When did the Republican Party start?

From Lincoln to Bush:
The Republican Change

They are no longer what they used to be: Sure, their symbolic animal is still the elephant, their party color remains red, and their supporters affectionately call them Grand Old Party to this day. But the Republicans, who meet Monday through Thursday (August 30th - September 2nd, 2004) for their party congress in New York to nominate incumbent President George W. Bush as their official presidential candidate for the November 2nd elections, have to has changed a lot in 150 years. Compared to the Democrats, they were more of a late bloomer on the American political stage in the 19th century. The Republicans owe their existence to slavery and the debate about its abolition.

Slavery dispute

Abraham Lincoln (November 8, 1863; photographer: Alexander Garnder)

The long-established Democrats and the so-called Whigs had fought bitter arguments on this issue: Until March 1854, opponents of slavery founded a new party - the Republicans. Abraham Lincoln (photo) became its first president in 1860 - a year later this led to the civil war between the northern and southern states. Because Lincoln planned not only the abolition of slavery, but also a program that today would at least be considered social democratic - more state, more support for the common people. The Republicans initially developed into the party of industrial workers and city dwellers, but also of farmers and blacks - the majority of whom today would hardly get the idea of ​​voting Republican. In their program, the Republicans of the 19th century were exactly what the Democrats are writing on their flags today.

It was not until the beginning of the 20th century, to some extent in the slipstream of presidents like Theodore Roosevelt, that the rise of the conservative republicans, who primarily represented the interests of banking capital and big business, began - until the severe economic crisis of 1929 all hopes of republican hegemony were restored destroyed: The Republicans had no chance against the Democrat idol Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Shift to the right by Reagan

However, with the help of the very popular General Dwight D. Eisenhower, a right wing of the party came to power in Washington in the mid-1950s, which already showed all the elements of today's Republicans: classic economic liberalism, Christian conservative values, unilateralism in foreign policy - and more sharply Anti-communism. Richard Nixon's involvement in the Watergate affair and his resignation in 1974 brought the Republicans into disrepute so badly that the party's name even became a dirty word for a while.

Ronald Reagan (1981)

The Republicans' final shift to the right began in November 1980 when Ronald Reagan (photo) levered Democratic President Jimmy Carter out of office by almost ten percent. From the outset, Reagan knew how to turn politics into a religiously radicalized culture war.

Fundamentalism at its peak

For two decades now, the conservative Republicans have been conducting their election campaigns on the basis of the moral and Christian values ​​they have defined: with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, they have reached the preliminary climax of conservative fundamentalism. They benefit from a "conservative backlash" that gripped the whole country after the 9/11 attacks: The Republicans under George W. Bush also used the term patriotism and established it as a trademark of their party.

No wonder, then, when the president proclaims during his provincial appearances that his challengers do not share true American values. He knows that the attempts by John Kerry and John Edwards to conduct their election campaigns with terms of value do not seem credible to the conservative electorate. But George W. Bush's own policy has little to do with the program of the Republican figurehead Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago.