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  • Konrad Rynski

The Republican Party, Explained

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

The Republican Party is one of the two major forces in US politics. The party is today associated with conservative policies and the phenomenon of Trumpism.

However, it hasn’t always been this way. This cheat sheet will give you an overview of the Republican Party and its beliefs.

The history of the Republican Party and its main values


Birth and First Steps

The Republican Party was founded in 1854 with the main principle of opposing the expansion of slavery. In 1865, spurred by victory in the American Civil War, the party abolished slavery through the 13th amendment.

Following the Civil War, the Republican Party tried to unify the country whilst solidifying the rights of freed slaves. The party continued to stand for progressive social and economic policies.

Times Change

Toward the end of the 19th century, the Republican Party became increasingly associated with the business elite. Following the Great Depression in the 1920s, the party’s non-interventionist economic approach garnered blame for the slow recovery, impacting its popularity until the 1980s.

During this time, many typical Democrat voters, such as white Southerners or Christians, began to vote for the Republicans. This was mainly because of their conservative social views and focus on reducing the role of the government, tax cuts and military spending.

Meanwhile, the old Republican voting base such as African Americans now began supporting the Democrats.

The New Age

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Republicans primarily championed policies focusing on:

  1. Reducing government involvement in economic and social policy

  2. A conservative approach to society

  3. Promoting classic and nationalist ‘America first values’

The history of the Republican Party, the rise of Trumpism

The Party Today

Whilst the presidential nomination and victory of Donald Trump in 2016 revolutionised the party’s image, the Republican Party primarily continues to take a similarly conservative stance on many issues.

Revised policies of the Trump-era Republican Party include:

  • Stricter immigration policy, including building “the wall” with Mexico

  • Plans to reduce the national debt by reducing government spending and decreasing taxes, especially for corporations and the wealthy

  • Taking a more backseat and America First role in international politics and trade

  • Replacing or reversing many of Obama’s policies, such as the expansion of healthcare

  • Climate change scepticism

Donald Trump’s election defeat does not necessarily signal the end of Trump-era politics within the Republican Party. A strong electoral showing for many Republican candidates for Congress demonstrates that Trumpism still resonates with significant parts of American society.


Current government representation

In Congress, the Republicans currently hold

  • 52 of 100 seats in the Seats

  • 197 of 435 seats in the House of Representatives

Following the recent elections, the exact composition of Congress remains uncertain.

However, we know that the Republicans:

  • Will gain seats in the House of Representatives, but remain the minority party

  • Have at least 50 seats in the Senate, with the possibility of winning 2 more pending an election in Georgia


Major Republican Figures

Abraham Lincoln, Republican President

Abraham Lincoln

The first Republican president, he was a key figure during the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.

He represented the party’s early progressive outlook and is widely regarded as one of the country’s greatest presidents.

Theodore Roosevelt, Republican President

Theodore Roosevelt

A major progressive figure who served as president from 1901 to 1909. He aimed to end US isolationism and transform the country into a world power. Domestically, Roosevelt focused on consumer protection and the conservation of nature.

Ronald Reagan, Republican President

Ronald Reagan

While in the White House from 1981 to 1989, he popularised and implemented the idea of New Conservatism by lowering taxes and deregulating parts of the economy. He remains an influential figure and his ideas still resonate in the party today.

For more resources, head to our dedicated US Politics section.

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