Republican Party founded

Republican Party founded

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In Ripon, Wisconsin, former members of the Whig Party meet to establish a new party to oppose the spread of slavery into the western territories. The Whig Party, which was formed in 1834 to oppose the “tyranny” of President Andrew Jackson, had shown itself incapable of coping with the national crisis over slavery.

With the successful introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854, an act that dissolved the terms of the Missouri Compromise and allowed slave or free status to be decided in the territories by popular sovereignty, the Whigs disintegrated. By February 1854, anti-slavery Whigs had begun meeting in the upper midwestern states to discuss the formation of a new party. One such meeting, in Wisconsin on March 20, 1854, is generally remembered as the founding meeting of the Republican Party.

The Republicans rapidly gained supporters in the North, and in 1856 their first presidential candidate, John C. Fremont, won 11 of the 16 Northern states. By 1860, the majority of the Southern slave states were publicly threatening secession if the Republicans won the presidency. In November 1860, Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected president over a divided Democratic Party, and six weeks later South Carolina formally seceded from the Union. Within six more weeks, five other Southern states had followed South Carolina’s lead, and in April 1861 the Civil War began when Confederate shore batteries under General P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor.

The Civil War firmly identified the Republican Party as the party of the victorious North, and after the war the Republican-dominated Congress forced a “Radical Reconstruction” policy on the South, which saw the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution and the granting of equal rights to all Southern citizens. By 1876, the Republican Party had lost control of the South, but it continued to dominate the presidency until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.

READ MORE: Why the Whig Party Collapsed

Republican Party History

The Republican Party, often called the GOP (short for “Grand Old Party”) is one of two major political parties in the United States. Founded in 1854 as a coalition opposing the extension of slavery into Western territories, the Republican Party fought to protect the rights of African Americans after the Civil War. Today’s GOP is generally socially conservative, and favors smaller government, less regulation, lower taxes and less federal intervention in the economy.

The Republican Party Founded

The party was born of hostility to slavery. Back in 1820, the US Congress had agreed the Missouri Compromise, under which Missouri entered the Union as a slave state, but slavery was forbidden anywhere else in the Louisiana Purchase north of 36º 30’. However, in 1854 the principle was threatened by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, under which the white inhabitants of the two territories were to decide by referendum whether slavery would be allowed there or not. There were numerous Americans in the northern states who disapproved of slavery, including many northern Whigs and Democrats as well as the Free Soilers, who had sprung from concern over the possible introduction of slavery in territory acquired from Mexico in the 1840s. With the slogan ‘Free soil, free speech, free labor and free men’, the Free Soil Party had run Martin Van Buren unsuccessfully for president in 1848.

Free Soilers now joined Whigs and northern Democrats to form a new, completely northern political party. The original impetus came from impromptu ‘anti-Nebraska’ meetings in the north-western states of Wisconsin and Michigan to discuss what to do if the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed. The meetings were not only opposed to slavery, but demanded the opening up of the West by small homesteaders and the building of railroads. In February a gathering in Ripon, Wisconsin, resolved to form a new party and a local lawyer named Alvan E. Bovay suggested the name Republican for its echoes of Thomas Jefferson. In Michigan there were meetings in Kalamazoo, Jackson and Detroit, and after the Act had passed in May, the new party was formally founded in Jackson in July. A leading figure was Austin Blair, a Free Soiler lawyer who was prosecuting attorney of Jackson County. He helped to draft the new party’s platform, was elected to the state senate in Republican colours that year and would become governor of Michigan in 1860.

In Illinois meanwhile, another lawyer, a Whig named Abraham Lincoln, had come out against slavery and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. In a speech at Peoria in October 1854 he said: ‘No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.’ He proclaimed that slavery was ‘a monstrous injustice’ and a breach of the Declaration of Independence and for a time he favoured transporting ex-slaves back to Africa. The new party quickly spread to the other northern states, where it displaced the Whigs as the principal opposition to the Democrats.

Slavery was not the only issue. Northerners often looked down on blacks, but dislike of slavery was part of belief in a United States in which every man was free to make himself a good life by his own efforts. Already in the 1854 elections the Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives. Two years later the party ran its first presidential candidate, the celebrated western explorer John C. Fremont, who carried eleven states. The 1860 party convention in Chicago chose Lincoln as its candidate with Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, a former Democrat, as his running mate. The northern and southern wings of the Democratic Party ran rival candidates, which let the Republicans in with the electoral votes of all the northern states. From then until 1932, of seventeen presidential elections the Republicans lost only four, two each to Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson. No new political party has won an American presidential election since 1860.

After the introduction in Congress of the Kansas–Nebraska bill in January 1854, many meetings were held in protest across the country. The meeting held in Ripon, Wisconsin on March 20, 1854, is commonly cited as the birth of the Republican Party in the United States due to it being the first publicized anti-slavery meeting to propose a new party with its name being Republican.

Origins of the Republican Party in Wisconsin Edit

Before the meeting in Ripon, an alliance existed between state Whigs, whose national party had weakened, and members of the Free Soil Party, with whom they formed a "people's ticket" as early as 1842. The coalition succeeded in electing the chief justice of the state supreme court, a Milwaukee mayor and aldermen. [4] Many Wisconsin Democrats were also opposed to the Kansas–Nebraska bill, which not only would leave the question of slavery in the territories up to popular sovereignty, but as originally amended would also deny immigrants the right to vote or hold public office. [5] The bill was roundly condemned in the Wisconsin press, as editors such as Horace Rublee (Wisconsin State Journal), Rufus King (Milwaukee Sentinel) and Sherman Booth (Waukesha Free Democrat) encouraged the formation of a new party by calling for an anti-Nebraska convention at the state capitol in Madison. At a large meeting in Milwaukee on February 13, Booth led a committee that drafted many of the resolutions that would later be the basis for other anti-Nebraska meetings in the state, including the famous meeting in Ripon. [6]

Birth of the Republican Party Edit

The organizer of the meeting that gave birth to America's Republican Party was New York state native Alvan Earle Bovay, a lawyer and mathematics teacher at Ripon College. In 1852 Bovay traveled to New York City during the national Whig Party convention and met with old friend and New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley. Bovay suggested the name "Republican" for a new anti-slavery party that would replace the fading Whigs. He favored it because it was a simple word rather than a compound name like Free Soil or Free Democrat, that it could be used as either a noun or an adjective, that it would remind people of Thomas Jefferson's affiliation, and that it symbolized what he believed the new party should represent: "Res Publica," synonymous with commonwealth. Bovay also believed that the name would attract immigrant voters that had recently fled monarchies.

On February 26, 1854, Bovay sent a letter to Greeley urging him to editorialize about a new Republican party, without result. In the meantime he organized a public meeting at the Congregational Church in Ripon on March 1, where resolutions were passed condemning the Nebraska bill and promising a new party if it became law. The Senate passed the bill two days later, which prompted Bovay to organize another meeting in Ripon at Schoolhouse Dist. No. 2 on March 20, 1854, at 6:30 p.m. Composed of Whigs, Democrats and Free Soilers, 54 of Ripon's 100 voters filled the schoolhouse to capacity and were nearly unanimous in their support of a new party with Bovay's suggested name Republican. Bovay wrote Greeley on June 4 urging him to publicize the name before Michigan and Wisconsin held their state anti-Nebraska conventions, which Greeley did in a Tribune editorial on June 24. [7]

Organizing the Republican Party of Wisconsin Edit

On June 9 Sherman Booth repeated the call for a mass convention in Madison, and suggested July 13, the anniversary of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 that had banned slavery in the Northwest Territory. Other Wisconsin editors concurred and publicized the convention. [8]

Beginning in the capitol's assembly chamber, the state convention was moved outdoors due to the many delegates and supporters arriving, with the crowd topping one thousand. The proceedings were run by experienced Whigs and Free Soilers, with editors Booth and King controlling the platform and nominating officers from all three major parties. [9] Resolutions included abrogating the Fugitive Slave Act, re-instating Kansas and Nebraska as free states and banning all future slave states. They also resolved to invite all persons "whether of native or foreign birth" to join the party, and a committee was assigned to establish a Republican German newspaper in Milwaukee. All resolutions were passed unanimously, and nine hearty cheers went up for the state's new Republican Party. [10]

After winning over much of the foreign-language press, the new party was very successful in the fall elections, helped greatly by the fact that the state Democrats were deeply split over the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Republicans elected two of Wisconsin's three congressmen (Cadwallader C. Washburn and Charles Billinghurst), as well as winning enough seats in the state legislature to elect the country's first Republican senator, Charles Durkee. [11] By 1857 they not only controlled the governorship and the state legislature by large majorities, but also held all three Congressional seats and both U.S. Senate seats.

Despite such electoral domination, the Republican party was split over many issues. Many former Whigs pressed for temperance legislation, resulting in charges of nativism from many of the Germans brought into the party by Carl Schurz. United by national events like the Dred Scot decision, abolitionists still drove the party agenda, but were criticized for showing more concern for the black slave than for the white man. Following Sherman Booth's role in inciting the liberation of runaway slave Joshua Glover from a Milwaukee jail in 1854, many Republicans championed the issue of states' rights, declaring the Fugitive Slave Law effectively repealed in Wisconsin. Some in the party anticipated a confrontation with the federal government. Governor Alexander Randall ordered an Irish militia disbanded because he doubted their loyalty to Wisconsin. Many in the militia subsequently perished in the shipwreck of the Lady Elgin.

The Civil War era Edit

The Wisconsin delegation to the 1860 Republican convention backed Senator William Seward for president, but quickly supported Abraham Lincoln once his nomination appeared inevitable. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, governors like Randall and Edward Salomon vigorously endorsed the war and mustered thousands of troops to meet the federal quotas, later resorting to a draft.

