballots.
For more information on how American political parties are organized, see Politics of the United States.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) of the United States is responsible for developing and promoting the Republican political platform, as well as for coordinating fundraising and election strategy. There are similar committees in every U.S. state and most U.S. counties (though in some states, party organization lower than state-level is arranged by legislative districts). It is the counterpart of the Democratic National Committee. The chairman of the RNC, since January of 2005, is Ken Mehlman.
The Republican Party also has fundraising and strategy committees for House races (National Republican Congressional Committee), Senate races (National Republican Senatorial Committee), and gubernatorial races (Republican Governors Association).
The Schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin where the Republican Party was organized
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 grew especially rapidly in Northeastern and Midwestern states, where slavery had long been prohibited, culminating in a sweep of victories in the Northern states. The ensuing election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 ended the domination of the fragile coalition of pro-slavery southern Democrats and conciliatory nothern Democrats which had existed since the days of Andrew Jackson. Instead, a new era of Republican dominance based in the industrial north ensued.
With the end of the Civil War came the upheavals of Reconstruction under Democratic President Andrew Johnson (who had bitter disputes with the Republicans in Congress, who eventually impeached him) and Ulysses S. Grant, a Republican. For a brief period, Republicans assumed control of Southern politics (due especially to the former slaves receiving the vote while it was denied to many whites who had participated in the Confederacy), forcing drastic reforms and frequently giving former slaves positions in government. Reconstruction came to an end with the election of Rutherford B. Hayes through the Compromise of 1877.
Though states' rights was a cause of both Northern and Southern states before the War, control of the federal government led the Republican Party to support an active role for the federal government. The patriotic unity that developed in the North because of the war led to a string of military men as President, and an era of international expansion and domestic protectionism. As the rural Northern postbellum economy mushroomed with industry and immigration, support for commerce and industry became a hallmark of Republican policy. From the Reconstruction era up to the turn of the century, the Republicans benefited from the Democrats' association with the Confederacy and dominated national politics – albeit with strong competition from the Democrats, especially during the 1880s. With the two-term presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, the party became known for its strong advocacy of commerce, industry, and veterans' rights.
During the 1880s and 1890s, the Republicans struggled against the Democrats' efforts, winning several close elections and losing two to Grover Cleveland (in 1884 and 1892). The election of William McKinley in 1896 is widely seen as a resurgence of Republican dominance and is sometimes cited as a realigning election. He relied heavily on industry for his support and cemented the Republicans as the party of business; his campaign manager, Marcus Hanna, developed a detailed plan for getting contributions from the business world, and McKinley outspent his rival William Jennings Bryan by a large margin. This emphasis on business was in part mitigated by Theodore Roosevelt, McKinley's successor after assassination, who engaged in trust-busting.
Roosevelt did not seek another term in 1908, instead endorsing William Howard Taft as his successor, but the widening division between progressive and conservative forces in the party resulted in a third-party candidacy for Roosevelt on the Progressive, or "Bull Moose" ticket in the election of 1912. He finished ahead of Taft, but the split in the Republican vote resulted in a decisive victory for Democrat Woodrow Wilson, temporarily interrupting the Republican era.
The party controlled the presidency throughout the 1920s, running on a platform of isolationism and laissez-faire economics after Wilson's turbulent internationalism. Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were resoundingly elected in 1920, 1924, and 1928 respectively, but the Great Depression cost Hoover the presidency with the landslide election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932. Roosevelt's New Deal coalition controlled American politics for the next three decades, excepting the two-term presidency of World War II General Dwight Eisenhower.
The post-war emergence of the United States as one of two superpowers and rapid social change caused the Republican Party to divide into a conservative faction (dominant in the West and Southeast) and a liberal faction (dominant in New England) – combined with a residual base of inherited progressive Midwestern Republicanism active throughout the century. A Republican like U.S. Sen 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 represented the Northeastern wing of the party that was closer to Democratic liberalism and internationalism. In the end, the isolationists were marginalized by those who supported a strong U.S. role in opposing the Soviet Union throughout the world, as embodied by President Eisenhower. However, this development did not represent the end of the story. The seeds of conservative dominance in the Republican party were planted in the nomination of conservative Barry Goldwater over liberal Nelson Rockefeller as the Republican candidate for the 1964 presidential election.
One element of the New Deal coalition was the "Solid South", a term describing the Southern states' reliable support for Democratic presidential candidates. Goldwater's electoral success in the South, and Nixon's successful Southern strategy four years later, represented a significant political change, as Southern white protestants began moving into the party, largely in reaction to national Democratic Party's support for the Civil Rights Movement. The remaining pockets of liberal Republicanism in the northeast began to die out as the region turned solidly Democratic. In The Emerging Republican Majority, Kevin Phillips, then a Nixon strategist, argued (based on the 1968 election results) that support from Southern whites and growth in the Sun Belt, among other factors, was driving an enduring Republican electoral realignment.
Any enduring Republican majority, however, was put on hold when the Watergate Scandal forced Nixon to resign under threat of impeachment. Gerald Ford succeeded Nixon under the 25th Amendment and struggled to forge a political identity separate from his predecessor, contributing, along with various economic difficulties, to the election of maverick Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976.
The trends Phillips described, however, could be seen in the 1980 and 1984 elections of Ronald Reagan, as well as the Newt Gingrich-led "Republican Revolution" of 1994 and its Contract With America. The latter was the first time in 40 years that the Republicans secured control of both houses of U.S. Congress, which, with the exception of the Senate during 2001-2002, has been retained through the present time.
