Foreign affairs seldom became partisan issues except for the annexation of Hawaii, which Republicans favored and Democrats opposed. Much more salient were cultural issues.
That angered wet Republicans, especially German Americans , who broke ranks in —, handing power to the Democrats. Demographic trends aided the Democrats, as the German and Irish Catholic immigrants were mostly Democrats and outnumbered the British and Scandinavian Republicans. During the s, elections were remarkably close. The Democrats usually lost, but won in and In the Congressional elections , the GOP scored the biggest landslide in its history as Democrats were blamed for the severe economic depression — and the violent coal and railroad strikes of From to , the Republicans took advantage of the association of the Democrats with "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion".
Rum stood for the liquor interests and the tavernkeepers, in contrast to the GOP, which had a strong dry element. Demographic trends aided the Democrats, as the German and Irish Catholic immigrants were Democrats and outnumbered the English and Scandinavian Republicans. During the s and s, the Republicans struggled against the Democrats' efforts, winning several close elections and losing two to Grover Cleveland in and Religious lines were sharply drawn.
In sharp contrast, liturgical groups, especially the Catholics, Episcopalians and German Lutherans, looked to the Democratic Party for protection from pietistic moralism, especially prohibition. Both parties cut across the class structure, with the Democrats more bottom-heavy.
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Cultural issues, especially prohibition and foreign language schools became important because of the sharp religious divisions in the electorate. Liturgical churches Roman Catholics, German Lutherans and Episcopalians comprised over a quarter of the vote and wanted the government to stay out of the morality business.
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Prohibition debates and referendums heated up politics in most states over a period of decade as national prohibition was finally passed in repealed in , serving as a major issue between the wet Democrats and the dry GOP. The election of William McKinley in marked a resurgence of Republican dominance and is cited as a realigning election.
McKinley promised that high tariffs would end the severe hardship caused by the Panic of and that the GOP would guarantee a sort of pluralism in which all groups would benefit. He denounced William Jennings Bryan , the Democratic nominee, as a dangerous radical whose plans for "Free Silver" at 16—1 or Bimetallism would bankrupt the economy.
McKinley relied heavily on finance, railroads, industry and the middle classes for his support and cemented the Republicans as the party of business. His campaign manager , Ohio's Mark Hanna , developed a detailed plan for getting contributions from the business world and McKinley outspent his rival William Jennings Bryan by a large margin. This emphasis on business was in part mitigated by Theodore Roosevelt , the presidential successor after McKinley's assassination in , who engaged in trust-busting. McKinley was the first President to promote pluralism , arguing that prosperity would be shared by all ethnic and religious groups.
Theodore Roosevelt, who became President in , had the most dynamic personality of the era. Roosevelt had to contend with men like Senator Mark Hanna , whom he outmaneuvered to gain control of the convention in that renominated him and he won after promising to continue McKinley's policies. Roosevelt achieved modest legislative gains in terms of railroad legislation and pure food laws.
He was more successful in Court, bringing antitrust suits that broke up the Northern Securities Company trust and Standard Oil. Roosevelt moved to the left in his last two years in office, but was unable to pass major Square Deal proposals. He did succeed in naming his successor Secretary of War William Howard Taft who easily defeated Bryan again in the presidential election. By , Roosevelt identified himself with the left-center of the Republican Party.
The tariff issue was pulling the GOP apart. Roosevelt tried to postpone the issue, but Taft had to meet it head on in with the Payne—Aldrich Tariff Act. Eastern conservatives led by Nelson W. Aldrich wanted high tariffs on manufactured goods especially woolens , while Midwesterners called for low tariffs.
Aldrich tricked them by lowering the tariff on farm products, which outraged the farmers. Insurgent Midwesterners led by George Norris revolted against the conservatives led by Speaker Cannon. The Democrats won control of the House in as the rift between insurgents and conservatives widened. In , Roosevelt broke with Taft, rejected La Follette, and tried for a third term, but he was outmaneuvered by Taft and lost the nomination.
