Unlike today, the Republican Party from its conception was a very drastically different in their views than what it has become today. The extreme fanatical right political population of this country has taken over MY Republican Party and made it something that the founders of the Party would not like at all. The Neo-con, inaccurate, radio blowhards have these uneducated lemmings believing that the Republican Party has always been in the ultra-conservative view that they are presenting. I have taken it upon myself the give evidence to the contrary in the hopes that the progressive moderates still within the Party may purge this damaging aspect from MY Republican Party. Wish us all luck in this task.
An important aspect of Republican rule from its first president in Abraham Lincoln was the idea that the government, and especially the federal government, was an important tool to help protect and promote prosperity. If government needed growth to keep up with a nation changing at the societal and economic level, then proper growth was done. Lincoln presided over the National Banking Acts which created a national financial system and then saw to the creation of the Department of Agriculture. Later Republicanism success stories such as the Sherman Anti-trust Act were passed by a republican controlled congress and Republican President.
In the 1900 election the Republican Party with President McKinley as its leader, who was regarded as generally an economic conservative, pushed for a party platform that would establish a Department of Commerce in order to keep the public informed on the behavior of corporations. McKinley being a business republican nevertheless saw the threat to the free-market that bad corporations could do and set the stage for Teddy Roosevelt’s administration by setting up the United States Industrial Commission to investigate and recommend a course of action on these “trusts”. This same commission returned when Teddy Roosevelt had ascended to the presidency after McKinley’s assassination and helped recommend the course of action that would help lead Teddy down the road of trust-busting.
This was just one example of how common sense Republicanism was present even in the industry conservative faction, a faction that compared to today’s extreme conservatism would have been considered moderate. His view was that the GOP was represented the unifying nationalism that had kept the nation from breaking apart in the Civil War against the wishes of the secessionists and of being the party that had led the nation from this disaster to become an industrial power. It therefore only seemed logical that this party was a party that believed in Federalism where the balance of power was needed between local, state and federal governments and that made it clear where the final power lay, a point made clear by Lincoln and the Union victory in the civil war. This was not a state’s right’s party and he believed that it was only natural for Republicans to keep the principles of their party intact by having the government employed with vigor and purpose to ensure that the benefits of the industrial economy that was quickly growing be available to all of society. Even many in the pro-business faction of the Republican Party believed in some needed regulations or protectionism in contrast to the laissez-faire democrats, although they being more conservative were not quite as progressive as Teddy Roosevelt and likeminded Republicans.
Teddy Roosevelt believed that it was necessary to regulate corporations so as to keep the fundamental belief of a working free-market society. He did not seek to punish any company that reached monopoly status, as it was seen that if a company had been so successful then it should have the right to reach the top of success. But he realized that many of these corporations had been employing tactics and measures to ensure that no other startup business that had the potential to challenge their supremacy could be able to do so. It was these trusts that he believed were in the wrong and threatened the free-market itself and therefore hurt the average consumer.
His pursuit of fairness in dealings regarding labor and industry and competition and necessary regulation against any entity considered to be powerful enough to pose a threat to fair competition in the markets was the basis of both his brokered deals and general support from union and business as well as sometimes breaking up a corporation and/or union that was considered to have become too dangerous. This ability to see the necessity of industry and workers rights but also knowing when either one could become a monster would form an important part of his domestic policies.
Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal, which famously settled the Coal Miner’s Strike of 1902, would set the precedent that the federal government and the president should never remain detached during any type of crisis be it war, natural disaster, or any domestic economic crisis. Instead of sending troops to settle the situation he had both sides come to the bargaining table and push away both extremes and settle for a fair or as he put it “square” deal.
He was also a great leader of the progressive movement, which believed that government should evolve to meet the needs of a changing nation and world. It also believed strongly in using the sciences including social sciences to be able to find ways to make government run much more efficiently with less corruption and respond to the demands of the people, to help develop new ideas and techniques to help educate the public in the sciences and education in general, and sought to make social justice such as industrial worker conditions and environmental/conservation matters important to deal with.
Hence Teddy Roosevelt was in every regard one of the leaders in this new view of government as well as the Republican Party which overall welcomed the new progressive movement at both the state and local levels.
Teddy Roosevelt also had the belief that Americans were the stewards of the natural environment and that the federal government as the elected representative and unified arm of the people should lead the way in creating nature reserves and parks would also be a prominent signature of progressive republicanism in the administration of Teddy Roosevelt.
What is important to note however that while the progressive republicans were the leading faction of the GOP that the conservative wing of this time period, “The Stay Puts,” where becoming increasingly cozy with major industry at times, was nowhere near the lunacy of the far-right today in any issue.
The “Progressives” and the “Stay Puts” that split the party in the 1912 election did much to hurt the GOP as the party of practical or pragmatic progressivism as the fight between Taft and Teddy Roosevelt turned into a party split. Taft was in fact disliked by progressives due to his industry supporting rhetoric and industry itself as a result of trust-busting that was continued over from the Teddy Roosevelt administration. Taft considered himself a progressive but due to miscalculations and general tactlessness would wind up alienating all sides, especially the progressives. This split would pull away from the party many moderate to liberal republicans who had made up an integral and mostly leading faction of the party under the term progressive and would thus enable the industry oriented conservatives to gain and keep control of the party apparatus for the next 20 years, although there was still many remaining moderate and liberal republicans from the progressive era that would still make themselves an important part of the GOP and who would end up retaking the party after the later conservative defeats.
So to conclude, those whom do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it and we are again seeing it today, a 100 years later, where the “Progressives” and the conservative “Stay Puts” within the party are going to split the Party. Until my fellow moderately progressive Republicans can purge this cancer of the ultra-fanatical, non-factually based on reason thinking, religious right wing movement within the Party; we will not have any influence in the political process. A fact that I will securely stand by and vote against my Republican Party until they do.