The Republican Party: an Overview

The Republican Party, often referred to as the GOP (Grand Old Party), is a spinoff of the Democratic Party of the mid-nineteenth century. Organized as an anti-slavery party, Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican candidate for president. Made up of largely northern states, the Republicans opposed the plantation system and supported independent business interests. They quickly established themselves as the main opposition to the heavily southern Democratic Party. The Republican Party has changed much over the decades but it has always managed to retain an attitude of “pro business” and limited government. It was the desire to decentralize the government that led them to choose the Jeffersonian name “Republican” in the first place.

Arguments over Reconstruction and its inherent corruption following the Civil War fractured the party into factions. These factions grew farther and farther apart as the economy grew and then tanked in 1929. The DNC driven “New Deal” series of social programs attracted many who were suffering during The Great Depression. This included minorities who could vote in the north but not in the south. As Democrats began to acquire more and more northern supporters, their collective attitude toward civil rights began to take a more progressive turn. Many southerners began fleeing the DNC for the generally more conservative Republican Party. Though FDR’s New Deal social programs did succeed as a short term solution, his Republican detractors were ultimately proved right that those programs failed to provide a long term solution to the massive unemployment crisis left behind by the stock market crash. This attracted even more southern Democrats to switch sides.

As the 20th century progressed and racial tensions increased, the Republican Party continued to drift more to the right by identifying more and more with Judeo-Christian principles and applying them to stances on governmental policy. Republican Barry Goldwater, during the Civil Rights Movement, famously categorized Civil Rights as a States’ Rights issue as opposed to a Federal one. This spurred the final migration of remaining southern states to the Republican Party. By refusing to associate Civil Rights with the basic human rights outlined in the Federal Constitution, many felt that Goldwater’s stance was inherently racist. His stance was also reminiscent of Southern Democrats’ arguments for slavery in the 1800’s.

By opposing abortion in the 1970’s, evangelical support for the GOP grew. By the 21st century, the Republican Party was deeply entrenched in Christian conservatism. The current, dominant RNC policy stances include: low taxes, pro-life, free market capitalism, restrictions on unions, de-regulation of business, pro-gun, and a strong military.

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