The United States Republican Party was formed based on being a coalition of various persons who had stakes in the abolition of slave trade. This coalition was made up of the Free Soil Democrats and Conscience Whigs. The Free Soil Party opposed the expansion of slave trade in several states. This party argued that men who were free and allowed to make their own choices and decisions were better placed at carrying out development processes. In addition, the party also worked towards the abolition of certain laws that encouraged discrimination against the former slaves. The Conscience Whigs were a part of the Whig Party. The Whig Party supported modernization and banking. Within this party, there were two factions; those that were pro-slavery and anti-slavery. The anti-slavery promoters, known as the Conscience Whigs, later broke from the party and formed an alliance with the Free Soil Democrats. Thus, the Republican Party was born. In addition, the foundation of this party was based on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which was brought before Congress in 1854 by Stephen Douglas, a US senator. This act advocated for slavery in the said states and even went further to classify Nebraska and Kansas as slave states. This Act received immense support, especially from the slave-owning South and other Democrats who believed in popular sovereignty of slave owners. This Act had a sovereignty clause and for this matter, anti- and pro-slavery movements and persons came into Kansas in an effort to vote the Kansas-Nebraska Act in or out, with dire consequences.
Initially, the Republican Party had no presence in the South. It was made of business, micro-business owners, factory workers, African Americans and a large number of white Protestants in the North. The party supported the development of businesses; it supported the opening up of banks and using the gold standard as an important aspect of trade. Led by Abraham Lincoln, this party aimed at expanding railroads and raising tariffs so that factory workers could be remunerated according to their levels of labour.
The Republican Party dominated the government for a number of years after 1877. It had presidents in White House for sixteen years and was majorly represented in the House of Representatives for ten years. There existed a few differences between the Democrats and Republicans, specifically the use of the gold standard and the raising of trade tariffs. The only exception was the issue of the Hawaii annexation.
The Republican Party, also commonly known as the Grand Old Party, before 1877, launched the first national convention and chose its first flag bearer, John C. Fremont, under the slogan, Free soil, free silver, free men, Fremont and victory! Although he lost the presidential bid, this move established the party in several states. Ulysses Grant was elected president on a Republican ticket and served two full terms. During his tenure, Republicans who were located in the South formed Union Leagues that served to mobilize voters and discuss inherent issues. Under certain circumstances, they fought off the Ku Klux Klan, which often resulted in numerous casualties. He supported reconstruction processes in the South. During this tenure, he also ensured that the free men had voting rights and equal civic responsibilities. In addition, war veterans considered him a hero, and therefore flocked under his banner. This was a major win for the Republican Party.
Challenges faced by the Republican Party
Because of the high number of individuals who were members of the party, factions arose. These factions were racially based, with the majority whites routing for the
removal of non whites from the party. This became an issue especially because black people were awarded less important positions, in comparison to their white counterparts. According to Sarah Woolfolk, the Republican Party itself tolerated racism. For fear of being labeled racist, they admitted black people into the party. She states that, White Republicans...reluctantly rewarded blacks with nominations for office only when necessaryreserving the more choice positions for whites. The fatal weakness of the Republican Party was its inability to create a biracial political party.
In addition, the Scalawags eventually joined the Democratic Redeemer Coalition. They were a group of white people who supported the Republican Party. In addition, they were formerly slave owners-turned-abolitionists. They were not as wealthy as the white plantation owners were, but they wielded influence. This group was equally mistreated within the Republican Party and they eventually left. They were accused of being corrupt by the elite whites within the Republican Party. However, records have redeemed them and proven that these accusations were because they were initially cruel slave owners.
The year 1877 to 1890 was defined as the Gilded Age. During this period, factions had increased in the Republican Party. As much as the States witnessed notable growth during the post-war period, tensions within the party rose. The Stalwarts supported the Spoils system. This system dictated that the winning party reserved the right to award government positions to its supporters and any other person that was involved in ensuring the partys victory. This, in turn, made individuals indebted to the party because without the party, they would not have that job opportunity. Supporting this would be an indicator that the party did not believe in giving jobs through meritocracy, but through a form of nepotism.
Milestones for the Republican Party
In spite of the various challenges and the racist allegations, the Republican has been applauded for its attempts at righting wrongs. John Allen Campbell, a Republican senator, allowed for the passage of a law that granted the right to vote to women in 1869 in Wyoming Territory. Further, the first Hispanic governor was elected on a Republican ticket. In 1916, Jeanette Rankin became the first female to be voted to congress on a Republican ticket. This is a clear indication that the Republican Party was tolerant and accepting of diversity, to a certain degree, of the party. It supported its candidates for the various supportive posts irrespective of gender, or racial background. Charles Curtis, of the Kaw Indian descent, was the Senate Majority leader. He was the first non-European individual to be elected to the second highest office. He served as vice president for Herbert Hoover. It is important to note that all African Americans who were in the House of Representatives at a time before 1935 ran on a Republican ticket. Theda and Williams state that it signifies real patriotism when a party has its members drawn from various races and all gender affiliations (202).
Ronald Reagans victories in the elections of 1980 and 1984 gave way to political realignments. A movement known as the Reagan coalition saw to it that these victories were a landslide. In addition, the Reagan Democrats also made it possible. These people had been initially supporters, and members, of the Democratic Party but voted for Reagan anyway. They were attracted to Reagan because of his stance on issues such as abortion and foreign policy. Most of these people were white, and held down blue-collar jobs. This shift in voting pattern was recorded by Stan Greenberg as follows; Reagan Democrats did not view the Democratic Party as being the champions of their ambitions. Rather, this party solely focused on making things better for the African Americans and those that were extremely poor in the States. The Republican Party exploited this and it translated into a win.
Kabaserver states that the decline of the Republican Party began with Eisenhower. Further study shows that the party did not recover from the Democrat win of the presidency by Barack Obama. The party appointed its first black chairperson, who was duly replaced because he performed inadequately. A bigger blow was dealt to the Republican Party when Senator Arlen Specter defected to the Democratic Party.
There have been demographic shifts concerning party popularity. The initial voting base has changed from what it used to be. The current voters are more aware and more ideology-based. The Republican Party has had to undertake in various reforms to capture the younger demographic and to formulate its policies around the shift in gender and sexual orientations, among other sensitive issues such as abortion, health reforms and taxes.
Heather, C., To Make Men Free A History of the Republican Party, 2014.
Hughey, Matthew W., and Gregory S. Parks. The Wrongs of the Right: Language, Race and the Republican Party in the Age of Obama, NYU Press, 2014.
Kabaservice, Geoffrey. Rule and ruin: The downfall of moderation and the destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the tea party. Oxford University Press, 2012.
Skocpol, Theda and Vanessa Williams. The Tea Party and the remaking of Republican Conservatism, Oxford University Press, 2012.
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