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What is a Republican?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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The term “Republican” is used in many different ways around the world, usually to denote someone who belongs to a Republican Party. Many people are most familiar with this term in the sense of a member of the Republican National Party, referred to as the Grand Old Party (GOP), one of the two major political parties in the United States. The values and platforms of parties with this name vary widely from nation to nation, and in the United States, the party is primarily center-right to conservative.

In the United States, the Republican Party was established in 1854 by a group of anti-slavery activists, rising to power only six years later with the election of President Abraham Lincoln. The party quickly emerged as a powerhouse, becoming the major opposition to the Democratic party, the center-left political party. In fact, the two parties so thoroughly dominate the American political system that it can sometimes feel as if there are no other options, instead of the multiparty democracy that the US is.

Around one-third of the American electorate identifies as Republican at any given time. Members tend to be white, although the party has made some inroads into Asian and Latino communities, and people who identify with the party usually have conservative economic and social values. Many members are also Christian, with many sects including evangelical Christians being represented in large numbers. The GOP is often viewed as the pro-business political party, and as an upholder of values that many Americans think of as traditional.

Like members of other political parties in the United States, Republicans adopt new party platforms periodically. Each platform is designed to reflect the core values of the party while also adapting to changes in American society, and addressing emerging issues so that members of the public know how the party feels about hot topics in American culture. The party also routinely nominates a candidate for the presidency at their national conventions in presidential election years.

Many Republicans try to adhere to values from the early days of America. The name of the party is itself an homage to Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States, reflecting its value system. Many party members support strict interpretations of the Constitution, and they agitate for smaller government, less regulation in industry, and an upholding of Christian values in the United States.

Some examples of notable Republicans include 19 former presidents of the United States, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Historical Index is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Historical Index researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon354504 — On Nov 09, 2013

Metaphorically speaking, say you're on an on ramp to the freeway, you're speeding up as fast as you can, the on ramp is about to end and you need to merge onto a freeway lane.

A hard nosed republican is that person who won't let you merge if it means you'll be in front of them. You'll either have to decelerate making it more difficult to merge into moving traffic or finish your merge from the shoulder of the freeway.

It's all about gaining as much as they can for themselves and relinquishing none of it to others (unless there are later gains to be made for themselves later by doing so). Good neighbors they are not.

By anon257793 — On Mar 28, 2012

Interesting to read all of these posts. Simply put, "We are all in a huge mess because of both parties." Point blank and we have become a fear based society due to both parties and the choices they've made for future generations. I no longer feel free, but owned.

By anon167413 — On Apr 12, 2011

I believe many people miss the point.

I believe Democrats feel it's the nations responsibility to take care of its citizens and only the government knows how to do that.

I believe Republicans think it should be locals, families and friends who take care of each other.

The problem begins when the Government creates a program to take care of citizens, and they also have to create the force to monitor and litigate the new legislation.

Guess what? Higher taxes. Guess what? At whose expense, with cost plus.

As I see it, we all should take accountability and help our neighbor, reduce government spending, get out of Asia and pay our own way. We can give out money and people say we are great, or we can provide jobs (start a business) a person becomes self sufficient.

By anon165339 — On Apr 04, 2011

Wow, okay, so I'm a gay bashing, planet raping, Bible thumping, unsympathetic, cold hearted witch because I'm a republican and a Christian. Wow, i guess i didn't know that about myself.

For the record, i support gay rights, use cloth diapers on my baby, breastfeed, recycle, have an organic garden, and, well you get the picture.

I'd like to point out that there are numerous churches in my town and several evangelical homeless shelters (in fact, that's the only kind of homeless shelters we have here) and they repeatedly, year after year after year, do things to help the poor in our own community. They provide school supplies and clothes and shoes and coats to children, countless meals to anyone who needs them, gifts for children with a parent in prison, etc.

And on an individual basis, most of the Christians I know are constantly trying to help someone else by giving people a job, teaching work and life skills, giving away cars and furniture, and even houses to people who need them to try and help them out. And the majority of these Christians are republicans.

So to say that we don't care about people and look down our noses at them is wrong. And I'm okay now, but at one time i was one of "those people" who needed help, and my church responded with love, support, and compassion.

