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Factions in the Republican Party (United States)

The Republican Party of the United States is composed of several factions but generally espouses American conservatism.[1] However, like most parties within two-party systems, the Republican Party includes diversity on social and political-economic ideology.


  • By ideology 1
    • Conservatives 1.1
      • Fiscal conservatives 1.1.1
      • Social conservatives 1.1.2
      • Traditionalist conservatives 1.1.3
    • Paleoconservatives 1.2
    • Neoconservatives 1.3
    • Moderates 1.4
    • Libertarians 1.5
  • Historical factions 2
    • Radical Republicans and Stalwarts 2.1
    • Liberal Republicans 2.2
    • Progressive Republicans 2.3
  • By issue 3
    • Business 3.1
    • National security 3.2
    • States' rights 3.3
  • Overlap 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

By ideology


The old conservative tradition in the Republican Party is based on opposition to the New Deal, especially as developed by Robert A. Taft and their followers such as Everett McKinley Dirksen. They opposed labor unions, high taxes, and government regulation. Most were isolationist in foreign policy. They were strongest in the Midwest and weak in the coastal states.[2] The Conservative Wing of the Republican Party has two sub factions that make up the conservative wing. Fiscal Conservatives and Social Conservatives which are shown below.

Fiscal conservatives

Fiscal conservatives call for a large reduction in government spending (particularly in entitlement and other social programs) personalized accounts for Social Security, free trade, and less regulation of the economy. Many current fiscal conservatives are backers of supply-side economics; however, there are also some deficit hawks within the faction as well. Before 1930 the Northeastern pro-manufacturing factions of the GOP was strongly committed to high tariffs, but since 1945 it has been more supportive of free-market principles and treaties for open trade.[3]

Prominent fiscal conservatives include former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul (Texas), U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (Texas), former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Indiana Governor and former Representative Mike Pence, the 1996 vice-presidential nominee Jack Kemp, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (Oklahoma), Publisher Steve Forbes, and activist Grover Norquist. The Club for Growth is a pro-Republican organization that endorses fiscal conservatives in primaries against more moderate Republicans.

Social conservatives

Social conservatives are those who support traditional values or are those on the religious right. The term "religious right" is often used synonymously with Christian right. Most of the religious right believe that homosexuality is sin, and homosexual union is contrary to nature and to God's will. Essentially all the religious right are opposed to abortion.[4]

The factions major legislative issues in recent years include welfare programs.

Prominent Religious Right Republicans include TV personality Christian Coalition is a Religious Right activist organization considered allied with the party.

Robert P. George.

Social conservatives are doubtful about affirmative action, arguing it too often turns into quotas. They tend to support a strong military and are opposed to gun control. Social conservatives might oppose illegal immigration, which puts them in opposition to the business community. Social conservatives support stronger law enforcement and often disagree with libertarians. On the issue of school vouchers the group is split between those who support the concept (believing that "big government" education is a failure) and those who oppose the concept (believing that "big government" would gain the right to dictate schools' or sponsoring churches' positions on controversial social issues.)

Social conservatives included Trent Lott, Rick Perry, and Sarah Palin, among others.

Traditionalist conservatives

At the intellectual level traditionalists carry on views favorable to business, a strong national defense, and the business community. They favor cultural traditions, old-fashioned teaching methods to inculcate values, and show little love for big government or big business.[5]

Traditionalist publications include Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the National Humanities Institute, the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, the Center for the American Idea, the McConnell Center, and the Trinity Forum.


The Rockford Institute and the American Cause. They are traditionalist with a strong distrust of a modern political ideologies and statecraft, which they call the managerial state.[6]

The paleoconservative worldview is both socially and culturally conservative. Paleoconservatives generally favor gun rights, states' rights and constitutionalism, whilst opposing abortion, affirmative action, and same-sex marriage. They are highly critical of multiculturalism, with the national question being central to their politics. Paleoconservatives strongly oppose illegal immigration and favor tight restrictions on legal immigration. Paleoconservatives tend to be economically nationalist; favoring a protectionist policy on international trade. They want to see more freedom and a limited government on the economic side while have more regulations and morality on the social side. The Tea Party movement is a prime example of paleoconservatism as they call for a decrease in government size and an emphasis on family values.

In foreign affairs they are non-interventionist. Prominent paleoconservatives, such as Pat Buchanan, have criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and neoconservatism, which many paleoconservatives believe has damaged the GOP. Buchanan left the Republican Party after his presidential primary races in 1992 and 1996, and ran as a third-party candidate in the 2000 election. Other prominent paleoconservatives include Chronicles editor Thomas Fleming, Scott P. Richert, and journalists Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, and Robert Novak.


Neoconservatives differ from Paleoconservative's as they promote an interventionist foreign policy to promote democracy and are more moderate on fiscal issues. They were the strongest supporters of the Iraq War; many of these 'neocons' were originally considered to be liberals or were affiliated with the U.S. Democratic Party in earlier days. Neoconservatives have been credited with importing into the Republican party a more active international policy. Neoconservatives are willing to act unilaterally when they believe it serves a moral position to do so, such as the spread of democracy.[7][8]

Neoconservative publications include Project for the New American Century, the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution, the Manhattan Institute, and the Hudson Institute. Prominent neoconservatives include former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith, former UN Ambassador John R. Bolton, Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio, Congressman Peter King, and pundits Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, and David Frum.


Moderates within the GOP tend towards being fiscally conservative to moderate, and socially moderate to liberal, though there are others who are socially conservative and fiscally centrist or liberal. While they sometimes share the economic views of other Republicans - e.g., balanced budgets, lower taxes, free trade, deregulation, welfare reform - moderate Republicans differ in that some are for same-sex marriage and gay adoption, legal access to and even funding for abortion, gun control laws, more environmental regulation and anti-climate change measures, fewer restrictions on legal immigration, a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and more relaxed enforcement of illegal immigration and support for "sanctuary cities,", and for some, abolition of the death penalty, civil rights laws, embryonic stem cell research, in a few cases anti-war policies, supporting access to medical cannabis or any of the above. Concerning foreign policy, some moderates may be less interventionist than neoconservatives and place greater value on multilateral institutions although others like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have a very hawkish foreign policy but are to the left of their party in many other areas. Indeed, moderate Republicans can overlap with the neoconservative wing more often than the other wings of the party.[9]

Deficit spending is a highly contentious issue, within this faction as well as outside of it. Some moderate Republicans criticize what they see as the Bush administration's military extravagance in foreign policy, or criticize its tax cuts as was done by John McCain and Olympia Snowe. Others may support deficit spending, but feel it ought to be more directed towards social projects. Still other moderate Republicans are more liberal in their fiscal policies, in the tradition of Nelson Rockefeller.

By the latter half of the Twentieth Century, moderate Republicans were often called Rockefeller Republicans, or by the pejorative Republican In Name Only, often abbreviated "RINO." Moderate Republicans have seen their influence in the Republican party diminish significantly since the 1980s. Once commonplace throughout the country, today moderate Republicans tend to be found in elected office primarily in the Northeast and the West.

Examples of moderate Republican Governors include William G. Milliken, Tom Corbett and Donald Carcieri. Current U.S. senators include Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona, and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

Moderate Republican organizations: the Ripon Society, which was founded in 1962 as a group of liberal Republicans, today it provides forums for centrist Republican and their ideals. The Republican Main Street Partnership is a network supporting moderate Republicans for office, while the Republican Leadership Council is similar in direction. Former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman founded the Republican Leadership Council PAC in order to promote moderate Republicans for office.

The Republican Majority for Choice is a PAC of and for pro-choice Republicans, and is often allied with the moderate branch of the party. Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and 1996 Presidential nominee Bob Dole has supported the "Main Street" Republicans. John McCain has been considered a moderate Republican for much of his Congressional career; however, he moved considerably to the right on many issues during his unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign.


The libertarian faction of the Republican Party emphasizes free markets, minimal social controls, and non-interventionism in foreign policy.[10] They oppose government social spending, regulation, and taxes. They are opposed to social conservatives with regard to gay rights,[11] and are split on abortion,[10] which many see as an issue of personal freedom, but others view as an act of violence against a person. They oppose gun control as counter-productive and favour free speech.