That year, the GOP campaigned on a platform of major reforms of government with measures, such as a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and welfare reform. These measures and others formed the famous Contract with America, which were subsequently considered by the Congress, although not all items passed. Democratic President Bill Clinton opposed many of the social agenda initiatives, with welfare reform and a balanced federal budget notable exceptions. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives also failed to muster the two-thirds majority required to pass one of the most popular proposals – 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.
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 (there were 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans in the Senate, and Vice-President Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote allowed the chamber to be organized by the GOP). This control was not to last, however, as Vermont Republican Senator James Jeffords switched parties; Democrats and Jeffords cited his discomfort with the conservative agenda of Republican leadership, while Republicans attacked a deal under which Jeffords would receive a chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (although he lost a position as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee). Many Clinton administration policies on the environment, taxes, and regulatory control of corporations were quickly reversed, but the public remained sharply divided over the president, who struggled to pass legislation through a Democratic-controlled Senate.
In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, however, Bush's political fortunes and approval ratings rose sharply as he pursued a "War on Terrorism" that included the invasion of Afghanistan and the USA Patriot Act.
The Republican Party solidified its Congressional margins in the 2002 midterm elections (regaining control of the Senate), in the run-up to the war in 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). On November 2, 2004, Bush was re-elected, for the first time winning the popular vote (by three percentage points - the first president to win a majority of the popular vote since 1988), while Republicans gained seats in both houses of Congress, leaving Democrats in the minority.
Thus, by 2006, Republicans will have controlled the White House for 26 of the previous 38 years, and the Congress since 1994 (with a brief interruption in the Senate). Conservative commentators speculate, and Republicans hope, that this may constitute a permanent partisan realignment. Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political advisor, has been reported to be a keen student of the presidential election of 1896, in which Mark Hanna helped William McKinley construct a Republican majority that lasted for the next 36 years.
However, some liberal-leaning commentators, such as Ruy Teixeira and John Judis (in The Emerging Democratic Majority, 2002), see such prospects as unlikely, given that Republican voters are overwhelming white and largely rural, two groups shrinking in relative demographic terms, while Democrats win healthy majorities among Latinos, African Americans, and city dwellers. Their conservative counterparts, however, point to Bush's relative success among Latinos, 35% of whom voted for Bush in 2000 and 44% in 2004. (Though Bush lost the African American vote by a record-setting margin in 2000, winning only 9%, he modestly improved that share to 11% in 2004). They also point to Republican strength in quickly-growing exurbs and in the booming metropolitan areas of the South.
Factions of the Republican Party
It should be noted defining the views of any "faction" of any political party is difficult at best, and that any attempt to apply labels within a single political party is no more effective than the application of broad labels to political parties as a whole. Keeping that in mind, there are several ideological groups widely recognized within the modern-day GOP, including the religious right, paleoconservatives, neoconservatives, moderates, fiscal conservatives, and libertarians.
For more information on the factions in the Republican Party, see Factions in the Republican Party (United States).
- Refer also to: List of Presidents of the United States
Other noted Republicans
- Howard Baker, Ambassador to Japan
- Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida
- Ben Nighthorse Campbell, outgoing Senator from Colorado
- Saxby Chambliss, Senator from Georgia
- Dick Cheney, Vice President
- Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader, from Texas
- Elizabeth Dole, Senator from North Carolina, former Labor Secretary and Transportation Secretary, and former presidential candidate
- Bill Frist, Senate Majority Leader, from Tennessee
- Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, from Georgia
- Phil Gramm, former Senator from Texas
- Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York
- Alexander Haig, former Secretary of State
- Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House, from Illinois
- Jesse Helms, former Senator from North Carolina
- Thomas Kean, former Governor from New Jersey
- Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State
- Trent Lott, former Senate Majority Leader, from Mississippi
- John McCain, Senator from Arizona and former presidential candidate
- George Pataki, Governor of New York
- Colin Powell, Secretary of State
- Dan Quayle, former Vice President
- Tom Ridge, Homeland Security Secretary
- Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State
- Dana Rohrabacher, Representative from California
- Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
- Rick Santorum, Senator from Pennsylvania and chairman of the Senate Republican Conference
- George P. Shultz, former Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury
- Arlen Specter, Senator from Pennsylvania
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California
- Caspar Weinberger. former Secretary of Defense
- Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
- Pete Wilson, former Governor of California
- John Connally (1917 - 1993), a Governor of Texas
- Joseph Gurney Cannon (1836 - 1926), Speaker of the House
- Charles Curtis (1860 - 1936), Vice President
- Charles G. Dawes (1865 - 1951), Vice President
- George Frisbie Hoar (1826 - 1904), Senator from Massachusetts
- Robert G. Ingersoll (1833 - 1899), political activist
- Henry Cabot Lodge (1850-1924) Senator from Massachusetts
- Joseph McCarthy (1908 - 1957), Senator from Wisconsin and noted anti-communist
- Thomas Brackett Reed (1839 - 1902), Speaker of the House
- Nelson Rockefeller (1908 - 1979), Vice President, Governor of New York, and repeated presidential candidate
- Leland Stanford (1824 - 1893), Governor of California, Senator, and founder of Stanford University
- Robert Alphonso Taft (1889 - 1953), Senator and former presidential candidate
- Strom Thurmond (1902 - 2003), the oldest serving Senator in history (from South Carolina)
- Arthur H. Vandenberg (1884 - 1951), Senator from Michigan
- Earl Warren (1891 - 1974), Governor of California and Chief Justice of the United States