Politically, the Civil War was a boon to the Republicans. Returning officers like Brigadier General Lucius Fairchild, who had lost an arm at Gettysburg, were the perfect spokesmen for the party. Fairchild later became a three-term governor. Republicans could forever claim they fought to preserve the Union, and veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic became a powerful constituency.

The state Republican chairman from 1859 to 1869 was Wisconsin State Journal editor Horace Rublee, who with former governor Randall, Madison postmaster Elisha W. Keyes and others became known as the "Madison Regency." Randall later became President Andrew Johnson's postmaster general, and with Keyes they steered federal patronage jobs to political allies and strengthened the party's hold on the statehouse. Despite such power the state Republicans were divided into factions, with the more ideological members opposed to Johnson's vetoes of Freedman legislation and President Ulysses S. Grant's corrupt administration (many later joining Carl Schurz's Liberal Republican Party in 1872). Another faction of patronage-seekers and loyal veterans supported Grant as a bulwark against what they saw as a traitorous Democratic Party. Nevertheless, the Republicans would continue to dominate Wisconsin government for the next six decades with few interruptions.

The 1870s and 1880s Edit

Rublee ran a quiet campaign in the legislature for possible election as U.S. Senator, but after losing to Matthew H. Carpenter, Rublee was appointed by Grant minister to Switzerland in 1869. The party machinery was left in the hands of "Boss" Keyes. Yet the Industrial Age hailed a shift of Republican power away from Madison, to wealthy men like Philetus Sawyer of Oshkosh, whose lumber fortune would help fund the party and advance him from mayor to state legislator to congressman to U.S. senator. Milwaukee's Henry C. Payne rose from dry goods dealer to the Young Men's Republican Club, where he engineered a voter registration drive among the city's immigrants to vote the Republican ticket. In 1876 Payne was appointed Milwaukee's postmaster, a powerful source of patronage jobs. He later became wealthy as a manager of banks, utilities and railroads. John C. Spooner of Hudson was the principal attorney for the West Wisconsin Railroad, and his manipulation of land grants into Sawyer's hands contributed to his future as party insider, and later, U.S. senator alongside Sawyer. Upon his return from Europe Rublee resumed the chairmanship of the party. With help from backers, he purchased the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1882 and was its editor until his death in 1896.

The Republicans briefly lost control of state government following the Panic of 1873, when a reform coalition of Democrats, Grangers and Liberal Republicans elected Democrat William Taylor as governor. Immigrant backlash against Republican-supported temperance legislation was also a major factor. In 1874 Republicans backed the weak railroad regulation of the Potter Law, but replaced the law with the even weaker Vance Law once they returned to power the next year.

Civil War veteran Jeremiah Rusk of Viroqua proved a popular Republican governor during his three terms (1882-1889). A farmer, Rusk supported measures that improved the state's agriculture, such as university-run experimental farms. He was later appointed the country's first Secretary of Agriculture by president Benjamin Harrison. In 1886, he issued the "shoot to kill" order to the National Guard in response to widespread May Day strikes in Milwaukee, resulting in the Bay View Tragedy that left seven people dead. Despite the loss of life, Rusk's decision was applauded in state newspapers as well as nationally. Rusk's administration was followed by that of another Republican farmer, William Hoard (1889-1891), who published a widely read journal on dairy farming.

In 1890 the Republicans were swept from state offices again when the party ran afoul of ethnic politics by supporting the Bennett Law, a compulsory school attendance measure that stipulated that all classes must be taught in English. Immigrant groups and supporters of parochial schools condemned the law while Governor Hoard and the Milwaukee Sentinel continued to defend it. Democrats won in a landslide, but the GOP returned to power two years later.

The Progressive Era Edit

During the 1890s the state Republican party was split into two factions. The stalwart faction in power was led by wealthy men such as Sawyer, Payne, Spooner and Charles F. Pfister (who would purchase the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1900). The other faction (the "halfbreeds") was composed of reform-minded Republicans such as Dunn County's Albert R. Hall and Soldiers Grove's James O. Davidson who saw the powerful railroad and utility monopolies (such as The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company (TMER&L)) cheating their customers and corrupting their politicians.

Following three terms as a stand-pat Republican congressman from Madison, Robert M. La Follette emerged as the leader of an insurgent movement to wrest control of the party from the stalwart machine. La Follette had backed other anti-machine Republicans for governor before first running for the office in 1896. He campaigned on a platform of election reform and corporate accountability while accusing the stalwarts of bribery. After being elected governor on his third attempt in 1900, he spent his three terms fighting for primary elections and taxation of corporations based on the value of property. In 1904 the stalwarts fought bitterly against his second re-election with the use of bribed editors and a rump convention, but La Follette prevailed and saw his reforms passed. The state legislature elected him U.S. senator in 1905.

Succeeding La Follette as governor was James O. Davidson, who supported and signed into law reforms such as state regulation of industries, insurance companies and other businesses. Governor Francis E. McGovern followed with an even more progressive program that resulted in a state income tax, workers compensation, child labor laws and encouragement of cooperatives. Regardless of Davidson and McGovern's successes, La Follette ran his own loyal candidates against them, splitting the state's progressive Republicans and resulting in the 1912 election of the stalwarts' candidate Emanuel Philipp as governor. Despite campaigning on promises to dismantle progressive programs, Philipp proved to be a moderate, leaving nearly all of the reforms intact.

World War I Edit

As World War I raged in Europe, most Wisconsin Republicans moved cautiously from neutrality to preparedness. One exception was Sen. La Follette, an outspoken opponent of American participation in the war. In February 1917 he led a group of progressive senators in blocking President Woodrow Wilson's bill to arm merchant ships. La Follette's actions made him nationally notorious. After being misquoted in a speech as having no grievances against Germany, he was abandoned by many of his longtime associates and later threatened with expulsion from the Senate. Gov. Philipp also opposed arming merchant ships and conscription, but after war was declared he administered the state's war effort, marshaled state resources and formed councils to conduct the draft, sell Liberty bonds, generate propaganda and stifle dissent.

The war shattered the traditional alignments within the state's parties. Many progressives joined the stalwarts in supporting Wisconsin's war measures, while many immigrant voters abandoned Wilson's Democratic Party. Loyalty became a prime issue in political campaigns, to the detriment of farmers and others shortchanged by the war. Even after the Armistice, super-patriots like state senator Roy P. Wilcox of Eau Claire weren't above accusing party figures like Gov. Philipp and Sen. Irvine Lenroot of divided loyalties. To thwart Wilcox's run for governor in 1920, the Philipp and La Follette forces separately supported John Blaine, the former mayor of Boscobel and a La Follette progressive.

The 1920s Edit

During the 1920s state Republicans racked up a decade of tremendous legislative majorities. For example, in 1925 the Democrats held no seats in the state senate and only one in the assembly, while the Republicans held 92 assembly seats. [12] But with the end of the war, factions within the party began to re-assert themselves, and a second wave of progressives returned to power. La Follette was decisively re-elected senator in 1922, and two years later he ran for president on a Progressive Party ticket against President Calvin Coolidge. He received every sixth vote cast nationally, but only carried Wisconsin. He died in 1925, but the La Follette name and his brand of Republicanism were carried on by his two sons. Robert La Follette, Jr. defeated Wilcox in the special election to fill his father's senate seat, while his younger brother Philip F. La Follette was elected Dane County district attorney.

To fight the progressives, conservative Republicans organized the Republican Voluntary Committee as a political action group to strategize and raise large donations outside the state party. The RVC cited a Wisconsin Manufacturers Association-financed study that concluded that businesses were leaving the state due to high taxes, but the report was refuted by economists that proved manufacturing had grown in the state. The study backfired and Gov. Blaine succeeded in shifting the tax burden from property to income. [13]

With help from the Republican Voluntary Committee the stalwarts returned to the governorship with the 1928 election of Walter J. Kohler of Kohler Company, a plumbing fixture manufacturer who practiced an industrial policy of benevolence towards his workers (including the planned community of Kohler) as a guard against unions. Like President Herbert Hoover, Kohler was stimied by the stock market crash of 1929, and his attempts to mitigate the effects of the Depression were ineffective. Running for re-election in 1930 Kohler was beaten decisively in the Republican primary by Phil La Follette, who led a successful slate of progressive allies to state office and Congress in the general election.

Decline of the Progressive faction Edit

After the 1930s and 1940s, the influence of the progressive faction began to wane as many eventually left office or joined the Democrats and the conservatives gradually took control. In 1934, Philip La Follette and Robert M. La Follette, Jr. established the Wisconsin Progressive Party which was an alliance between the longstanding "Progressive" faction of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, led by the La Follette family and their political allies, and certain radical farm and labor groups active in Wisconsin at the time. [14] The party served as a vehicle for Philip to run for re-election as Governor of Wisconsin and for Robert to run for re-election to the United States Senate. Both men were successful in their bids, and the party saw a number of other victories as well in the 1934 and 1936 election, notably winning several U.S. House seats and a majority of the Wisconsin State Senate and Wisconsin State Assembly in 1936. Their grip on power was short-lived, however, and they succumbed to a united Democratic and Republican front in 1938 which swept most of them out of office, including Philip. They were further crippled that year by attempting to expand the party to the national level. As the Progressives formed their own party, this allowed conservativism to increasingly dominate the Republican Party. The Progressive Party would continue to have an increasingly diminishing influence at the state level until the late 1940s when Robert M. La Follette Jr was defeating by Joe McCarthy and the last of the progressive party was out of office. [1]

Cold War era Edit

Following World War II many progressives were either defeated or joined the Democratic Party. Conservatives increasingly began to dominate the Republican Party, though many more moderate members still continued to exert influence. This new conservative trend in the party was most famously exemplified by Joe McCarthy, who represented Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate from 1947 until his death in 1957. Initially described as "quiet," McCarthy eventually rose to national prominence over his stanch anti-communist views, and for being a primary instigator of the red scare during the early 1950s. McCarthy's wild and often false attacks against various government officials for being communist, including at one point targeting fellow Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, eventually led him to be censured by his colleagues in the Senate in 1954, and also led to the creation of the term McCarthyism. By this point, public opinion throughout the country had generally turned against him. [15]

Back at home, the state Republicans' dominance of Wisconsin politics began to wane during the second half of the 20th century, with the party now regularly alternating and sharing control with the state's Democrats. Several Republican governors were elected during this time, most prominently Walter J. Kohler, Jr. and Warren P. Knowles, both of whom were of the more moderate wing of the party. At the federal level, with the exception of U.S. Senate seats following the death of McCarthy, the Republicans continued to hold an edge. Between 1952 and 1972, Wisconsin voted for the Republican candidate in each presidential election except for 1964.