Libertarian Republicans typically hold a maximum economic freedom policy and a moderate or maximum social freedom policy. Most Libertarian Republicans are Constitutionalists. Libertarians are fiscal conservatives, libertarian Republicans seek to reduce taxes, spending, regulation, and the national debt. They look for ways to outsource or privatize activities run by the government (such as toll roads and airports). As an alternative to the federal income tax and the IRS, many support a flat tax (one rate for all) or the Fair Tax. They also support free international trade, which they argue is beneficial to both the economy and to international relations, and they tend to support reforms to make legal immigration easier. They tend to be more critical of the Federal Reserve and of military spending than any other faction.[10]

On social issues they typically aren't opposed to same sex marriage but would prefer to deregulate marriage. They are usually split over abortion unlike regular libertarians who are typically pro choice. They oppose gun control, the death penalty, and increasingly are opposed to the war on drugs. The believe that civil liberties as protected by the constitution should not be abused and immigration must be handled lawfully. Libertarian Republicans typically oppose the Patriot Act.

The libertarian faction is represented in the party by the Republican Liberty Caucus, which also actively courts members of the United States Libertarian Party to seek office as Republicans in order to increase the voice of libertarianism within the party. U.S. Representative Ron Paul (Texas), the most visible member of the caucus, ran for U.S. President in 1988 on the ticket of the Libertarian Party, and sought the Republican Party nomination for U.S. President in 2008 and 2012.

Senator Jeff Flake, Senator Rand Paul, Representative Justin Amash, Representative Walter B. Jones, Jr., Representative Raul Labrador, Representative Thomas Massie, former Senator Barry Goldwater, former Senator Robert A. Taft, former Representative Barry Goldwater, Jr., former Representative Ron Paul, former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson, Representative and former Governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford, and notable personalities ranging from Tucker Carlson to Clint Eastwood all identify with this faction.

Libertarian intellectuals in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek and the Austrian School of economics advocate laissez-faire regarding economic and social issues. Milton Friedman, leader of the Chicago School of Economics, for example, led the opposition to the draft, which was suspended by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1973.[12]

Historical factions

Radical Republicans and Stalwarts

From around 1850 until the end of Reconstruction, Radical Republicans led the Republican Party. They supported the abolition of slavery and equal rights for freed blacks, and also pushed for the Reconstruction acts and reduced rights for ex-Confederates. They opposed both Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction strategy, and almost led to Johnson's removal from the Presidency. After Reconstruction, many Radicals joined the Stalwarts, which supported machine politics and opposed civil service reform. They supported Ulysses S. Grant, especially when he tried for a third term in 1880. The Stalwart faction broke up during the 1880s. The "Half-Breeds" were the opposing faction. Although the Stalwarts and Half-Breeds agreed on many issues, they fought over corruption issues and the role of patronage. The Half-Breeds supported civil service reform and a merit system. Like the Stalwarts, the Half-Breed faction vanished during the 1880s.[13]

Liberal Republicans

Starting in the 1930s the terms "liberal" and "conservative" were mainly used to refer to supporters and opponents of the New Deal. Most Republicans were opposed to the New Deal, but many, especially in the Northeast, agreed with its essential ideas. However, these liberal Republicans were frustrated with the corruption and inefficiency of certain New Deal programs, and said the GOP could do a better job of running these programs. By the 1960s liberal Republicans were often called Rockefeller Republicans. Hostile conservatives sometimes called them "Republican In Name Only," or "RINO."[14]

The most notable liberal Republicans of the 1930s-1970s included Harold Stassen (Minnesota), Wendell Willkie (New York), Alf Landon (Kansas), Thomas E. Dewey (New York), Nelson Rockefeller (New York) and Earl Warren (California). Historians debate whether Richard Nixon belongs to this group as his rhetoric was conservative, but his policies were liberal in many areas. The liberal wing of the Republican Party had ceased to play a significant role in the party by the 1980s, with most of the Rockefeller Republicans retiring, or being defeated in primaries by more conservative Republicans or in general elections by Democrats.

Liberal Republicans often supported a liberal-to-moderate fiscal policy, but also supported liberal social causes, such as abortion and gay marriage. They may also be opposed to death penalty and support gun control. In modern times, more liberal Republicans included Rudy Giuliani, Scott Brown, Amo Houghton, Colin Powell, Jim Leach, Joseph Cao, Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. Two former Senators Jim Jeffords and Arlen Specter, both of whom later left the party. Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, both former Republicans turned independents (Chafee ended up switching to the Democrats), also espoused stances favored by liberals. Some long time Republicans have spoken out for more steeply progressive taxation than their leadership has supported, including Bruce Bartlett, Paul O'Neill, David Stockman, and Sheila Bair.[15] Similarly, Republican Wall Street Journal opinion columnist Peggy Noonan has called for a renewed focus on jobs instead of debt and deficit.[16]

Progressive Republicans

In 1910-16 self-styled "progressives" formed a faction in the Republican Party. Led by Roosevelt, they split off and formed a new party in 1912. They typically held center-left views on most issues, supporting broad government involvement in business, particularly breaking 'trusts' and limiting the size of corporations, reforms in government, social security and other forms of 'social justice'.[17] In Wisconsin, Senator Robert M. La Follette Sr. controlled the Republican Party and gave it a progressive orientation. He formed his own third party presidential ticket in 1924[18]

By issue


Although business interests lobby and contribute to both parties, the GOP has been more favorable since the Civil War. There are two components. Main Street refers to locally owned businesses. Wall Street refers to national corporations. They share an interest in lower taxes, less regulation and opposition to labor unions. Spending is another matter, and depends on the particular issue. For example, defense spending is favored. Main Street has an interest in opposing the inheritance tax (the so-called "death tax"), which according to republicans affects entrepreneurs;[19] Wall Street wants low taxes on capital gains. Both generally support free trade, since the old high tariff faction has faded along with the industries (like textiles) it once tried to protect.[20] The farm sector is generally conservative on most issues—except it wants higher spending on farm programs.

National security

Republicans who emphasize the priority of a strong national defense (with appropriate high spending) and an aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East fall under this category. Although this opinion is held by others outside the Republican Party, within the GOP it has retained many vocal proponents. This faction had been satisfied with President Bush's policies, but has also criticized him regarding his inactivity on the issue of illegal immigration in the United States.

More recently this faction has supported continuation of OEF-Afghanistan under the Obama Administration, but have voiced opposition to the projected cuts in military spending and reduction of missile defense programs. Politicians of this nature include former Massassusetts Governors, Mitt Romney, former Senator John Warner, former Representative Duncan Hunter, Congressman Peter Hoekstra, Representative Joe Wilson, Representative John Kline, and Representative Duncan D. Hunter.[21]

States' rights

Ideologically, the GOP typically supports smaller federal government. Historically, this translated into keeping power in the hands of powerful state governments, as in the cases of civil rights, abortion laws, regulations on marriage, and mapping of voting districts.[22] However, conservatives in recent years have demanded federal intervention to oppose state laws with respect to the Federal Marriage Amendment, the Terri Schiavo case, the Kelo case regarding eminent domain, and in cases involving assisted suicide laws and medical marijuana.

To a certain extent, this is contingent upon the faction in question. For example, the paleoconservative and social conservative factions would be far more inclined to favor federal drug regulations trumping states rights, while the libertarian faction would be more inclined to see such power devolved to the states or even further.


There is often plenty of overlap between the various categories. For example, a Republican may side with the "neoconservatives" on foreign policy issues, yet also support a "religious right" social agenda and a "fiscally conservative" economic vision. The "libertarians, the traditionalists, the anti-communists, the neoconservatives, and the second New Right/religious right.[1][23]

After Reagan left office the Reagan coalition shattered, with the deepest divisions seen between the libertarians, traditionalists, and paleoconservatives on one side and the neoconservatives and the religious right on the other. This was most evident as the neoconservatives and the religious right became the dominant force in the Republican Party. Today, conservatism is generally divided into the categories of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and national security neoconservatives (even though there is considerable overlap among these rather vague categories).

Similarly, moderate or liberal Republicans (see below) may hold views overlapping with those of some of the conservative factions, while diverging with other factions. For example, a "moderate" Republican may hold "fiscally conservative" views on the economy and "neoconservative" on foreign policy, while at the same time holding views on social issues such as abortion that conflict with "social conservative" views.

Partly because of that overlap, it is difficult to accurately claim which faction of the party currently holds the most power, though such a question is the topic of much speculation. After the

Although it is clear that compared to the influence of the conservative factions of the party, the numbers and influence of the moderate wing of the party had diminished in recent decades. In the past many Republicans were not ideological and were conservative in areas but moderate in others. Some say George H.W. Bush would be in this middle of the road category.