By anon148927 — On Feb 02, 2011

I'm an Irish Republican and have always wondered if there were any similarities between the Irish and American versions of republicanism. Thankfully, there seem to be none.

The GOP in the US is xenophobic, racist, homophobic and its policies continue to diminish American 'democracy'. The notion that the state has no role to play in society is simply stupid. The state is duty bound to help the less fortunate in society, especially as it is the policies of the Republican party which increases the numbers of the unfortunate who fall into that category.

The notion that every man, woman and child can start up their own business and become well enough off to take care of themselves is just utter nonsense. Not everyone knows how to run a business. And if everyone were a business person, from where would the get the staff they need to run the business?

Republicans 'trust' their god, but they worship the almighty (but increasingly less valuable) dollar.

Republicans decided globalisation would be good for the American economy, yet all that happened was that corporations and the few who own them got very rich, while American jobs have been exported en masse to China, which will, around the middle of the current century, become richer than the US and become the world's major economic power. The US will then be nothing more than a hollowed-out husk which will have to threaten others with its nuclear arsenal to get its way in the world, because it certainly won't be able to pay its way.

You call yourselves the richest nation on earth. But due to Republican economic profligacy, yours is the most indebted nation on earth, which means the US is the poorest nation, not the richest. It will take hundreds of years for you people to pay off what you owe the world. Because of Republican greed, you will soon be dancing to China's tune. In the land of the 'free' you are watched and monitored as much if not more than ever was the case in formerly communist nations.

Your votes are absolutely worthless, and your presidents, one and all, Republican or Democrat, and of no matter what skin tone, are all what we in Ireland call 'butt-boys' for the small and uber-wealthy cadre of right wing extremists who really run your nation.

You republicans relish the sight of starving, homeless and sick people being forced to live on your streets. You look down your comfortable noses at them as if you're better than them. You're not.

You throw people out of hospital needing treatment simply because they can't pay. You ghettoise those you consider 'undesirable', such as gays, black people, latinos and other ethnicities because they aren't good old white anglo-saxon Protestants. You call the Democrats 'socialist' and accuse them of wanting the government to be able to control all facets of life in the US.

It was the GOP which greatly extended the role of the US government in controlling US citizens by introducing the Patriot Act under that buffoon GW Bush. Not the Democrats. The Democrats are no better than the GOP, because, as I said, your two political parties are simply both sides of the same coin. Except the Democrats are less morally repugnant in their social views than most Republicans are.

You Republicans claim Americans are the best people in the world. You're not. Republicans claim to be for fairness and traditional values, such as upholding the sanctity of human life, yet look at your history in the 20th century, and the millions of people your nation, under predominantly republican presidents, has exterminated from the face of the earth, and simply because they chose a political system different to your own. Where was your respect for family values and the sanctity of human life when these people were being napalmed or vaporised?

You started an illegal war in Iraq over weapons of mass destruction, when your nation has the dubious honor of being the only nation on earth ever to use weapons of mass destruction. Your 'democracy' reeks of hypocrisy. And your 'democracy' is mostly the result of Republican values. I would be worried about that if I were American, which, thankfully, I'm not.

Instead of talking to and beginning to understand the Muslim world, you wage war against it, so that the entire world now has reason to fear Muslim extremists. Just as in Ireland where Ian Paisley was the best recruiting sergeant the hateful IRA ever had, Republican foreign policy in the US drives hordes of gullible Muslims straight into the ranks of Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist organizations. Yet you cling to archaic and outmoded value systems in the forlorn hope that your will shall prevail, when it will not.

American Republicanism frightens me more than any 'commie' threat that you engineered to scare the bejesus out of your unquestioning citizenry. American politics needs a radical overhaul to return power to the American people, and not the American corporations acting through the personage of the incumbent President.

Left to Republicans, black and ethnic Americans would still be second-class citizens, possibly slaves and definitely economically disenfranchised and marginalised. Human rights would be practically non existent.

The American Empire, built up since the end of World War Two, is crumbling, just as Rome did. Your future is one of diminishing influence, diminishing economic prosperity and decay. Look at the industrial wastelands all over America that you just allow sit there. In Europe, we don't allow that. We use the land for other purposes, social and economic. You just abandon them to rot and blight your cityscapes. In future, there will be much much more of this, many more dead and dying US cities, from whence the jobs have been exported by Republican economic policy to cheap labor jurisdictions which grow rich as you grow poor.

