The GOP, like the
Democrats have responded to several changes that include demographic or
variance by state, social and different stances on ideology. They have done this by changing their stance
on certain positions and by creating entirely new agendas. All of this is done, of course, to benefit
each side during an election. For the
Republicans, this meant having to change their values and certain ideals to
accommodate southern voters and become the dominant part to white voters
beginning in the early 1970s. This was
the goal while also finding ways to keep their traditional “pro-business” views
for their conservative voters.
Although the Republicans did
not want to recognize the states’ rights to promote or use slavery, the party
did support the right of the state against the power of the federal government,
but not in all cases. It also opposed
the government’s involvement in other matters such as education. Much like the Democratic party, the GOP is
decentralized, carries a variety of opinions, although more unified in this
approach, at the national level of government.
The GOP are fans of
reducing taxes as a way to stimulate the economy and furthering personal
financial freedom. They continue to
oppose the government overreaching its grasp on the economy, social programs,
affirmative action and at policies that protect the rights of workers. Many of the Republicans are in favor of our
government regulating the private financial aspects of the citizens of this
country in certain areas with abortion being a prime example, although most of
the GOP strongly opposes gun control. Another issue is prayer in schools, where
the Republicans are more likely to support this than their Democratic
counterparts and are more likely to oppose equal rights for the gay
community. In regard to foreign policy,
the GOP has been known to support a stronger national defense and the pursuit
of our national interests even if that means upsetting the international
community and allies.
Most believe the parties
have changed and not necessarily the voters themselves. They have certainly flipped on racial issues
and an example would be whites from the south moving from the Democratic party
to the Republican party. With the
economy and wealth distribution, the stance from both parties have changed
Liberals within the GOP
have all but vanished and the conservatives of the Democratic party have all
but gone away, but yet as far back as 1896 it was the GOP that leaned more
towards the right when it came to the economy.
One thing that has remained the same is the Republicans support big
business while the Democrats have not changed their opinion when it comes to
the side of labor. The major policy
difference when comparing then to now is, the support of trade. The GOP has a long history of supporting
tariffs and the Democrats favoring more of the idea of free trade. One thing to note is, President Franklin
Roosevelt lowered these tariffs during his tenure in the White House. However,
by the early 1990’s, President Clinton pushed for change when it came to NAFTA
or know as the North American Free Trade Agreement. Free trade is now supported more with the
Republican party while the Democrats now oppose organized labor. This has shown us that the GOP is now
supported more now by big business while the Democrats with their liberal
Although, there isn’t any
poll data from one hundred years ago, the impression I received from reading
the political history of that time period is that the change in issues is for
those that have been the most important.
Racially related politics were of importance during the late 1800’s,
especially where the south is concerned and remains to be an important issue
today as well. However, it seems both
parties have switched sides when it comes to racial tensions. In the past, it was the GOP who had the
respect and support of the black community and now it seems the tides have
turned, and it is therefore, now the Democrats who receive most of the black
vote. Despite this, we can speculate
that economic issues were also important then as they are now. President Clinton used much of this concept
during his campaign.
Another point to bring up
is, nearly tied elections have once again have become news. From research, elections that were decided by
less than 1% of the popular vote occurred in 1880, 1884, 1888, 1960, 1968 and
again in 2000. Other close elections
have been presented in 1844, where it was decided by 1.5% of the vote, 1876
where 3% was the margin, 1916 at 3%, 1976 by 2% and finally in 2004 where 2.5%
of the vote. There have only been 5
close elections since 1960 and most, if not the rest, have occurred during the
time span of the 1870’s to the 1880’s.
If we use political
theory, one would expect such elections to usually be close with each party
having their own incentive on capturing those who are still undecided. But, over periods of our history, presidential
elections that have been won by very slim margins have not been the norm. One idea is that, at some point after the
1880’s, the Democratic party was satisfied with having much of their influence
preside over the south, along with stronger Democratic ties linked to New York
and other larger cities such as Boston.
Since President Roosevelt’s “New Deal”, federal money and policy has
been important to both the Democrats and the GOP to be able to contest any
national election when they seem fit to do so.
On a side note, politics today is mainly centered around the news media,
social media and polling, while if we go back one hundred years ago, voters
were usually reached locally.
Despite the Democrats
struggling on their own contradictions pertaining to the Civil Rights Act,
responding to demands of their own southern segregationists who held powerful
positions in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate,
the GOP demanded action. It stems back
to when President Kennedy failed to submit a civil rights bill, it took three Republicans
to produce one of their own. The
representatives were William McCulloch, John Lindsay and Charles Mathias. This inspired President Kennedy to make good
on his promise and therefore, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was born. History tells us that during that time period
when the act was passed, Republicans were supportive than the Democrats had
been. The bill passed in the House of
Representatives on a 290-130 vote with Democratic support weighing in at 61
percent. However, the GOP only gave the
bill an 80 percent backing.
The voter base for the
Republicans has also changed direction, a complete opposite of the national
trend. The party is “older”, if you
will, and generally lacks Hispanics and Asian party members. It has been reported that there has also been
a dramatic power shift at the base of the party as they try and move towards
smaller towns in the south and out west.
Surprisingly, it was during the 2016 election that the GOP seemed to
have gained more support from those states in the Midwest. In turn, the Republicans have been electing
more conservative candidates that are less supportive of big business and have
become more supportive of anti-tax and anti-government. Many Republican party members believe that
big business is complicit with the government on taxes, regulations on
spending, protecting industry tax breaks known as corporate welfare.
In conclusion, I highly
doubt that former Republican presidents such as Ronald Reagan or Dwight
Eisenhower would recognize their own party if they were alive today to see it.