Republican History, Trends & the Silent Majority…


Founded in the 1850s by anti-slave activists like Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party, or the Grand Old Party (GOP), originally espoused the ideas of free labour, free land, and free men.

America had just acquired a vast amount of territory from Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. There was a struggle between the northern and southern states over whether that territory should be settled under a system of slavery or under a system where every man had the right to his own labour.

'Northerners, who didn't like slavery on moral grounds but who also were deeply concerned about their own right to rise—people like Abraham Lincoln—came together and said: "No, America is not just about property, America is about protecting equality of opportunity."'

As a result, Lincoln and his contemporaries formed the Republican Party in the 1850s, while southern slave owners gained the right to more slavery.

Only four years later Lincoln, the Republican Party's first viable presidential candidate, ascended to the White House.

Changing ideologies after the American Civil War

Not long after Lincoln's election to the presidency, the 11 Confederate States in the South broke away from the Union, and the American Civil War broke out. The war ran from 1861 to 1865, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and the South's infrastructure destroyed.

Lincoln successfully piloted the country through this devastating war and was loved by people in the north. But immediately after the major southern army surrendered, Abraham Lincoln was murdered by John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln's vice president Andrew Johnson was a Democrat from Tennessee, and he loathed African Americans and the Republican Party.

'He wanted to return the country back to a land that protected property and protected white people's ability to rise,' Richardson says.

Johnson argued that the government set up by the Republicans was not in fact about equality, but the redistribution of wealth instead.

He suggested that the programs that the Republicans set up—having the military in the south to guarantee that white southerners don't kill African Americans, the different programs that are in place to try and help southerners transition from slavery to freedom—those would create bureaucracies, those bureaucracies would cost money, that money is going to cost tax dollars because the Republicans have just set up national tax dollars.

Despite this philosophical shift, the African American community remained committed to the Republican Party through the later part of the 19th century and into the 20th century.

The Republican Party under Lincoln was responsible for the emancipation of African American slaves, and the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments which gave black men the right to freedom, voting and equality under the law.

In the early 20th century the Republican Party was associated with civil rights and emancipation, while the Democrats still reflected the southern segregationists, inequality and racism.

In the 1920s, things began to change—African Americans started to leaving the south in larger numbers and northern Democrats realised that alliances with African Americans would help them take over local and state politics.

But while African Americans began to shift to the Democrats on a small local level, they still voted for the Republicans on a presidential level.

New Deal finds support in electorate, divides Republicans

In 1932, at the height of the depression, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to the White House and introduced the New Deal.

Democrats were still associated with southern segregationists, so Roosevelt was widely distrusted by African Americans in the lead-up to his election.

But there was a significant shift after his first term in office.

'African Americans benefit from the programs and the policies of the Roosevelt administration,' says Leah Wright Rigueur, an assistant professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.

'They also take heart at the Civil Rights activism of Eleanor Roosevelt, who is far more outspoken than her husband.

'This combination of economics and civil rights forces a massive transformation in electoral politics in 1936 where the vast majority of African Americans cast ballots for the Democratic presidential nominee, Franklin Roosevelt.'

But Roosevelt's New Deal divided the Republican Party.

While many Republicans were willing to accept parts of the New Deal, they still opposed Roosevelt. Then there were other more conservative Republicans who said they would never agree to the New Deal.

This tension remained for the next 25 years, but eventually the conservatives won.

Those who opposed the New Deal became known as the Movement Conservatives. They wanted to take America back to the 1920s and the system in which the government did nothing but protect big business.

They gradually started to make progress in the 1940s, until they became the majority and took over the party in the 80s.

'What you're seeing right now is the last vestiges of the fight of the Republican Party against the New Deal and against the Republicans who accepted the New Deal,' Richardson says.

Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights Act

A critical moment for the relationship between the Republican Party and the African American community came in 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson introduced the Civil Rights Act. It had received bipartisan support from an overwhelming majority of Republicans and Democrats, while the people who opposed it were largely southern segregationists.

'The Republican Party largely supports the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but they also support a candidate who votes against the 1964 Civil Rights Act,' Rigueur says.

'When the party's presidential nominee in 1964 becomes Barry Goldwater, the Arizona senator who voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it doesn't matter that the senator points to a local history of being somewhat progressive on civil rights issues.

'All that matters is that his vote was a vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, that it opened the door for segregationists and white supremacists to support the Republican Party.

'This has a devastating impact on the relationship between African Americans and the Republican Party.'

Up until the 1960s the southern states had overwhelmingly voted for the Democrats, but as white southerners looked to block the tide of civil rights they found a champion in Barry Goldwater and the Republican Party.

Goldwater was defeated by Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 election but still won five states, giving way to Democrats in the south to convert to the Republican Party.

Over the next 50 years, the GOP became the dominant party in the south, and Goldwater became the standard bearer for conservatives in the Republican Party.

Race riots put 'law and order' on political agenda

By the mid-1960s cities across America exploded in race riots—Birmingham and Cambridge in '63; Rochester, New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Chicago in '64; Watts in 65. In 1967 a presidential commission was appointed to investigate the unrest.

Headed by Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois, it determined: 'Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal. Reaction to last summer's disorders has quickened the movement and deepened the division.'

When Richard Nixon ran in the 1968 presidential election, he ignored the findings of the Kerner Commission's report and ran on a platform of law and order.

Rigueur says that was Nixon's way of lashing out against the Black Power movement, and many African Americans interpreted his 'law and order' stance as black repression.