By the 1970s however, especially after the watergate scandal, Republican successes in Wisconsin began to diminish significantly. In 1976, the state voted for Democrat Jimmy Carter to become President, and by the late 1970s, the Republicans had been completely shut out of power at both the state and federal levels of government, with the Democrats controlling all statewide executive offices and holding a supermajority in the Wisconsin state legislature. During this time, more conservative factions of the party started to grow in power, with the moderates becoming increasingly irrelevant. This trend eventually led to the rise of Lee S. Dreyfus, who ran for governor as a Republican in 1978. Dreyfus, a party outsider who had become fearful of a one-party system after a visit to communist China, and ran because he believed Wisconsin was at risk of becoming a one-party state under the Democrats, moved the Republicans in a fiscal conservative direction, echoing the national trend that occurred with the rise of Ronald Reagan. Dreyfus's fiscal conservatism and populist sentiments, while still remaining generally moderate on social issues, would ultimately lead him to win the governorship, ending unified Democratic control of the state. Later in 1980, Wisconsin voted for Reagan in his successful presidential bid, and conservative Robert W. Kasten Jr. unseated three-term incumbent Democrat Gaylord Nelson in the state's election for U.S. Senate.

The 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s Edit

With a faltering state economy and rising budget deficit, Dreyfus chose not to seek a second term in 1982, and the Republicans ultimately found themselves relegated to the minority once again, with the Democrats winning back the governorship and still maintaining wide majorities in the state legislature. In spite of this trend, Reagan would still manage to carry the state in his 1984 re-election as President, though this would mark the last time until 2016 where a Republican would carry Wisconsin in a presidential bid.

At the state level, by the mid 1980s, the conservative transformation of the Republicans was completed. Subsequently, the party began to break free of its status as a minority party in the state. In 1986, the party's candidate for governor Tommy Thompson successfully unseated one-term incumbent Anthony Earl by a wide margin. Having campaigned on a conservative platform, during his time in office Thompson become most well known for his welfare reform efforts, which would later serve as a national model for the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act in 1996. [16] Following his initial election, Thompson would go on to win three more elections in the 1990s, each one by double digit margins, and would serve a record 14 years in office before leaving in 2001 to become U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Republicans also won back control of the state legislature for the first time in over twenty years in the "Republican Revolution" of 1994, giving the party a governing trifecta for the first time since 1970. In spite of these gains however, the party continued to struggle with elections to federal offices, namely elections to the U.S. Senate. Following Republican Robert W. Kasten Jr.'s 1992 defeat in his bid for re-election by Russ Feingold, the party would fail to win another Senate race for nearly two decades.

For most of the 2000s, following the departure of Thompson from the governorship and the later defeat of his lieutenant governor Scott McCallun by Democrat Jim Doyle in the 2002 election, Wisconsin remained in a state of divided government with the Republicans continuing to control the legislature. The new decade also saw the rise of a new generation of Republicans, including conservative Scott Walker, who was first elected as Milwaukee County Executive in 2002. Wisconsin politics in the 2000s was partly dominated by the presidency of George W. Bush. This has the effect of benefitting Republicans early on, however as Bush's approval ratings sank in the latter part of the decade, largely due to his perceived lackluster response to Hurricane Katrina and the increasingly costly Iraq War, Wisconsin voters began to turn on the party at all levels of government. In the 2008 elections, this had the effect of allowing Democrat Barack Obama to carry the state by a landslide margin in the presidential election over Republican John McCain, and shutting Republicans completely out of power in state government for the first time since 1986 (with the exception of the state's Attorney General position, which was still held by Republican J.B. Van Hollen).

The rise and fall of Scott Walker Edit

The Republican party of Wisconsin and the politics of the state in general during the 2010s were heavily dominated by the rise of stanch conservative Governor Scott Walker, backed by the then adescent Tea Party movement, a right-wing conservative movement that had formed in the late 2000s in response to Obama's election as President of the United States. In 2010, the Republicans, particularly those backed by the Tea Party movement, made sweeping gains in the state. Alongside Walker's victory in the 2010 governor's race, Republicans also won every other statewide seat up for election, including a U.S. Senate seat won by Tea Party-backed Ron Johnson, as well as both chambers of the state's legislature.

Shortly after taking power in 2011, Walker introduced his first budget which he stated was designed to fix the billion dollar budget deficit that the state was facing at the time. Protests soon erupted however over a measure in the budget known as Act 10, which was set to limit collective bargaining rights of public employees in the state. After signing the budget and Act 10 into law, Walker and several other Republicans, including State Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, were faced with recall efforts. This eventually led to a 2012 recall election against Walker, where he defeated his opponent from 2010 in a rematch by a slightly wider margin than the previous time. In the other subsequent recall elections in June of 2012, Republicans lost control of the State Senate by a single seat to the Democrats, though they gained back their majority the following November.

During his time in office, Walker signed numerous pieces of landmark (and often controversial) legislation into law, including laws restricting access to abortion, loosening labor regulations, and cutting property taxes. After being re-elected in 2014, Walker also signed a right-to-work law, for which he gained significant national attention. After a brief stint running for President himself in 2015, Walker eventually endorsed Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential race, in a bid to stop Donald Trump from getting the nomination. Cruz later won the 2016 Wisconsin Republican primary, though Walker later supported Trump after he clinched the party's nomination, and Trump went on to be the first Republican to carry Wisconsin in a presidential election since 1984.

Later in 2018, Walker sought re-election to a third term as governor, however his glamour as a young energetic conservative by this point had largely worn off, and his rising unpopularity due to his policies concerning public education, [17] infrastructure, and a deal his administration made with Taiwanese company Foxconn in 2017 to create jobs in the state in exchange for around $4.5 billion in taxpayer subsidies, [18] made re-election in 2018 far difficult than in his previous races. His increasingly unpopular conservative policies, compounded by the relative unpopularity of Trump in Wisconsin, [19] ultimately resulted in Walker's defeat by Democratic candidate Tony Evers. Republicans also subsequently lost all statewide executive offices, though in spite of this they maintained wide majorities in both chambers of the state legislature despite losing the overall statewide vote, which some people have attributed to gerrymandering that took place following the 2010 elections.

Wisconsin Republicans today Edit

Following the defeat of Scott Walker, in December 2018, a special legislative session was called by Walker to pass a series of bills to limit the powers of his incoming successor Tony Evers, as well as incoming Democratic State attorney general Josh Kaul who had defeated incumbent Republican Brad Schimel. [20] The bills were widely denounced by Democrats and others as a "power grab." Walker and other Republicans meanwhile argued that the bills were necessary "checks on power" and that they did not actually strip any real powers from the executive. [21] Lawsuits were filed by Evers and various labor unions almost immediately after Walker signed the bills into law. [22]

Currently the Republican Party of Wisconsin controls one out of two U.S. Senate seats and five out of eight U.S. House seats and a majority in both houses of the state legislature. The party holds no statewide executive offices.

On October 22, 2020, the party noticed suspicious activity in its account used for Donald Trump's reelection campaign. It soon appeared that hackers had altered invoices so that, when the party paid its expenses, $2.3 million was paid to the hackers rather than to the actual vendors to whom it was owed. [23]

2009 Republican Party of Wisconsin Convention Edit

The 2009 party convention was held in La Crosse on May 1, with the highlight being straw polls for the upcoming 2010 gubernatorial and senatorial elections. [24]

2010 Republican Party of Wisconsin Convention Edit

The 2010 party convention was held May 21–23 in Milwaukee. The convention was the largest in RPW history with over 1500 delegates registering and participating in the convention. The convention endorsed Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker for Governor with 91% of the vote.

2011 Republican Party of Wisconsin Convention Edit

The 2011 RPW convention was held May 20–22 in Wisconsin Dells. The convention was held at Glacier Canyon Lodge at the Wilderness.

2012 Republican Party of Wisconsin Convention Edit

The 2012 RPW Convention was held May 11–13 at the KI Convention Center in downtown Green Bay. [25] The convention will begin the final push for the Republican defense of the 2012 Recall Election of Governor Scott Walker.

From Lincoln to Trump: a brief history of the US Republican Party

It was born in the 1850s as an antislavery party led by Abraham Lincoln and, up until the 1930s, remained the natural party of African-Americans. How, then, did the Republicans graduate into the party of the establishment which today, under President Trump, attracts the vote of as few as one in 10 African-Americans? Professor Adam I P Smith explores the history and origins of the Republican Party…

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Published: February 20, 2020 at 3:38 pm

The origins of the Republican Party

The Republican party was created by men who wanted to destroy the power of slaveholders. The year 1854 is the usual date assigned to its ‘birth’, although in truth there was no one single moment of creation. Its main supporters in the early months and years were, like Abraham Lincoln, mostly former members of the Whig Party, an organisation which had championed Protestant moral reform and economic development, but which had been fatally compromised by division over slavery.

Only seeking support in the northern states, the new Republican Party had no need to pull their punches on slavery. Its supporters argued that the republic was under threat from the “Slave Power” – a conspiracy of southern planters who were undermining the freedoms of northern white men by demanding more and more protections for their human “property”.

Exhibit A in this well-founded conspiracy theory was the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) that had overturned the long-standing Missouri Compromise which had banned slavery from expanding into much of the west. The prospect of slaveholders marching their human chattels into Kansas and beyond was frightening to northerners because it cut off their own dreams of going west to make their fortune. More than that, it was a demonstration that southern “aristocrats” held the “whip hand”. White northerners began to feel that they were being enslaved too, just as their forefathers in 1776 had used the metaphor of their own enslavement to justify their opposition to the king.

In 1858 Lincoln made a famous speech in Springfield, Illinois, in which he warned that a “house divided against itself cannot stand”. We cannot endure “half slave and half free”, he said. His point was that the nation was in danger of becoming an entirely slave-based republic unless the north rose up and made it, in the long run, entirely free. Lincoln’s ‘house-divided’ metaphor was, in other words not (as is sometimes mistakenly assumed) a pious call for national reconciliation but a call to arms. And it worked: Lincoln won the presidency in 1860 with only 40 per cent of the national popular vote but with a majority in the Electoral College achieved by winning pluralities in almost every single northern state. The Republican Party came into being by dividing and ruling. Arguably, they have been doing it ever since.

A mission to destroy slavery

For the first generation of Republicans, marginalising and eventually destroying slavery was part and parcel of a larger vision of breaking down obstacles to the creation of wealth and opportunity. The Republican-dominated Congress during the Civil War did not just concern itself with slavery or military matters but with huge infrastructure projects like the transcontinental railroad and with increasing tariffs to protect US industry against foreign competition. They were also the party of evangelicals, who, when they imagined the great republic they were building, saw it as one structured by Protestant morality. Catholics, Mormons, atheists, European-style socialists: to Republicans, all these groups were as inherently subversive of American freedom as the would-be tyrannical slaveholders.

If the Republican Party had begun as a party of outsiders, challenging the proslavery domination of US politics since the Revolution, they very quickly graduated into the party of the establishment. After the Civil War, the Republican Party dominated national politics for half a century. Their electoral base remained in the north and far west, but that was amply sufficient to ensure Electoral College majorities for the president and, more often than not, control of Congress. The party had the unquestioning support of those who were benefiting from the enormous wealth created in the ‘Gilded Age’: the big businessmen and entrepreneurs, the new class of professionals and clerks.

By the dawn of the 20th century, the Republicans had also become the party of imperial expansion. During the presidency of William McKinley (1897–1901), the US became involved in a war with Spain after which they emerged with, in effect, their own overseas empire in Cuba and the Philippines.

“Progressive” politics?

After McKinley became the third Republican president to be assassinated (the second, after Lincoln, was James A Garfield in 1881), he was succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt, whose charismatic leadership combined bombastic support for US global expansion – a grand vision for great American leadership – with what was then called a “progressive” politics of limiting the power of over-mighty corporations. The progressive strand in the Republican Party that Roosevelt represented remained strong well into the 20th century. It was strongest among westerners who felt most distant from the centres of financial power in the eastern cities it was a tradition that harked back to the egalitarian world of small-scale capitalism that Lincoln knew.

This progressive Republican strand was insufficient, however, to offer a satisfactory response to the Great Depression. The incumbent Republican in the White House, Herbert Hoover, became synonymous with the hardship of the years after 1929: the shanty towns that were inhabited by families who’d lost their homes were known as “Hoovervilles”. Democrat Franklin Roosevelt (a distant relative of the Republican Teddy Roosevelt) defeated Hoover in a landslide in 1932 with his promise of a New Deal and the stage was set for three decades in which the Republicans were largely marginalised.

Saved by the south

The party’s return to power – even if not with the same level of dominance as they’d enjoyed in the late 19th-century – came through what may once have seemed an unexpected route: the south. That region of the country had been hostile to Republicans since the Civil War, but in the wake of the civil rights movement, white southerners began moving steadily towards the Republican Party. For most of the last half century most of the former Confederacy has been the bedrock of the party’s congressional and presidential majorities. Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968 with what his advisors called a “southern strategy”: building a new electoral coalition based on white anxiety about a changing society. Ronald Reagan won in 1980 with a sunnier version of the same strategy.

Because the Republican Party was born as an antislavery party, and because Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and post-Civil War Republicans pushed through the dramatic constitutional amendments giving citizenship and rights to former slaves, the “party of Lincoln” remained for a long time the natural party of African-Americans. Up until the 1930s, black voters were Republicans (in areas where they were able to vote), while the Democrats were the party of the white “Jim Crow” south. The New Deal attracted black voters to the Democrats for the first time, but the civil rights revolution ­– enabled by Democrats on a national level – completed the transformation. Now, as few as one in 10 African-Americans vote for the party of Donald Trump, even though Republicans still hark back to their antislavery origins as a kind of proof that they can’t possibly be racist.

Trump’s party

President Trump would have appalled most previous generations of Republicans for many reasons, not least his coarseness, disregard for constitutional norms, and frequent attacks on US national security services. That he could become not just the Republican nominee in 2016 but that his party is now so firmly in thrall to him will long be seen by historians as a marker of a profound shift in the makeup of the Republican base and its attitude to power and authority.

And yet if we are attempting to understand the Republican party as an enduring and successful political party, Trump can – as in so many other ways – obscure more than he illuminates.

Look at the policy record of the Trump administration and it is hard not to conclude that any Republican president would have done the same things: very conservative judicial appointments and regressive tax cuts while blocking Democratic-sponsored spending bills.

The Republican Party has always been the party of the wealthiest in America, and never been in favour of government-induced redistribution of wealth. The context has changed massively since Lincoln’s day, but three themes illustrate the continuities in the public positions and policies of the party.

The first is the rhetoric of individual freedom as opposed to “class legislation” allegedly favoured by Dems. The second is social order and its defence. For Republicans, who have always drawn on the support of evangelical Protestants, there have always been profound threats to an ideal of social stability and the patriarchal family whether from Catholic immigrants, communists, 1960s radicals, civil rights leaders, or the identity politics of the “woke” left.

The third theme has been national chauvinism. Ronald Reagan used the slogan “Let’s Make America Great Again” in his 1980 campaign. Even with Donald Trump – perhaps especially with Donald Trump – there is nothing entirely new.

Civil War

At that time in the U.S., tensions were high between Northern and Southern states, causing the Civil War to break out in 1861, in the immediate aftermath of Lincoln’s inauguration. In the Civil War, seven Southern States formed the Confederate States of America and fought for detachment from the United States. However, the Union won the war, and the Confederacy was formally dissolved. The issue of slavery was at the center of political disagreement during the Civil War. This caused Republicans to fight for the abolition of slavery and Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

At this point in history, the U.S. South was predominantly Democratic and held conservative, agrarian-oriented, anti-big-business values. These values were characteristic of the Democratic Party at the time. The majority of Northern voters, on the other hand, were Republican. Many of these fought for civil and voting rights for African American people.

Republican Party

The Republican party of Texas originated in the spring of 1867, as Texans responded to the Congressional Reconstruction Act, passed on March 7. That act required the former Confederate states to fashion new governments and extend the elective franchise to all adult males without regard to race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The law radically altered the struggle for political power in Texas and the rest of the South by integrating African Americans into the political process. The state's Republicans embraced these Congressional demands and pursued the development of a biracial party. Their efforts led to the party's formal organization and the first state convention at Houston on July 4. Republican leadership came primarily from among antebellum and wartime Texas Unionists, many of whom were supporters of Sam Houston (these were called scalawags by their opponents), recent immigrants from the North (called carpetbaggers), and newly enfranchised Blacks. The Unionists dominated the proceedings. Former governor Elisha M. Pease chaired the convention, and Col. John L. Haynes, the popular commander of the First Texas Cavalry, USA, became the party's first executive-committee chairman. In its first platform, the party advanced an appeal based upon loyalty to the Union and the interests of race and class. The platform endorsed the national Republican party and Congressional Reconstruction, demanding the removal of all civil officials who had participated in the Rebellion or who opposed the policies of Congress. Pursuing Black and poor White voters, the convention called for a homestead law that would appropriate parts of the public domain to settlers without regard to race, and for a public school system for all the children of the state.

In the summer of 1867 the party secured many county and state offices when federal military officers removed incumbents as "impediments to Reconstruction" and replaced them with Republicans. At this time Pease assumed James W. Throckmorton's place as governor. These appointments gave Republicans control over voter registration and placed party loyalists in positions to aid local party development, including forming chapters of the Union League. Elections held on February 10, 1868, when party leaders secured a vote favoring a constitutional convention and Republicans gained a majority of seats for the convention, demonstrated the success of the local activity.

