You probably know that Abraham Lincoln was a great American president. But do you know what political party he belonged to? Answer: the Republican Party. In fact, Lincoln was the very first Republican to win election to the United States presidency.
The Republican Party is sometimes called the GOP, which stands for Grand Old Party. This nickname for the party dates from the late 1800s.
WHAT IS A POLITICAL PARTY?
A political party is a group of people who work together to influence the government. They try to get members of their party elected to political offices, such as the presidency and the Congress of the United States. The Republican Party is one of America’s two main political parties. The other one is the Democratic Party.
HOW DID THE REPUBLICAN PARTY START?
The Republican Party was born in 1854. At that time, Americans were arguing about slavery: Should some people be allowed to keep other people as slaves? Slavery was legal in America’s Southern states. The Republican Party was formed by people who wanted to keep slavery from spreading to other parts of the country.
In 1860, their candidate, Abraham Lincoln, won the presidency. The Southern states tried at once to break away and form a new country. Lincoln led a war to stop them. The South lost this bloody war, the American Civil War, in 1865. Lincoln held the country together and ended slavery in the United States.
REPUBLICANS IN POWER
The victory in the war made the Republicans the nation’s strongest party, except in the South, where Democrats remained popular. Over the next 50 years, the Republicans won all but two elections for president.
During the late 1800s, America became industrialized. It built big factories and began to make most goods by machine. To gain broader support, the Republicans passed laws to help businesses and factories grow. They became the party of industry and big business.
Meanwhile, immigrants poured into America from foreign lands. Most of them started out working in factories for low wages. At the same time, a small number of American business leaders grew very powerful and rich. Many immigrants decided to join the Democratic Party.
THE PARTY SPLITS
By the early 1900s, some Republicans wanted to limit the wealth and influence of big corporations. They were called the Progressives. Other Republicans opposed the Progressives.
The Progressives worried about government corruption. They wanted reforms to protect people from businesses that made dangerous products or overcharged those who bought their products. These issues split the Republican Party in 1912, allowing the Democrats to win the presidency.
THE DEPRESSION BRINGS DEFEAT
After the split, the Republicans rallied. During the 1920s, they won every presidential election and controlled the U.S. Congress. The American economy boomed.
The Great Depression of the 1930s brought an end to the prosperity. Millions of people were out of work. People lost faith in the Republican Party. Between 1932 and 1968, the Republicans lost seven of nine presidential elections.
REPUBLICANS GROW STRONGER
In the 1960s, the United States went through difficult social changes. People from many walks of life questioned authority and traditional ways of doing things. Republicans spoke against these changes. They said they wanted to bring back traditional values. They promised to make America a simpler, family-oriented place. They also promised to lower taxes.
These ideas proved popular, especially in the South, where Democrats had long dominated. In 1980, they helped Republican candidate Ronald Reagan get elected president. Since then, the power of the Republican Party has grown—particularly in the South.
Source: Microsoft ® Encarta