In American politics, the Republican Party is one of two major political parties that between them control most national and local governmental positions. Called the GOP, or Grand Old Party, the Republican Party has a long history in the US, going back to the divisions in the country that led to the Civil War in 1861.
Roots of the GOP
The Republican Party officially began in 1854 when members of other parties that existed at the time (Whigs and “Free Soil Democrats”) united to oppose the growth of slavery into new territories and states that were to join the Union. The party grew in influence and by 1860 it saw the first of its members, Abraham Lincoln, elected president. Following the success of the Union’s efforts in the Civil War, the Republican Party continued to dominate American politics for the next seven centuries. Following the upheavals and unrest of the Great Depression in the 1930s, voters elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat, to be president.
Republican Party Beliefs
According to the party’s official platform, Republicans believe in “American exceptionalism,” the idea that the United States of America is unique among nations of the world in its ideals, beliefs, and actions, and that it should lead the world in establishing principles of liberty. The party believes that the US Constitution is not to be seen as flexible,but rather as an “enduring covenant” as a country.
In the Republican view, the US government is founded on principles including limited government, separation of powers between the president, Congress, and the judiciary, and fundamental rights of citizens throughout the nation. The party’s platform states that Republicans “wish for peach – so we insist on strength” in the nation’s military. The party sees part of its purpose as helping to relieve “the burden and expense of punishing government regulations.”
Modern Republican Leaders
Since the end of World War II, which had seen Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt re-elected three times and he continued in office until his death. His vice-president and fellow Democrat Harry S. Truman succeeded him in office and then was re-elected after the war. Since then the presidency has alternated between Republican and Democrat presidents.
Retired General Dwight Eisenhower followed President Truman, the first Republican president elected in more than 40 years. He served two terms as allowed under the current constitutional provision. The next Republican president was Richard Nixon, first elected in 1968 and then controversially re-elected in 1972. Nixon served less than half of his second term before resigning under threat of impeachment. His vice-president, Gerald Ford, completed his term through 1976.
In 1980 the Republican Party candidate took back the presidency, as former actor Ronald Reagan won a landslide election and then was re-elected in 1984. Reagan’s vice-president George H.W. Bush won the 1988 election. The next Republican president was his son, George W. Bush, who won a controversial 2000 election, and then was re-elected in 2004.
In 2016, Donald J. Trump triumphed in the Republican Party primaries and won the general election. Throughout this time period, the Republican party has fluctuated in control of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as in the 50 governors’ offices throughout the country.