'It's that election ... that you really get the power of this racial backlash taking over the Republican Party and creating a wedge that is going to allow Movement Conservatives to take the party over by 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan,' Richardson says.

In 1976 Ronald Reagan launched a challenge against Gerald Ford, a moderate Republican from the old guard, arguing the party needed a real conservative to run America.

At first Reagan wasn't successful because, Rigueur argues, Americans still viewed conservatism as something extreme and at the fringes of the American belief system. But this all changed between '76 and the 1980s when Reagan and his strategists start to work to soften the idea of conservatism.

'They don't mention a race, but in their private notes and in their private correspondence they argue that they are explicitly aimed at winning over white ethnics, white religious groups, white working class, white middle class, white liberals and moderates who might be afraid of conservatism otherwise,' Rigueur says.

'It works spectacularly well in 1980 and then later in 1984 where Reagan just really wipes the floor with his opponent.'

Losses leave Republicans soul-searching

Richardson explains that while Reagan was ideologically extreme, politically he was quite different.

'He talked a good game but he actually was quite willing to compromise. He would not in fact be welcome in today's Republican Party, which has become so extremist that it is really unable to govern,' she says.

'Its only guiding principle right now is that of the Movement Conservatives, the idea that the government must do absolutely nothing except protect business, support a strong military, and protect Christianity.'

But this is in opposition with the majority of the American public, who like social welfare, education and infrastructure, which the Movement Conservatives are trying to destroy.

'That has created this very odd moment in American history where you have the rise of this unusual presidential candidate in Donald Trump,' Richardson says.

'You have this chaos where you've got a strong group of ideologues running one of the two major political parties and yet they are running it in such a way that it is losing followers right and left.'

Since 1980, moderate and liberal Republicans have increasingly found themselves on the outskirts of the party. And as time has moved on, Rigueur explains, clear divisions have formed, leading to the rise of the Tea Party, which developed out of frustration with both the Democrats and the Republican Party under George W. Bush.

So where does this leave the Republican Party and post-Donald Trump?

Two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they would like to see former President Donald Trump continue to be a major political figure for many years to come, including 44% who say they would like him to run for president in 2024, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted Sept. 13 to 19.

About one-in-five Republicans (22%) say that while they would like Trump to continue to be a major political figure in the United States, they would prefer he use his stature to support another presidential candidate who shares his views in the 2024 election rather than run for office himself. About a third of Republicans (32%) say they would notlike Trump to remain a national political figure for many years to come.

Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand the public’s opinions on Donald Trump’s political future, including whether he should potentially run for president in 2024. This study also examines what Republicans and Democrats consider acceptable behavior for elected officials within their own parties. For this analysis, we surveyed 10,371 U.S. adults in September 2021. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories.

A surge of Republicans quitting the party to renounce Donald Trump after the deadly Capitol riot could hurt moderates in next year's primaries, adding a capstone to Trump's legacy as president: A potentially lasting rightward push on the party.

Compared to the Republicans who stayed put, those who fled were more concentrated in the left-leaning counties around big cities, which political analysts said suggested moderate Republicans could be leading the defections.

If the exodus is sustained, it will be to the advantage of candidates in the Republican Party's nomination contests who espouse views that play well with its Trump-supporting base but not with a broader electorate.

That could make it harder for Republican candidates to beat Democrats in November, said Morris Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford University.

"If these voters are leaving the party permanently, it's really bad news for Republicans," Fiorina said.

Most of the defectors switched to having no party affiliation or joined a minor political party, though many registered as Democrats, according to publicly available voter registration data that is regularly updated by states.

The shifts come as Trump is looking to assert his influence as the party's leader after losing to Democrat Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election. Trump lashed out this week against Mitch McConnell, the most senior elected Republican, after the Senate Minority Leader voted to acquit him on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 attack but still said he was responsible for his supporters' actions.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Mandi Merritt declined to comment on the flight from the party but said: "Americans of all stripes will know the Republican Party is the party that is fighting for them."

Many of the people who left the party did so because of Trump.

But even modest defections could make a difference in close nomination contests, particularly in states like Florida and Pennsylvania which restrict voting in nomination contests to members of that party.

In Florida's Aug. 18 primary elections last year, two Republican candidates who won their nomination contest by fewer than 1,500 votes went on to win seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Are there defections in New Mexico and specifically Otero County?

Even Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin recently went off the rails when it came to Trump and shot some disparaging comments about Trumps leadership at a QAnon rally in Las Vegas. Was that a ruse or a statement from the heart that others are feeling? Is there splinters even within the party locally?

There is tension in the local Republican Party between moderates and those closely aligned with Trumpian ideology. In Alamogordo, the mayors race had been tempered mildly however especially in the school district race one can see the tension percolating between moderates attempting to find common ground to work with the majority in power in Santa Fe, and those extremist, who grab the microphone, screech the loudest and don’t want any collaborative work, period.
The silent majority sits out yet another local election which is evident by the less than 5.2% of eligible voters who have cast their ballot per the early election tallies.

At some point, the silent majority, will have had enough, of these extreme factions, on both sides of the isle and the lack of collaboration. But based on election early  results, thus far, that tipping point has not come yet.

My hunch is it’s about 2 years around the corner. Stay tuned the silent majority is slowly awakening…

Sources: NPR, Pew Research, Jason Lange, Andy Sullivan Log Cabin Leadership Council, ABC News, AlamogordoTownNews,  Reuters.

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An interesting trip through history. Some of the "opinions" and deductions I disagree with, but I appreciate the journey. "unable to govern"

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