When will the US ever learn? You simply are unable or unwilling to see what's staring you right in the face: America is sliding at full tilt into decay, poverty and social disintegration. Republicans are responsible for that. Republicans are responsible for your obscene national debt of almost £12 trillion (sterling, not dollars).

No president, Republican or otherwise, since world war two has made any effort to even ateempt to reduce your deficit. It just grows and grows and grows and grows. You'll soon get to the stage where your entire GDP will be required to service your debt, and note, I said service, not reduce. The Grand Old Party? No thanks!

By anon132778 — On Dec 08, 2010

well then it was the republicans that moved all the jobs to china because it is good business letting us all fend for ourselves with no work, no education, no hope. i say get rid of the republicans.

By anon130867 — On Nov 30, 2010

If Republicans favor "you're on your own" then why do they favor feeding and helping other countries? because there is something in it for them! That just looks like Republicans are greedy.

By esther2010 — On Nov 16, 2010

This is simply no help to me whatsoever. I am trying to figure out whether to put democrat or republican on my voter registration app. After recently finding out that if I'm not one or the other, I may or may not be able to vote in primary elections each year. I now want to mark democrat simply because it has more info on where they stand. Please revise your posting to help others out in the future.

By anon125608 — On Nov 10, 2010

what if you agree with a little of both?

By anon123624 — On Nov 02, 2010

Republicans are mainly made up of Caucasian people who:

*believe that the government should be less involved and offer less help to those who need it.

*Republicans are mostly power driven and rich and believe everyone should be able to manage on their own.

Democrats believe that the government should get involved and give aid to those who need it.

By anon112561 — On Sep 20, 2010

Tons of the big words here and in other articles I simply looked up, then I put that together with prior knowledge and, making some connections, basically I learned this:

Democrats favor change, Republicans favor traditional values.

Republicans are more capitalistic, meaning more free trade and businesses.

Democrats are more socialistic, meaning more governmental control over things (like the Sumerians?)

Republicans, in general, prefer religion to be integrated into society.

Democrats, in general, prefer to keep religion and government apart from each other.

It's kind of nice to actually get a basic sense of Democrat/Republican. As a kid I'm thrown into this world with people expecting me to automatically know what a 'socially progressive agenda' is. Thanks for helping me summarize and learn.

By anon109812 — On Sep 09, 2010

My husband and I are Canadians, and it has been the very question that comes up every time we go South. Thank you for putting in simple terms.

By anon80115 — On Apr 26, 2010

O.K. For all of you that need dumbing down answers, here it is.

Democrats: Believe that the government should take care of you from cradle to grave. That means heavy taxes.

Republicans: believe that you should be able to take care of yourself, go to school, get an education, start a business, grow up and be a man.

By anon76657 — On Apr 11, 2010

I agree, they defined Democrat in a very concise and definite way, they define Republican in a political way, (they said a lot, but didn't get close to an answer). Therefore, we can only reason that they are democrats here.

By anon71809 — On Mar 20, 2010

I understand what you're saying. I am new to the political government and I did not understand what a republican party is by reading this article.

The author explained more how a republican is used rather than to define what a republican party stands for. It was really rude the comment from -Rip. I wouldn't trust this website!

By anon68032 — On Feb 28, 2010

yeah you guys need to explain more and not so much information, just get to the point. i am doing this for a project and need it to take the least amount of time it can. thanks.

By Rip — On Dec 22, 2009

His/her comment is crystal clear to any person who can read and understand at sixth grade level.

Dumbing down is a really big problem in this country.

The Constitution says to vote you must read, write and understand English well enough to read the ballot.

Not an exact quote but we don't need people voting who can't understand what they are voting for.

We certainly don't need the corruption that is going on with someone assisting them to vote!

Is this clear enough for you?

By anon54097 — On Nov 27, 2009

You didn't really explain what a Republican is and believes.

You should dumb this explanation down a bit. A lot of people have no real idea what 'center-right' actually means. People who are new to the political landscape won't even know what a 'party platform' signifies.

See what I'm saying?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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