In the Constitutional Convention of 1868&ndash69, however, party unity gave way to bitter internal fighting. One faction, called Conservative Republicans, coalesced around Andrew J. Hamilton, prewar congressman and associate of Governor Pease. The Conservatives supported measures favoring private corporations, usually railroad or manufacturing interests, that promised economic development. Possibly to provide economic stability for investment and growth, they advocated the recognition of state and local government actions taken between 1861 and 1868 not in support of the war (the ab initio question). Their opponents, known as Radical Republicans, were led in the convention by Edmund J. Davis and Morgan C. Hamilton, A. J. Hamilton's brother. The Radicals supported declaring all acts of the state government after secession null and void from the beginning (ab initio), an act that would have restored the public school fund they also backed dividing the state. In the party convention of 1868, failure to secure inclusion of their issues in the platform led the Radicals to walk out. In the midst of the split, George T. Ruby, a Black teacher from Galveston, gained control of the state Union League and delivered its support to the Radicals. Two rival party organizations developed, and the split remained unrepaired in the 1869 state election, when voters considered a ballot listing Conservative and Radical candidates for state office as well as the ratification of the proposed constitution. A. J. Hamilton led the Conservatives and Davis the Radicals. Hamilton obtained endorsements from leading Democratic party politicians, but this support backfired. Some Conservative Republican supporters moved into the Radical camp, and Democrats did not vote in large numbers. As a result, Radical candidates won most of the offices. Davis became governor, and his faction controlled the state Senate and House. Radical legislative majorities sent James Winwright Flanagan and Morgan C. Hamilton to the United States Senate. William T. Clark, Edward Degener, and George W. Whitmore took three of the state's four congressional seats.

The 1869 election returns showed the sources of the new party's electoral strength. The strongest backing came from counties with large Black populations. White support came mainly from the German counties of Central Texas, frontier counties south and west of San Antonio, and some counties in Northeast Texas. The sources of White Republican votes were primarily areas that had shown Unionist strength before the war.

Between 1869 and 1874 the Radicals pushed ambitious economic and social programs. They sponsored and secured railroad development financed by state support of railroad bonds, established a system of free schools, instituted a bureau of immigration, and formed the State Police to combat lawlessness. Despite the party's achievements, higher taxes and Republican racial policies produced strong opposition to the administration from Democrats (supported by Conservative Republicans who had reorganized as Liberal Republicans). The Democrats also charged the Republicans with dictatorial practices and corruption. Ultimately, these issues found a response in the electorate. Democrats captured the legislature in 1872, and in the 1873 gubernatorial election Democrat Richard Coke easily defeated Davis. Subsequently, Davis continued to hold control over the party. Under his leadership the party maintained its historic support of Black rights and public education. Increasingly, however, the party assumed a position supporting reforms considered to be agrarian, including government restriction on railroads and soft-money policies. After Davis died in 1883, his position of leadership was taken by Norris Wright Cuney, a Black politician from Galveston, who kept the party on the course set by Davis.

During the Davis-Cuney years, Republican election success was restricted primarily to the counties with large Black populations, where voters supported Republican state candidates and elected Republican local officials. Statewide, however, the Republican electorate could muster no more than 20 to 30 percent of the vote. To gain state offices, Davis and Cuney promoted coalitions with various groups, particularly agrarian protest movements. In 1878 the Regulars endorsed William H. Hamman, the Greenback party candidate for governor, and in 1882 and 1884 they backed George W. "Wash" Jones , an independent. In 1896, despite opposition from national Populist (People's party) leaders, Texas Republicans and Populists united to support Jerome C. Kearby for governor. Fusion seldom succeeded, however, although Jones polled 40 percent in 1882 and Kearby secured 44 percent in 1896. The only major victory came in 1882, when cooperation with Independents sent Thomas P. Ochiltree to Congress.

Within the party, internal strife persisted through the Davis-Cuney years. Federal officeholders were a nagging problem to state leaders. The party's inability to elect state officials or any but an occasional member of Congress meant that national leaders seldom listened to local party officials in filling patronage jobs. Usually, successful candidates received their appointments because of their loyalty to one national leader or another, and they thus owed little to state Republican leaders. As a result, these federal jobholders not only failed to support but often opposed policies such as fusion, which was designed to expand local support, and provided a source of frustration to the efforts of Davis and Cuney. Individuals who believed that the party should abandon its biracial and agrarian base and build a party based upon Whites who supported the national party's economic and foreign policy positions-particularly a protective tariff, sound currency, and expansionism-also challenged Davis and Cuney's leadership. Governor Pease was one of the early backers of the idea that local support could be based on national policy. The idea of abandoning Black voters did not fully mature until 1889, however. That year Andrew J. Houston, son of Sam Houston and president of the state League of Republican Clubs, promoted the organization of segregated local clubs known as Lily-Whites (see LILY-WHITE MOVEMENT). The group's strength increased from this period, both in the party's traditional stronghold in the northern counties and also in urban areas. The election of 1896 was a turning point in the struggle between the Regulars and Lily-Whites. Cuney failed to back William McKinley's successful bid for the presidency, thus opening the way for Dr. John Grant, a Lily-White, to take the position of national committeeman from Texas. In 1898, after Cuney died, Grant and the Lily-Whites took over the state convention. The entire state party apparatus came under their control two years later, when Cecil A. Lyon was named head of the state executive committee. Although the struggle over the party's racial policies continued, with the Cuney faction persisting under the leadership of Edward H. R. Green and William M. "Gooseneck Bill" McDonald , the Lily-Whites maintained control over the state organization.

From 1901 to 1950, under such notable party chairmen as Lyon (chairman from 1901 to 1916) and Rentfro B. Creager (1920&ndash50), the party sought to enlarge its membership by appealing for support from Texans who were sympathetic with the national party's programs. The domestic agenda changed at times, but generally platforms were pro-business. This position was sustained by policies limiting government regulations and expenditures and reducing taxes, while providing aid to businessmen and farmers through extensions of credits and imposition of tariffs. Regarding foreign affairs, especially after , World War Inational Republicans stood for a unilateral policy, often tinged with considerable antiforeign sentiment. These years also saw major changes in party organization, especially under Creager's leadership. He was responsible for the establishment of the first state headquarters, with a professional staff assigned to handle fund-raising, press relations, and liaison between state and county leaders. More systematic efforts also were made to develop grass-roots support, including the 1930 organization of the Texas Young Republicans. During the Lyon-Creager years the party survived, but it gathered few additional voters. At times, concern among the state's traditional Democrats with the course of the national party produced Republican converts in presidential elections. In 1928, when the Democrats ran Al Smith, a Catholic, on a platform endorsing an end to Prohibition, enough switched to Herbert Hoover to place the state in the Republican column for the first time ever. The New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, with its emphasis upon federal efforts to regulate and order the national economy, also turned some Texans in the oil industry against the Democratic party and towards the Republicans, who promised reduced federal regulation.

At the state level, however, almost no change took place. The state Democratic party remained in the hands of conservatives, whose views of the role of government and fiscal policy were almost indistinguishable from those of Republicans. Although tempted at times to abandon national Democratic candidates, party members showed few signs of revolt against local Democratic leaders. Between 1896 and 1950 Republicans elected no one to the United States Senate and only three congressmen. The latter included George H. Noonan from San Antonio (1895&ndash97), Robert B. Hawley of Galveston (1897&ndash1901), and Harry M. Wurzbach of Seguin (1920&ndash31). In the state legislature Republicans never occupied more than one place in the Senate or more than two in the house in any legislative session. Although support for party candidates did not grow between 1900 and 1950, the sources of Republican votes changed. The party's historic core in the state's black belt virtually disappeared. Geographically, Republican votes now came from the Panhandle and from counties to the south and west of a line from northeast Midland County to northeast Harris County, counties tied both to oil and gas interests and traditional Republican voting. Urban counties, where economic conditions and general prosperity produced a heterogeneous community with middle-class, professional, and business groups to offer support for the party, however, provided the greatest number of Republican votes.

The party entered a transitional era after 1950 that lasted until 1978. These years were marked by increasing strength at the polls, but little growth in the number of Texans who actively identified with the party at the state level. Presidential elections first showed the increasing strength. In 1952 Dwight D. Eisenhower carried the state with 53.2 percent of the vote, more than doubling Thomas Dewey's 24.3 percent in 1948. Thereafter, except in 1964 and 1968, Republican candidates consistently secured more than 48 percent of the state's popular vote in presidential elections. Although never as strong as the presidential candidates, Republican gubernatorial candidates improved over their pre-1950s predecessors. From a low of only 10 percent of the vote in 1954, support for Republican candidates rose to a high with John Cox's 45.8 percent in his 1962 race against John B. Connally, Jr., and then generally reached at least 40 percent thereafter. The party's greatest success in this period was the election of John G. Tower to the United States Senate in a special election to fill the place of Lyndon B. Johnson (1961). Tower's election and subsequent career gave the party strong leadership in this transitional period. During this period, the party's urban and geographic bases remained strong. Dallas sent Bruce Alger to Congress repeatedly from 1954 until 1964. In 1966 the party elected two congressmen for the first time since Reconstruction-George H. W. Bush of Houston and Robert D. Price of Pampa. These were joined by a third, James M. Collins of Grand Prairie, in 1968. In addition, urban centers sent more Republicans to the state legislature after a federal court ruling in 1972 abolished multimember legislative districts in the state's cities, thus ending the ability of conservative Democrats to control county politics.

The party's growing strength was partly a natural result of the shifting demography of Texas. As late as 1940 the majority of Texans lived in rural areas, but by 1950 the urban population had expanded to 59.8 percent of the state's population, and by 1980 urban dwellers accounted for 79.6 percent of the total (see URBANIZATION). In the latter year residents of the Austin, Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, and San Antonio metropolitan areas represented by themselves nearly half of all Texans. As these regular Republican strongholds expanded, the party's power in state elections rose as well. Election results also showed that the party's conservative political philosophy also produced new adherents. Its advocacy of state rather than federal regulation of the oil and gas industry naturally attracted Texas oil interests. In 1952 that issue helped spark a revolt within the state Democratic party in which such prominent Democrats as Governor R. Allan Shivers backed the Republican candidate for president, Dwight Eisenhower. Events in the Eisenhower administration-the federal government's support of desegregation, for instance-led state Republicans to shift their opposition to stronger federal power to an even more general principle. The 1960 state convention set the party's position when it declared opposition to all encroachment on the rights of states and to the growing role of Washington. The convention singled out aid to education, health-insurance programs, welfare, and economic regulations as specific threats. The 1960 platform also reaffirmed the party's historic support of a unilateral foreign policy, aimed primarily at limiting the growth of Communism, and endorsed a strong military to back up foreign-policy goals. But despite the gains between 1950 and 1978, these years were unsettled ones in state politics. Though voters demonstrated increasing independence from their traditional ties to the Democratic party, they did not firmly identify with the Republicans. As late as 1978 only 150,000 Texans voted in the Republican primary, compared with 1.8 million who voted in the Democratic primary. Statewide election success was not paralleled at the local level, either in district and county offices or in the state legislature.

The election of 1978 marked a new era in the party's history, in which its growing strength took on a more permanent character. After years of Democratic domination, state elections were even fights. In that year William P. Clements, promising to reduce taxes and cut the size of the state government, became the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. He was defeated in 1982 but regained the governor's seat in 1986. In statewide elections Republicans were consistently successful. Phil Gramm held on to John Tower's Senate seat after the latter's retirement in 1984. Republican presidential candidates won regularly, while Kay Bailey Hutchison secured the second United States Senate seat in 1993 and George W. Bush won the governorship in 1994. In congressional elections, Republican seats in the House of Representatives climbed from three to nine out of thirty. These votes showed not only increasing strength for the party, but also appear to have marked a fundamental shift in voter loyalties. In the 1982 Republican primary, the number of participants increased over the 1978 total from 158,403 to 265,851. This spurt began a steady growth leading to the 1992 primary, in which nearly a million voters participated. At the same time, Democratic primary participation decreased from 1.8 million to 1.5 million. This grass-roots support of the Republican party showed up particularly in the growing number of Republicans elected to the state legislature. By 1992, 59 of 150 House members and 13 of 31 senators were Republicans. At the beginning of the 1990s, some analysts concluded that Texas had not only developed a vigorous two-party system but that the state also had become primarily Republican. After a hundred years as a minority party, the Republicans had become the majority. See also GOVERNMENT, GOVERNOR, POLITICAL PARTIES, RAILROADS, RECONSTRUCTION, SENATORS, TEXAS LEGISLATURE.

Republican Party of Texas

Without a doubt, Texas is the strongest Republican state in the nation. The people of Texas have entrusted Republicans with the stewardship of every statewide elected office and majorities in the state senate, state house and on the state board of education. Republicans now have majorities in 107 Texas counties that contain nearly two-thirds of the state’s population. And Texas’ own George W. Bush was the 43rd President of the United States.

But things haven’t always been so great for Texas Republicans. For over one hundred years, the Republican Party was not a viable force in Texas politics. We were the second party in a one-party state. During that time, the GOP failed to win a single statewide race and controlled only a handful of seats in the Legislature.


To understand how the Republican Party of Texas got from point A to point B, one must understand the history of Texas and her citizens. Unlike the original 13 colonies, Texas was never a British colony. Although many nations would try at different times to subjugate Texas, none could maintain authority over the fiercely independent men and women of the state for very long. With foreign armies constantly invading, and the daily trials of life in the Wild West, Texas by necessity developed a free spirit, a pride in self-reliance and a work ethic that is still unmatched today. Without those characteristics, Texas could not have survived.

Early Texans lived, loved, and died entirely by their own efforts without relying on government to fulfill their needs. Just like modern Texans, early settlers believed in families, churches and neighbors, not in bureaucracy. That sense of self-respect and self-reliance is still the envy of the world.

Today’s Republican Party was founded in 1854 by a group of Mid-Western abolitionists opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, which allowed a choice of slavery in the new territories of Kansas and Nebraska. Texas, which had become a state in 1845, was right in the middle of the heated slavery controversy. Most state leaders were Democrats prior to the Civil War, and thus supported the pro-slavery Confederacy. But President Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, gained the support of Texas Republicans and several prominent state leaders, like Sam Houston, Texas’ first Governor. However, most of those who decided to support Lincoln’s decision to defend the Union were forced from office, and Democrats succeeded in allying Texas with the Confederacy.

The effects of the Civil War and its aftermath would be felt for more than a century throughout the South, and especially in Texas. For its first two generations, Texas had known only honor, victory and valor. Though Texans never lost a battle at home during the Civil War, the Union army under orders from a Republican President marched in and occupied the Lone Star State after the Confederacy surrendered. For the first time, Texas would not be victorious. The next four generations of Texans would not forgive the Republican Party.

Early Support

African Americans were one group of Texans that would consistently support the Republican Party in Texas in those early years. In fact, throughout Reconstruction, African Americans comprised about 90% of GOP membership, and 44 African Americans served in the Texas legislature as Republicans.

It was through the hard work of a number of dedicated African American men and women that the earliest foundations of the Republican Party of Texas were laid. The first-ever state Republican convention that met in Houston on July 4, 1867 was predominantly African American in composition, with about 150 African American Texans attending, and 20 Anglos.

The second State GOP Chairman, Norris Wright Cuney, an African-American from Galveston who led the Republican Party from 1883 to 1897, is said by State historians to have held “the most important political position given to a black man of the South in the nineteenth century.”

The Brink of Collapse

Despite the strong support of groups like African Americans and Germans, the Reconstruction period was troublesome at best for the fledgling Republican Party. Edmund J. Davis, a Unionist and a Republican, became Governor in 1870, and his four-year administration was marked with bitter controversy. Though soundly defeated in1874, Davis refused to leave office. He barricaded himself in the state capitol and had to be thrown out by force of arms. It would be 104 years before another Republican was elected Governor of Texas.

Despite embarrassing episodes like that of Davis, Republicans managed to make gradual gains in Texas as the 19th Century drew to a close. In 1876, nearly one-third of the statewide vote went to Republicans. A handful of Republican candidates, including several African Americans, won election to the State Legislature. But beginning in 1905 with the passage of the Terrell election law, which required Texans to pay a poll tax, the number of Republican voters in the state would be slashed as many poor Texans could not afford to pay.

Fifty years after Reconstruction and Edmund J. Davis, the first Republican statewide primary was held in 1926 with a meager 15,239 voters participating. Only two more primaries would be attempted in the next thirty-four years. In the same year, 821,234 voters participated in the Democrat primary, and Democrat Ma Ferguson was eventually elected to a second term as Governor of Texas.

The Long Road to Recovery

As new issues arose and memories of the Civil War subsided, the GOP gradually grew stronger in Texas. In 1947, the Republican Party of Texas entered the modern era. With the founding of the Republican Club of Texas that year by Captain J.F. Lucey of Dallas, a drive was initiated to build a potent Republican Party in the Lone Star State. The current governing body of the RPT, the State Republican Executive Committee, was organized in 1952.

In 1960 Texas Republicans still didn’t even have a regular primary. However, in the Presidential Election that year, Republican Richard M. Nixon ran a close second to Democrat John F. Kennedy, winning 49% of the state vote. In the same election, Republican John G. Tower of Wichita Falls got 926,653 votes as a candidate for the United State Senate against Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat who was running concurrently for Vice-President. When Johnson resigned his seat in the Senate to become Vice President of the United States, Tower was elected to replace him in the special election that followed, defeating interim Senator William A. Blakely of Dallas. Tower thus became the first Republican to hold statewide elective office since Edmund J. Davis was elected Governor during Reconstruction.

The Republican Party held a non-binding presidential preferential primary for the first time in 1964. In 1966, U.S. Senator Tower was re-elected to his first full term. Two Republicans (including future President George H. W. Bush of Houston) were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since Reconstruction, three to the State House, and the first Republican in 39 years was elected to the Texas Senate.

Further gains by Republicans were made in the Texas Legislature in 1972 when 17 were elected to the House and three to the Senate. These gains were consolidated in 1974 when 16 Republicans were elected to the House and the same three Republican Senators were returned to the Texas Senate.

The Beginning of Realignment

In 1978 Texas elected William P. Clements, Jr., the first Republican Governor in over 100 years. In the next four years, Clements and Tower utilized their statewide organization in Texas to continue to build the Party.

While Clements’ 1982 defeat was a temporary setback, the Party’s enthusiasm built to an unprecedented high as Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Phil Gramm campaigned in Texas in 1984. With the help of an active State GOP that supplied a centralized network of communications, the Republican victory was overwhelming in what had historically been a Democrat state. As liberal Democrat candidates moved from primary victories to the general election, the moderate and conservative Texas Democrats abandoned their party loyalty to support conservative Republican candidates.

In 1984, Phil Gramm held on to John Tower’s U.S. Senate seat when the latter retired. Gramm an incumbent congressmen and former Democrat who had resigned his office, joined the Republican Party, and recaptured it in a special election the year before won unprecedented support across the state in his successful bid to become the second GOP U.S. Senator in modern times. The Republican Party also gained five seats in Congress that year, 15 seats in the State Legislature and 107 local offices.

Any doubts about Republican realignment in Texas were removed in the 1986 election cycle. The majority of the members of the old school of conservative Democrats had either fled their Party’s ranks or retired from office, leaving the liberal core that is the heart of today’s Democrat Party. Needless to say, former Governor Bill Clements was re-elected by a wide margin. Republicans enjoyed a net gain of 127 local seats, the most in the nation, and four more state representative seats.

The 70th Session of the Legislature saw an agenda that was largely determined by the Republican Party. Unlike Governor Clements’ first term, when the number of Republican House Members never exceeded 36 out of 150, the 56 Republicans who served in the House at the start of his second term rendered him veto-proof as they controlled more than one-third of the House votes.

In 1987, Kent Hance was appointed Railroad Commissioner and Judge Thomas Phillips was appointed Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court. Both men were elected to those positions in 1988, the first Republicans since Reconstruction.

An Era for Breaking Records

The GOP continued to make gains in the early 1990’s. Texas House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rick Perry scored a surprise victory in the race for Agriculture Commissioner in 1990. That same year, John Cornyn was elected to the Texas Supreme Court, and former state legislator Kay Bailey Hutchison secured the post of State Treasurer. In 1993, Hutchison would become the first woman elected to the US Senate from Texas.

In 1994, George W. Bush would become only the second Republican Governor since Reconstruction in his landslide victory against popular Democrat incumbent Ann Richards. Rick Perry and Kay Hutchison would hold onto their statewide posts, while Austin’s first female mayor, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, would become the first woman elected to the Texas Railroad Commission. Republicans that year also saw a three-seat increase in the Texas House, and gained another seat in the Texas Senate.

Two years later, Republicans would gain an additional three seats in the Texas Senate, giving the GOP a majority in the body for the first time since Reconstruction. Seven new Republican legislators would also be sent to Austin in 1996, and voters would return Phil Gramm to the US Senate and John Cornyn to the Texas Supreme Court.

In 1997, Susan Weddington became the first woman to chair a major state party in Texas. She and Vice Chairman David Barton were reelected in 1998, 2000, and 2002, and together they united the grassroots and kept all members of our party marching in the same direction.

In November of 1998, Republicans were able to sweep the statewide ballot by forging inroads into traditional Democrat constituencies. Governor George W. Bush became the first Republican governor to win back-to-back four-year terms, winning 240 out of 254 counties and becoming the first GOP gubernatorial candidate ever to win the heavily Hispanic El Paso, Cameron and Hidalgo counties. Texans elected Rick Perry as the first ever Republican Lieutenant Governor, John Cornyn as the first ever Republican Attorney General, Carole Keeton Strayhorn as the first ever Republican Comptroller, David Dewhurst as the first ever Republican Land Commissioner, Susan Combs as the first female Agriculture Commissioner and Railroad Commissioner Tony Garza as the first Hispanic Republican to win statewide office.

That same year, Republicans would defend the GOP majority in the State Senate and gain four seats in the Texas House a record number for an off-year election at the time. Republicans would also enjoy much success in the battle to gain seats at the county level, as the number of GOP-controlled county courthouses increased by one-third.

A Model for the Nation

Two years later, our nation would embark on perhaps the most surreal electoral journey in US history. On November 7, 2000, Texans went to bed believing that we had sent our own Governor George W. Bush to the White House, only to awake the next morning to learn that perhaps we had not. One month, and countless recounts later, Texans finally breathed a collective sigh of relief and celebrated as one the finest Texas Governors of all times was declared the 43rd President of the United States!

Back in Texas, however, it wouldn’t require any recounts to declare that Republicans had once again swept all the statewide offices on the 2000 ballot. Notably, Michael Williams, a Bush appointee to the Texas Railroad Commission, won his first full term and became the first African American to be elected to a non-judicial statewide office in Texas history.

Once again, the GOP maintained a majority in the Texas Senate in 2000, giving Republicans three consecutive majorities in the body for the first time since Reconstruction. Perhaps most memorable was State Rep. Todd Staples’s landslide victory in the race for State Senate District 3 a contest that some observers called the most important legislative race in the nation in a decade.

After November 2000, the battle lines in the State House would remain essentially unchanged as Republicans and Democrats stalemated across Texas. As the votes around the state were canvassed, many Republicans were shocked that Republicans had earned 60% of the vote in all state house races, but only received 48% of the seats. Accordingly, attention shifted to the importance of drawing fair and compact district lines during the redistricting process in 2001.

November 2002 proved to be a historic election for Republicans on all levels in the state of Texas. Republicans swept all statewide offices for the fourth consecutive election, with Governor Rick Perry leading the ticket in a landslide victory over a wealthy opponent. Texans also sent Attorney General John Cornyn to the U.S. Senate to replace the retiring Phil Gramm, and Land Commissioner David Dewhurst became only the second Republican to serve as Lt. Governor.

With fair new districts in place for the first time in decades, Republicans gained the first majority in the Texas House of Representatives for the first time in 130 years with a pick up of sixteen seats. Rep. Tom Craddick of Midland, who in the 1960’s was one of only four Republicans in the chamber, was subsequently elected the first GOP Speaker since Reconstruction.

Republicans also made record gains in the State Senate, gaining 3 seats for a total of 19, and in the U.S. Congressional delegation, gaining 2 seats for a total of 15. Texas Republicans also shattered records at the county level, gaining 210 seats across the state, including 20 county judge seats and 42 county commissioner seats the largest gain in modern history. This gave Republicans a controlling majority in 73 county courthouses, containing two-thirds of the state’s population.

A Bright Future Ahead

In June 2010, delegates to the Republican Party of Texas state convention in Dallas elected Steve Munisteri of Houston as Chairman. Chairman Munisteri ran on a platform of retiring the party’s debt, streamlining its fundraising operations, grassroots participation in the party, and standing on our core principles of limited government, unleashed free enterprise, personal liberty and strong national security. Chairman Munisteri is leading a freshly energized and freshly united Texas GOP in promoting Texas values and the Texas record at the helm of the Republican Party.

Today Republicans hold all statewide offices and enjoy majorities in both houses of the Legislature. The November 2010 elections brought staggering victories to Republicans across Texas.

  • 23 of 32 U.S. Congressional seats
  • 19 of 31 State Senate seats
  • 101 of 150 State House seats
  • 234 New Republican Elected Officials at the County level
  • Over two dozen Democrat elected officials have switched to the Republican Party since November 2010

Across Texas, more and more citizens of the Lone Star State from all walks of life and background are identifying themselves with the Republican Party’s values and ideals. Texas today is the largest solidly Republican state in America, and boasts an unrivalled economic record that is the result of hard working Texans’ efforts combined with our conservative approach to governance. Simply put, the exponential growth that the Republican Party has experienced in recent years has ushered in a new era of Texas politics and made Texas an economical powerhouse, as well as a model of responsible, productive and reasonable government.

The authoritative 1998 Almanac of American Politics stated:

“Texas is now an indisputably Republican state… On the major issues, and on the overriding question of whether to continue Texas’s traditions of cultural conservatism and minimalist government … the Republicans seem very much on the majority side. The future of Texas appears to be theirs and, if this state is as attractive a model as it thinks, perhaps the nation as well.”

History of the Republican Party

The Republican Party is one of the two main political parties currently active in the United States. Founded by anti-slavery activists, economic modernizers, and liberal Whigs and Democrats in 1854, the Republicans dominated politics nationally and was the majority political party in the Northeast, Midwest, and Great Plains for most of the period between 1854 and 1932. The Republican party has won 24 of the last 40 U.S. presidential elections, and there has been a total of 19 Republican Presidents between 1860 and 2016, the most from any political party.

Liberal Republicans & The Civil War

The Republican Party was founded in Ripon, Wisconsin in 1854 and soon became the main anti-slavery political party within the US.

The Republican Party was officially formed in the small town of Ripon, Wisconsin on March 20, 1854, as a coalition of anti-slavery Whigs and Democrats opposed to the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which opened Kansas Territory and Nebraska Territory to slavery and future admission as slave states, thus repealing the 34-year prohibition on slavery in territories north of the Mason–Dixon line. This change was viewed anti-slavery members of Congress as an aggressive, expansionist maneuver by the slave-owning South. In addition to supporting an anti-slavery platform, the Republican Party followed a platform based on economic modernization, a more open interpretation of the constitution, expanded banking, openness to new immigrants, and giving free western land to farmers as a way to discourage the spread of slavery to the Western territories. Most of the support for the new political party came from New England (particularly Vermont, Maine, and parts of Upstate New York), the Midwest, and certain areas in the Upper South such as Eastern Tennessee, Southeastern Kentucky, and Western Virginia (regions where slavery was non-existent).

The Republican Party almost immediately made a mark on American politics and soon superseded the Whig Party as the chief opposition party. The first Republican Presidential nominee was John Frémont, a former general during the Mexican-American War and a strong opponent of the spread slavery. In the 1856 Presidential Election, Frémont scored 33% of the vote and came very close to defeating Democratic candidate James Buchanan in the Electoral College. The strong performance of the Republican Party was an impressive feat despite the fact that the party lacked a strong organizational structure and was not on the ballot in all states. The Republican Party built upon their successes by winning control of both House of Congress in the 1858 midterm elections.

The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and the subsequent start of the Civil War led to the first era of Republican domination of the American political system.

The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and the subsequent start of the Civil War opened a new era of Republican dominance at the federal level known as the Third-Party System. President Lincoln proved brilliantly successful in uniting the factions of his party to fight for the Union. Most of the remaining Democrats at first were War Democrats and supportive of the Union war effort until late 1862. When in the Fall of 1862 Lincoln added the abolition of slavery as one of the leading war goals, many War Democrats became “Peace Democrats” and thus became more sympathetic to the cause of the Confederacy. The Republicans condemned the peace-oriented Democrats as disloyal and won enough War Democrats to maintain their Congressional majority in 1862. In 1864, the Republicans formed a coalition with many War Democrats (such as Tennessee military governor Andrew Johnson) as the National Union Party which reelected Lincoln in a landslide.

Nearly all of the state Republican parties accepted the idea of the abolition of slavery except Kentucky. In Congress, the Republicans established legislation to promote rapid modernization, the creation of national banking system, high tariffs, the first income tax, paper money issued without backing (“greenbacks”), a large national debt, homestead laws, federal infrastructure spending (particularly on the railroads and industries), and federal aid for education and agriculture. These legislative efforts added to the perception that the Republican Party was the more liberal of the two main political parties.

