After the civil war and up to the 1930’s, the Republican Party had its share of success in achieving elective offices at federal and state levels for decades. From the 1930’s to the 1960’s the Democrats became the majority party. About 55% of registered voters in the 1960s were democrats, with the Republican party in the minority. Since the 60’s, the Republican party achieved some wins including the eight-year presidency of Ronald Reagan. But somehow the overall party did not effectively contest the Congress until the early 1990’s, allowing a five-decade reign of the democrats. The Republican party seemed to be content with participating in elections, instead of winning them. Several explanations for the lack of a fighting, competitive spirit in the party have been offered over the years:
Hey Mitt! It ain't your Republican Party Anymore!
The Republican party became a party of low expectations, setting the performance bar so low anything is acceptable. Perhaps the best way to understand the mind set of the party described above is that the party morphed into the “Wylie Coyote” party chasing the “Road Runner” Democrats, a party of amiable losers. That’s the party that ran John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012, a party willing to allow itself to be labeled racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic and worse, and accept defeat without a real fight.
The Trump Era
In 2016, an outsider, Donald Trump ran against a very strong field of Republican heavy-weights and won the Party nomination for the presidency for the 2016 election. No small feat given the talent he opposed.
The 2016 fall campaign was teed up by both parties to proceed along the usual well-worn paths. The Democrats hauled out their playbook, went to page one and demonized Trump as racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic and worse. The Republican party wanted to run its usual tepid campaign (ala Romney, McCain) of broad themes, no content.
But Trump refused to be the “Wylie Coyote” candidate, took the battle to Hillary Clinton. Trump ran on specifics about what he wanted to do if the people chose him to represent their interests. The core issues of the Trump campaign in 2016 are the same as today:
As Trump enters his campaign for a second term, we have a role reversal in place for the 2020 fall election. Trump is now the Roadrunner and the Democrat candidate (insert name here) is Wylie Coyote!
In the 1850s the Whig Party refused to take a position on the issue of slavery. So the party members and other citizens who opposed slavery formed the Republican Party.
In the 1856 election, John Fremont was the Republican candidate for President, who ran on a platform to end slavery. His opponent, James Buchanan, the Democrat candidate, portrayed the party and Fremont as extremists who would take the country to civil war. Buchanan won. In 1858, the Republican Party submitted candidates for congress and state level offices, with some successes.
In 1860, the party nominated Abraham Lincoln, who ran as the anti-slavery candidate and prevailed over three other candidates to secure the office of President. The modest start of a new political party within a few years morphed into a national party capped by success in attaining the top executive office in the land.
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