Republican Party history from the year you were born
Since first emerging in 1854 to fight expansion of U.S. slavery and the implementation of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Republican party (also known as the GOP, or “Grand Old Party”) has changed massively to become the influential political entity that it is in 2021. Since the Republican Party became more aligned with business issues, it entered the 20th century more closely associated with upper-class politics.
The party suffered during FDR’s rise amidst the Great Depression, when many Americans blamed the party for their resistance to offer aid to ordinary citizens during the crisis. Indeed, Republicans won only four elections from 1932 to 1980, and only made up the Congressional majority for about four years.
However, the GOP gained traction after World War II, when white, conservative Southerners began joining the party due to its growing conservatism and resistance to big government (as evidenced in the politics of popular conservative president Ronald Reagan).
This proceeded into the 21st century, when George W. Bush took the White House in 2000 and enacted sweeping federal security measures. The party changed once again with the election of reality TV’s businessman-turned-politician Donald Trump, who implemented controversial legislation against immigration and in favor of larger corporations. With Democrat Joe Biden headed to the White House in 2021, it’s interesting to look back and see how Republicans have changed over the past decade to get to this point.
In order to determine what Republican party history occurred during the past 89 years, Stacker compiled a list of major Republican political events from 1931 to 2020, with the help of numerous news sources, historical records, and government websites.
Starting with Republicans becoming a Congressional minority in 1931 and ending with President Donald Trump taking on Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, read on to find out what happened within the Republican party’s history during the year you were born.
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1931: Republicans become a Congressional minority
After the Democrats—who ultimately took both houses of Congress in the 1930 elections—took office, Republicans became a minority in the federal government. However, they later retook Congress in 1946.
1932: Herbert Hoover runs against FDR
Held amidst the Great Depression, the 1932 presidential election saw Republican incumbent President Herbert Hoover run against Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt (New York’s governor). Although Hoover faced little contest in terms of receiving the Republican nomination, FDR eventually won by a landslide by promising economic recovery through his “New Deal” plan.
1933: Republicans lose more ground in the midterm elections
Early 1930s Republicans’ legislative agenda was already at a disadvantage when Democratic President Roosevelt took over and began implementing sweeping New Deal legislation. However, they became even more of a minority when Democrats upheld their majority during the 1933 midterm elections.
1934: Republicans become a major minority in federal government
By the time that the winners of the 1933 midterm elections were sworn in, there were 71 Democrats in Congress, but only 25 Republicans. A similar divide also occurred in the House of Representatives, leaving Republicans relatively unable to effectively protest FDR’s Second New Deal.
1935: Republicans criticize the Second New Deal
FDR’s second stage of the New Deal included major programs like Social Security, rural electrification, and the Banking Act of 1935. However, many Republicans found it akin to socialism and were vocal detractors of the legislation.
1936: Alf Landon runs against FDR
After receiving the presidential Republican nomination over more progressive Senator William Borah, Kansas governor Alf Landon ran in hopes of unseating incumbent Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt. While Landon criticized the New Deal’s inefficiency, Roosevelt achieved another landslide victory.
1937: Congressional Republicans form a conservative coalition
A group of conservative Republicans and conservative Democrats known as the “Old Right” gathered together in protest of the New Deal and FDR. By 1937, they formed a conservative coalition that remained in Congress until 1964.
1938: The GOP make gains in the House
While they remained a minority, Republicans had good news in the 1938 midterm elections, as Democrats lost six Senate seats and 71 House seats. Furthermore, they remained a uniformly united political party, while the Democrats were divided after FDR’s failed attempt to pack the court with conservative Democrats via the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937.
1939: The GOP debates World War II involvement
Republicans soon became divided over whether or not to offer aid to U.S. ally the United Kingdom as World War II began. Isolationists (such as Arther Vandenberg and Robert A. Taft) wanted to avoid getting indirectly involved with the war, while internationalists (like Frank Knox and Henry Stimson) wanted to help the country.
1940: The first televised Republican National Convention
The event was only aired by New York’s W2XBS station. During the convention, which took place in Philadelphia, lawyer Wendell Willkie was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate.