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LEARN YOUR HISTORY: What is the Republican Party?
The Republican Party - GOP History
The Republican Party was born in the early 1850's by anti-slavery
activists and individuals who believed that government should grant
western lands to settlers free of charge. The first informal meeting
of the party took place in Ripon, Wisconsin, a small town northwest
of Milwaukee. The first official Republican meeting took place on
July 6th, 1854 in Jackson, Michigan. The name "Republican" was
chosen because it alluded to equality and reminded individuals of
Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party. At the Jackson
convention, the new party adopted a platform and nominated
candidates for office in Michigan.
In 1856, the Republicans became a national party when John C.
Fremont was nominated for President under the slogan: "Free soil,
free labor, free speech, free men, Fremont." Even though they were
considered a "third party" because the Democrats and Whigs
represented the two-party system at the time, Fremont received 33%
of the vote. Four years later, Abraham Lincoln became the first
Republican to win the White House.
The Civil War erupted in 1861 and lasted four grueling years. During the war, against the advice of his
cabinet, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves. The Republicans of the day
worked to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery, the Fourteenth, which guaranteed equal
protection under the laws, and the Fifteenth, which helped secure voting rights for African-Americans.
The Republican Party also played a leading role in securing women the right to vote. In 1896, Republicans
were the first major party to favor women's suffrage. When the 19th Amendment finally was added to the
Constitution, 26 of 36 state legislatures that had voted to ratify it were under Republican control. The first
woman elected to Congress was a Republican, Jeanette Rankin from Montana in 1917.
Presidents during most of the late nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century were
Republicans. The White House was in Republican hands under Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford,
Reagan and Bush. Under the last two, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the United States became
the world's only superpower, winning the Cold War from the old Soviet Union and releasing millions from
Behind all the elected officials and the candidates of any political party are thousands of hard-working staff
and volunteers who raise money, lick the envelopes, and make the phone calls that every winning campaign
must have. The national structure of our party starts with the Republican National Committee. Each state has
its own Republican State Committee with a Chairman and staff. The Republican structure goes right down to
the neighborhoods, where a Republican precinct captain every Election Day organizes Republican workers to
get out the vote.
Most states ask voters when they register to express party preference. Voters don't have to do so, but
registration lists let the parties know exactly which voters they want to be sure vote on Election Day. Just
because voters register as a Republican, they don't need to vote that way - many voters split their tickets,
voting for candidates in both parties. But the national party is made up of all registered Republicans in all 50
states. They are the heart and soul of the party. Republicans have a long and rich history with basic
principles: Individuals, not government, can make the best decisions; all people are entitled to equal rights;
and decisions are best made close to home.
The symbol of the Republican Party is the elephant. During the mid term elections way back in 1874,
Democrats tried to scare voters into thinking President Grant would seek to run for an unprecedented third
term. Thomas Nast, a cartoonist for Harper's Weekly, depicted a Democratic jackass trying to scare a
Republican elephant - and both symbols stuck. For a long time Republicans have been known as the
"G.O.P." And those faithful to the party thought it meant the "Grand Old Party." But apparently the original
meaning (in 1875) was "gallant old party." And when automobiles were invented it also came to mean, "get
out and push." That's still a pretty good slogan for Republicans who depend every campaign year on the hard
work of hundreds of thousands of volunteers to get out and vote and push people to support the causes of
the Republican Party.
From the Beginning
Abolishing slavery. Free speech. Women's suffrage. These are all stances the Republican Party, in
opposition to the Democratic Party, adopted early on.
The First Republican
With the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the Republicans firmly established themselves as a major
party capable of holding onto the White House for 60 of the next 100 years.
The Bull Moose
Assuming the presidency when McKinley was assassinated in 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt busied
himself with what he considered to be the most pressing issue, ensuring the Republican principle of
competition in a free market.
Leading The Way On the Issues
Republicans fought to abolish slavery, give blacks equal rights and then the vote. Many Republican
politicians risked their careers on that period's "third rail" of politics.
Once again the Republican Party was the vanguard in relation to women. In 1917, Jeannette Rankin, a
Montana Republican, became the first woman to serve in the House.
Republican National Committee
Log Cabin Republicans - LGBT
2004 National Survey of Latinos: Politics and Civil Participation
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