'The enemies of intellectual liberty always try to present their case as a plea for discipline versus individualism…. [but] to write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox.' ––George OrwellView all articles by John Thompson
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States of America, the other being the Democratic Party. It is often referred to as the Grand Old Party or the GOP.
Founded in 1854 by anti-slavery expansion activists and modernizers, the Republican Party rose to prominence with the election of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president. The party presided over the American Civil War and Reconstruction and was harried by internal factions and scandals towards the end of the 19th century. Today, the Republican Party supports a conservative platform (as far as American politics are concerned), with further foundations in economic liberalism and social conservatism.
The current U.S. President, George W. Bush, is the 19th Republican to hold office. Republicans currently fill a minority of seats in both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, hold a minority of state governorships, and control a minority of state legislatures. It is currently the second largest party with 55 million registered members, encompassing roughly one third of the electorate.
Organization of American political parties
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is responsible for promoting Republican campaign activities. It is responsible for developing and promoting the Republican political platform, as well as coordinating fundraising and election strategy. Its current chairman is Mike Duncan. The chairman of the RNC is chosen by the President when the Republicans have the White House or otherwise by the Party's state committees. The RNC, under the direction of the party's presidential candidate, supervises the Republican National Convention, raises funds, and coordinates campaign strategy. On the local level there are similar state committees in every state and most large cities, counties and legislative districts, but they have far less money and influence than the national body.
The Republican House and Senate caucuses have separate fund raising and strategy committees. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) assists in House races, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in Senate races. They each raise over $100 million per election cycle, and play important roles in recruiting strong state candidates. The Republican Governors Association (RGA) is a discussion group that seldom funds state races; it is currently chaired by Governor Rick Perry of Texas.
Factions in the Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party includes fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and libertarians.
The Republican Party is the more socially conservative (from an American Christian point of view) and economically libertarian of the two major parties. The party generally supports lower taxes and limited government in most economic areas allowing for more economic freedom. In the 1980s, the Republican Party was more strongly conservative than before. In his 1981 inaugural address, Republican President Ronald Reagan summed up his belief in limited government when he said, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."
Since 1980, the GOP has contained what George Will calls "unresolved tensions between, two flavors of conservatism -- Western and Southern." The Western brand, wrote Will, "is largely libertarian, holding that pruning big government will allow civil society -- and virtues nourished by it and by the responsibilities of freedom -- to flourish." The Southern variety, however, reflects a religiosity based in evangelical and fundamentalist churches that is less concerned with economics and more with moralistic issues, such as opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Noting the waning influence of libertarian philosophy on contemporary Republican ideology, Will describes the current Republican Party as "increasingly defined by the ascendancy of the religious right." Evangelicals are not the only religious conservative faction in the Party, though: there are also the Mormons, who emphasize traditional family values.
Separation of powers and balance of powers
The Republican Party believes that making law is the province of the legislature and that judges, especially the Supreme Court, should not "legislate from the bench." Most Republicans point to Roe v. Wade as a case of judicial activism, where the court overturned most laws restricting abortion on the basis of a right to privacy inferred from the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Some Republicans have actively sought to block judges who they see as being activist judges and they have sought the appointment of judges who claim to practice judicial restraint. Other Republicans, though, argue that it is the right of judges to extend the interpretation of the Constitution and judge actions by the legislative or executive branches as legal or unconstitutional on previously unarticulated grounds.
The Republican party has supported various bills within the last decade to strip some or all federal courts of the ability to hear certain types of cases, in an attempt to limit judicial review. These jurisdiction stripping laws have included removing federal review of the recognition of same-sex marriage with the Marriage Protection Act, the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance with the Pledge Protection Act, and the rights of detainees in Guantanamo Bay in the Detainee Treatment Act. The last of these limitations was overruled by the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.
Compared with Democrats, many Republicans believe in a more robust version of federalism with greater limitations placed upon federal power and a larger role reserved for the States. Following this view on federalism, Republicans often take a less expansive reading of congressional power under the commerce clause, such as in the opinion of William Rehnquist in United States v. Lopez. Many Republicans on the more libertarian wing wish for a more dramatic narrowing of commerce clause power by revisiting, among other cases, Wickard v. Filburn, a case which held that growing wheat on a farm for consumption on the same farm fell under congressional power to "regulate commerce ... among the several States...".
President George W. Bush is a proponent of the unitary executive theory and has cited it within his signing statements about legislation passed by Congress. The administration's interpretation of the unitary executive theory was called seriously into question by Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, where the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that the President does not have sweeping powers to override or ignore laws through his power as commander in chief, stating "the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails." Following the ruling, the Bush administration has sought Congressional authorization for programs started only on executive mandate, as was the case with the Military Commissions Act, or abandoned illegal programs it had previously asserted executive authority to enact, in the case of the National Security Agency domestic wiretapping program.