Post Civil-War Republicans

After the successful conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, the Republican Party leadership was faced with the challenge of Reconstruction. The Republican Party soon became split between the moderates (who favored a lenient approach to Reconstruction) and the Radical Republicans (who demanded aggressive action against slavery and vengeance toward former Confederates). By 1864, a majority of Republicans in Congress were part of the Radical branch of the party. These tensions reached their boiling point after President Lincoln’s assassination in April of 1865. The Radical Republicans at first welcomed President Andrew Johnson (Lincoln’s second Vice President and a Southern Democrat who supported the Union), believing that he would take a hard line in punishing the South and enforce the rights of former slaves. However, Johnson denounced the Radicals and attempted to ally 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 laws over President Johnson’s veto. President Johnson was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1868 but was acquitted by the Senate by only one vote.

The Republican Party of the 1870s sought to establish a viable political coalition based on the ideas of racial equality and progressive public policy.

With the election of Ulysses S. Grant in 1868, the Radicals had control of Congress, the party structure, and the army and sought to build a Republican base in the South using the votes of Freedmen, Scalawags, and Carpetbaggers, supported directly by the US army. Republicans all throughout the South formed clubs called Union Leagues that mobilized the voters, discussed policy issues and fought off white supremacist attacks. President Grant strongly supported radical reconstruction programs in the South, the Fourteenth Amendment and equal civil and voting rights for the freedmen. Despite President Grant’s popularity and devotion to the cause of racial and social equality, his tolerance for corruption led to increased factionalism in the Republican Party. The economic depression of 1873 energized the Democrats at the Congressional level. The Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in 1874 and formed “Redeemer” coalitions which recaptured control of each southern state. Reconstruction came to an end when an electoral commission awarded the contested election of 1876 to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, who promised through the unofficial Compromise of 1877 to withdraw federal troops from the control of the last three southern states (Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana). The South then became known as the Solid South, giving overwhelming majorities of its electoral votes and Congressional seats to the Democrats for the next century.

Economic Conservatism

The Republican Party by and large remained the dominant political party at the Presidential level for the next five decades, with the Democrats only winning the Presidency in 1884, 1892, 1912, and 1916. Starting in the mid-1890s, both of the political parties began to shift on economic policy due to events such as the 1893-1897 economic depression. During the 1896 Presidential Election, the Democrats nominated former Congressman William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska, whereas the Republicans nominated Governor William McKinley of Ohio. In contrast to previous Democratic nominees, Bryan followed a platform aligned with contemporary liberalism. Some of the main components of Bryan’s platform included increased federal aid to farmers and factory workers, opposition to the gold standard, a federal income tax, opposition to the wealthy elite, and economic populism. In contrast, Republican William McKinley took an entirely opposite position, arguing that the application of classically liberal economic policies, the continuation of the gold standard, and protectionism would lead to widespread prosperity. Ultimately, McKinley defeated Bryan by a comfortable margin, but the political shifts from this election would have ramifications moving forward. Even though the Republican Party moved towards the left-wing of the political spectrum once more under the Presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, the conservative branch would win out by 1920 with the nomination and subsequent election of Warren Harding to the Presidency.

A Party in Decline & Flux

Senator Robert Taft of Ohio led the conservative wing of the Republican Party from the late 1930s to the early 1950s and advocated for the party to support fiscally conservative principles.

The initial era of Republican domination at the Presidential level would come to an end with the start of the Great Depression in 1929. President Hoover attempted to alleviate the widespread suffering caused by the Depression, but his strict adherence to Republican principles precluded him from establishing relief directly from the federal government. Additionally, President Hoover became the first Republican President to openly-endorse white supremacy and supported the removal of blacks from state-level Republican parties, which alienated black support for the Republican Party. The Depression cost Hoover the presidency with the 1932 landslide election of Franklin D. Roosevelt and allowed the Democrats to gain a substantial Congressional majority for the first time since the 1850s. The Roosevelt Administration implemented a legislative program known as the “New Deal,” which expanded the role of the federal government in the economy as a way to alleviate the suffering caused by the economic decline and to prevent another economic decline on the scale of the Great Depression from occurring again. Additionally, President Roosevelt sought to gain the support of voter groups that typically voted Republican such as African-Americans, ethnic minorities, and rural farmers. Roosevelt’s efforts were ultimately successful and led to strong victories for the Democratic Party at the ballot box for the next three decades. During this period, the Democratic Party retained control of Congress for every year except 1946 and 1952 and won the Presidency in all elections except 1952 and 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower, a liberal Republican, defeated a fractured Democratic Party.

In response to the New Deal and the policies of the national Democratic Party, the Republicans split into two factions. The first wing was the liberal faction, which favored expanding the New Deal social programs, but felt that such programs would be managed better by Republican administrations. Additionally, the liberal faction of the Republican Party firmly favored civil rights legislation and worked closely with Northern Democrats to push forward positive legislative changes in that arena. The other group was the conservative faction, which advocated a return to laissez-faire economics and fiscal conservatism. Even though the conservative faction of the Republican Party also supported civil rights reforms, they started to form alliances with conservative Southern Democrats in the late 1930s as a way to prevent progressive laws from passing. After the 1938 midterm election, the “Conservative Coalition” formed a majority in Congress and prevented successive Democratic administrations from expanding the New Deal and other associated social programs. It can be argued that the “Conservative Coalition” controlled Congress until 1958, when a large group of liberal Democrats was elected to the Senate and House of Representatives.

The Southern Strategy & The Republican Resurgence

The political parties began to shift again in the 1960s due to policy changes within the Democratic Party. The main split in the Democratic Party came about due to the struggle for civil rights. Since the late 1930s, the Democratic Party experienced a major split between the liberal and moderate factions, which favored civil rights, and the Southern faction, which was steadfast in its opposition to federal civil rights legislation. These tensions came to a head when Lyndon Johnson became President after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Despite being a Southerner, Johnson had a record in support of civil rights since the mid-1950s and felt that civil rights represented a major political opportunity for the Democratic Party. Over the course of his Presidency, major civil rights legislation was passed in 1964, 1965, and 1968 and the Democrats soon became associated with civil rights reform. In response to these changes, the Republican Party began to appeal to white Southerners opposed to the changes to their way of life. These appeals first became apparent in the 1962 Alabama Senate Election between Democrat Lister Hill and Republican James Martin. Despite being a supporter of segregation, Hill was targeted relentlessly by Martin as a covert supporter of federal civil rights legislation. Ultimately Hill won the race, but by only a 1% margin. The Hill-Martin Senate race served as a prelude to the 1964 Presidential Election, in which Republican Barry Goldwater lost in every region of the country except the Deep South due to his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Modern Republicans look up to President Ronald Reagan (1981-89) as the main political leader to emulate.

The Republican Party began to see a resurgence at the federal level during the late 1960s that continue to this day. As a result of the aforementioned civil rights reform, the ongoing Vietnam War, and the failure of the Democratic Party leadership to reform the party structure, the Republican Party regained control of the Presidency in 1968 and retained control of this office in each election except 1976, 1992, 1996, 2008, and 2012. On the other hand, the Republican Party did not regain control of the Senate until 1980 and the House of Representatives until 1994. The growth of the Republican Party over the past 50 years can be attributed to the implementation of a conservative platform on both economics and foreign policy as well as the rise of the Christian Right political movement in the late 1970s. The modern Republican Party considers President Ronald Reagan (1981-89) as the political leader to look up to, much like how Democrats view Franklin Roosevelt as their political idol. During his Presidency, Reagan implemented neoliberal economic policies, expressed strong support for socially conservative values, increased defense spending and advocated an internationalist foreign policy that some credit with contributing to the end the Cold War.

Contemporary Republican Party

Today, the Republican Party is at its highest level of support since the late 1920s. The Republicans control both House of Congress and have gained total control over historically Democratic areas such as the Appalachian and Ozark regions of the South since 2010 and are increasingly becoming dominant in the industrial Midwest. On the other hand, the Republican Party has lost nearly all of their historic support in the Northeast and West Coast due to their adopting of a socially conservative and xenophobic platform over the past decade.

In the 2016 Presidential Election, Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton with 304 Electoral Votes but lost the popular vote by 3 million. Trump performed strongly in the Midwest, Appalachia, Ozarks, and some states in the Northeast such as Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Additionally, Trump performed very poorly in several typically Republican states such as Texas, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, and Utah. Perhaps the 2016 Presidential Election signals a new realignment for both political parties. Future elections may see the Republican Party cementing their gains in the Midwest, Appalachia, and Ozarks, and the Democratic Party continuing to grow in support along both coasts of the US and picking up parts of the cosmopolitan Southern states and the Southwest.

Our fact-check sources

  • Republican Party, History of the GOP, accessed May 28, 2020
  • A.F. Gilman, The Origin of the Republican Party, posted by the Wisconsin Historical Society, circa 1914
  • Politico Magazine, Never Trumpers Will Want to Read This History Lesson, July 14, 2018
  • Interview with Joshua Zeitz, author and historian, May 28, 2020
  • Email exchange with James Thurber, government professor at American University, May 28, 2020
  • Email exchange with Charles Cohen, emeritus professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, May 28, 2020
  • Encyclopedia Britannica, Republican Party, accessed May 28, 2020
  • Encyclopedia Britannica, Kansas-Nebraska Act, accessed May 28, 2020
  •, The Origins of the Republican Party, accessed May 28, 2020

Contact Eric Litke at (414) 225-5061 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @ericlitke.

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