Roosevelt led his delegates out of the convention and created a new party the Progressive , or "Bull Moose" ticket , in the election of Few party leaders followed him except Hiram Johnson of California. Roosevelt had the support of many notable women reformers, including Jane Addams. The Republicans welcomed the Progressive Era at the state and local level.
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The first important reform mayor was Hazen S. Pingree of Detroit — , who was elected governor of Michigan in Golden Rule Jones was first elected mayor of Toledo as a Republican in , but was reelected as an independent when his party refused to renominate him. Many Republican civic leaders, following the example of Mark Hanna , were active in the National Civic Federation , which promoted urban reforms and sought to avoid wasteful strikes. The party controlled the presidency throughout the s, running on a platform of opposition to the League of Nations , high tariffs, and promotion of business interests.
Warren G. Harding , Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were resoundingly elected in , and , respectively. The breakaway efforts of Senator Robert La Follette in failed to stop a landslide for Coolidge and his movement fell apart. The Teapot Dome Scandal threatened to hurt the party, but Harding died and Coolidge blamed everything on him as the opposition splintered in The pro-business policies of the decade seemed to produce an unprecedented prosperity—until the Wall Street Crash of heralded the Great Depression.
Although the party did very well in large cities and among ethnic Catholics in presidential elections of —, it was unable to hold those gains in Hoover was by nature an activist and attempted to do what he could to alleviate the widespread suffering caused by the Depression, but his strict adherence to what he believed were Republican principles precluded him from establishing relief directly from the federal government. The Depression cost Hoover the presidency with the landslide election of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal coalition controlled American politics for most of the next three decades, excepting the two-term presidency of Republican Dwight Eisenhower.
The Democrats made major gains in the midterm elections, giving them congressional parity though not control for the first time since Woodrow Wilson's presidency. The Republican Party had a progressive element, typified in the early 20th century by Theodore Roosevelt in the — period Roosevelt was more conservative at other points , Senator Robert M.
La Follette, Sr. Norris in Nebraska, Senator Bronson M. They were generally progressive in domestic policy, supported unions  and supported much of the New Deal , but were isolationist in foreign policy. Outside Congress, of the leaders who supported Theodore Roosevelt in , most opposed the New Deal.
Starting in the s, a number of Northeastern Republicans took liberal positions regarding labor unions, spending and New Deal policies. Romney of Michigan. Rockefeller of New York. Rockefeller required employable welfare recipients to take available jobs or job training. While the media sometimes called them " Rockefeller Republicans ", the liberal Republicans never formed an organized movement or caucus and lacked a recognized leader.
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They promoted economic growth and high state and federal spending while accepting high taxes and much liberal legislation, with the provision they could administer it more efficiently. They opposed the Democratic big city machines while welcoming support from labor unions and big business alike. Religion was not high on their agenda, but they were strong believers in civil rights for African Americans and women's rights and most liberals were pro-choice. They were also strong environmentalists and supporters of higher education. In foreign policy they were internationalists, throwing their support to Dwight D.
Eisenhower over the conservative leader Robert A. Taft in They were often called the "Eastern Establishment" by conservatives such as Barry Goldwater. The Goldwater conservatives fought this establishment from ,  defeated it in and eventually retired most of its members, although some became Democrats like Senator Charles Goodell and Mayor John Lindsay in New York. Anderson of Illinois bolted the party in and ran as an independent against Reagan, the liberal GOP element faded away.
Their old strongholds in the Northeast are now mostly held by Democrats. From its inception in to , when Senate Republicans pushed hard for passage of the Civil Rights Act of against a filibuster by Senate Democrats, the GOP had a reputation for supporting blacks and minorities. In , the Republican-controlled legislature in Wyoming Territory and its Republican governor John Allen Campbell made it the first jurisdiction to grant voting rights to women.
In , Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman in Congress—and indeed the first woman in any high level government position. In , New Mexico elected the first Hispanic U. Senator, Republican Octaviano Larrazolo. In , the first Jewish U. In , the first Jewish woman elected to the U.
In , the Republican U.