What Is the GOP?

by James Chen

As one of the two dominant parties of the United States of America's dichotomous political system, the GOP has had a long and rich history of influence. Roughly half of all Americans in any given era, after its founding, have considered themselves members of the GOP, or at least represented by the party's political philosophies.

GOP Acronym

The modern meaning of "GOP" is widely accepted as "Grand Old Party." However, historically, the acronym has been interpreted in a number of different ways. During the early automobile era, the acronym stood for "Get Out and Push," referring to the manual labor needed to roll a stalled-out car. The earliest-known usage of the acronym, however, has only a superficial difference from the accepted modern interpretation: "Gallant Old Party."

History

The Republican Party was officially established in Jackson, Michigan, on July 6, 1854. The earliest members of the party were anti-slavery activists and Manifest Destiny settlers seeking to settle land out west. Two years later, the GOP ran its first presidential candidate, and despite being a third party (with the two dominant parties of the period being the Democrats and Whigs), managed to gain 33 percent of the votes. Its second presidential candidate was Abraham Lincoln, who was elected amidst growing tensions between Northern and Southern states.

Famous Figures

Abraham Lincoln, first Republican president.

Due to the party's long and significant history, the GOP has had many famous figures under its banner. Some of the best-known men from its beginnings and during its current era include: John C. Fremont: First GOP presidential candidate; achieved 33 percent of the votes in 1856 as a third-party candidate. Abraham Lincoln: First successful GOP presidential candidate. Presided over the Civil War and the re-unification of the states. Jeanette Rankin: First woman elected to Congress, representing Montana in 1917. Ronald Reagan: President from 1981 to 1989. Oversaw the end of the Cold War and of the Soviet Union. Negotiated the INF treaty with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, reducing the nuclear arsenal of both countries. Newt Gingrich: Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. Pivotal in reversing a 40-year Democrat majority in the House.

Historical Positions

The GOP was established originally as a pro-settlement, anti-slavery movement in the mid-1800s. The party was responsible for the passing of the 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery; the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing equal protection under the law; and the 15th Amendment, guaranteeing voting rights to ethnic minorities. The GOP also played a pivotal role in establishing women's rights during the turn of the 20th century, casting the majority vote in favor of the 19th amendment.

Modern Positions

The modern Republican party is against gay marriage and homosexual servicemembers in the military. The party supports the Patriot Act as a means of countering terrorism activities against the US. The GOP is strongly in favor of tax cuts and the repeal of the death tax as a means of stimulating the economy. The GOP supports the use of biometric data as a means of tracking immigrants within the U.S. They are against amnesty, believing it to encourage illegal immigration; only legal immigration is accepted, through tighter border control. The GOP is against the establishment of mandatory carbon control mechanisms, such as the Kyoto Protocol. Environmental problems are to be addressed with market-based solutions, such as cap-and-trade.

About the Author

James Chen has been De Anza College's La Voz Weekly's first and current technology editor since 2008. He was a "Wave Magazine" editorial intern for six months. Chen is currently seeking his journalism degree from De Anza College.

Photo Credits

  • another republican abandons the party image by Pat Lalli from Fotolia.com