For some of these abortion is not considered a big issue while fiscal issues would be. Dole, for example was opposed to abortion but supported government programs and a moderate take on foreign affairs. Ford and Bush at some point were pro-choice, but in other points of their career they were also opposed to abortion. George H.W. Bush was pro-choice and moderate on fiscal issues as Ronald Reagan's vice president, but shifted to the right on many issues during his 1988 presidential campaign after facing primary challenges from more conservative GOP figures. Bush infamously raised taxes in 1990, an act which contributed heavily to his defeat for reelection. He also nominated liberal justice David Souter to the U.S. Supreme Court.

See also

Affiliated organizations:

Ideology topics:

Democratic Party:

Libertarian Party:


  1. ^ a b Donald T. Critchlow, The conservative ascendancy: how the GOP right made political history (2nd ed. 2011)
  2. ^ David Reinhard, The Republican Right since 1945 (1983).
  3. ^ Joel D. Aberbach; Gillian Peele (2011). Crisis of Conservatism?:The Republican Party, the Conservative Movement, and American Politics After Bush. Oxford University Press. p. 105. 
  4. ^ William Martin, With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America (1996)
  5. ^ Gregory Schneider (2003). Conservatism in America since 1930: A Reader. NYU Press. pp. 169–75. 
  6. ^ Joseph Scotchie, The Paleoconservatives: New Voices of the Old Right (1999)
  7. ^ John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism: Intellectual and Foreign Affairs 1945 – 1994 (2005)
  8. ^ Justin Vaïsse, Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement (2010)
  9. ^ Nicol C. Rae (1999). New Majority Or Old Minority?: The Impact of Republicans on Congress. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 153–73. 
  10. ^ a b c Republican Liberty Caucus Statement of Principles
  11. ^ "Republican Liberty Caucus Opposes Texas Anti-Gay Platform Planks". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  12. ^ William Ruger (2013). Milton Friedman. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 48. 
  13. ^ Richard L. Wilson (2002). American Political Leaders. Infobase Publishing. p. 153. 
  14. ^ Nicol C. Rae, The Decline and Fall of the Liberal Republicans: From 1952 to the Present (1989)
  15. ^ Bair, Sheila (February 26, 2013). "Grand Old Parity". New York Times. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  16. ^ Noonan, Peggy (March 9, 2013). "The Anti-Confidence Man". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  17. ^ George E. Mowry, Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement. (1946).
  18. ^ John D. Buenker, The History of Wisconsin, Vol. 4: The Progressive Era, 1893–1914 (1998).
  19. ^ Michael J. Graetz and Ian Shapiro, Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight over Taxing Inherited Wealth (2005) p 76
  20. ^ Andrew J. Taylor, Elephant's Edge: The Republicans as a Ruling Party (2005) p. 251; Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century (2006) p. 5
  21. ^ Carl Hulse and David M. Herszenhorn, "Seeking Cudgel, Republicans Return to National Security Issue," May 1, 2009New York Times,
  22. ^ Merle Black and Earl Black, The Rise of Southern Republicans (2003)
  23. ^ Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait, The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America (2004)

Further reading

  • Barone, Michael, and Richard E. Cohen. The Almanac of American Politics, 2010 (2009) 1900 pages of minute, nonpartisan detail on every state and district and member of Congress.
  • Dyche, John David. Republican Leader: A Political Biography of Senator Mitch McConnell (2009)
  • Edsall, Thomas Byrne. Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive For Permanent Power (2006) sophisticated analysis by liberal
  • Crane, Michael. The Political Junkie Handbook: The Definitive Reference Book on Politics (2004), nonpartisan
  • Frank, Thomas. What's the Matter with Kansas (2005) attack by a liberal.
  • Frohnen, Bruce, Jeremy Beer, and Jeffery O. Nelson, eds. American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia (2006) 980 pages of articles by 200 conservative scholars
  • Hamburger, Tom, and Peter Wallsten. One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century (2006), hostile
  • Hewitt, Hugh. GOP 5.0: Republican Renewal Under President Obama (2009)
  • Ross, Brian "The Republican Un-Civil War – The Neocons and the Tea Party Fight for Control of the GOP", Truth-2-Power, August 9, 2012.
  • Wooldridge, Adrian, and John Micklethwait. The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America (2004), sophisticated nonpartisan analysis

External links

  • Oct 5, 2006"A Guide to the Republican Herd" New York Times interactive graphic
  • Belief Spectrum Brings Party Splits Washington Post October 4, 1998
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