Factions in the Republican Party (United States)

Factions in the Republican Party (United States)

The Republican Party of the United States is composed of various different groups or factions. Although their interests at times conflict, they share enough in common to remain in the same party.

By and large the factions are informal and unorganized. They do not have their own organizations, newspapers, or paid memberships. Defining the views of any "faction" of any American political party is difficult.


"Conservative" covers most Republicans, and they can be subdivided into the following factions.

Religious right

The term "religious right" is often used synonymously with Christian right because most of its members are fundamentalist Protestants, Evangelicals, traditionalist Catholics, conservative Roman Catholics (while moral values are conservative and are very religious they are far more ecumenical and place less of an emphasis on tradition than traditionalists) and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although some members are Orthodox Jews. The Religious Right has become a powerful force within the GOP. This faction is socially conservative. Its major legislative issues in recent years include efforts to criminalize abortion, opposition to legalized same-sex marriage, and discouraging taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell research. They have supported a greater role of religious organizations in delivering welfare programs.

Prominent Religious Right Republicans include TV personality Pat Robertson, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (Kansas), former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and activist Gary Bauer. The National Federation of Republican Assemblies is a Religious Right organization that operates as a faction of the Republican Party. The Christian Coalition is a Religious Right activist organization considered allied with the party. President Bush, while actually a social conservative rather than religious right does very much identify with this faction.

ocial conservatives

Social conservatives believe in promoting traditional moral values and social mores to preserve and improve American society. They have been especially active in taking traditionalist positions on issues involving sexual standards and gender roles. Social conservatives oppose abortion and gay marriage. They are dubious about affirmative action, arguing it too often turns into quotas. They tend to support a strong military and are opposed to gun control. Most social conservatives oppose illegal immigration, which puts them in opposition to the business community. Social conservatives support stronger law enforcement and often disagree with the 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 Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Trent Lott, Jack Kemp and Dane Kashersky, among others.

Fiscal conservatives

Fiscal conservatives favor reductions in overall taxation and government spending, personalized accounts for Social Security, free trade, and less regulation of the economy. Many current fiscal conservatives are backers of supply-side economics. 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. Prominent fiscal conservatives include former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) and activist Grover Norquist. The Club for Growth is a pro-Republican organization that endorses fiscal conservatives for office.


Neoconservatives promote an interventionist foreign policy, including pre-emptive military action against designated enemy nations under certain circumstances. They were the strongest supporters of the war in Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein; many of these 'neocons' were originally considered to be liberals or were affiliated with the Democratic Party in earlier days.

Neoconservatives have been credited with importing into the Republican party a more active international policy -- the Republican party was generally thought to be on a course towards isolationism as a reaction against the international bridge building of Bill Clinton. Where neoconservatives differ from contemporary liberals is in their general distrust of international institutions, in particular the UN, largely on the criticism that these institutions are undemocratic (in that they often represent the interests of unelected or corrupt regimes). To that end, neoconservatives are willing to act unilaterally when they believe it serves either American interests or a moral position to do so.

Those considered among the neoconservative include Vice President Dick Cheney, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and pundits Charles Krauthammer and David Frum.

National security Oriented

Individuals who are alarmed by the threat of attack that is posed to the USA fall under this category, which is more a mood among voters than an indentifiable bloc of the Republican party. This current has often been satisfied with President Bush's policies, but has also criticised him regarding his inactivity on the issue of illegal immigration. Politicians of this nature include Senator John Warner, Senator Chuck Hagel and Congressmen Peter Hoekstra. Many such Republicans associate themselves with the political philosophy of Neolibertarianism.

tates' rights oriented

Formerly, the GOP usually supported smaller government. Similar to the libertarian faction, States' rights Republicans believe in making the federal government small, keeping and giving important powers to the states, such as gun control laws, abortion laws, regulations on marriage, and mapping of voting districts. Recently, many Republicans took strong positions against states' rights with respect to the Federal Marriage Amendment, in the Terri Schiavo case, in the "Kelo" case regarding eminent domain, and in cases involving assisted suicide laws and medical marijuana.


The paleoconservatives are not strongly represented in the political sphere, but are most visible in publications (e.g. "The American Conservative" and "Chronicles") and through such think-tanks as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. They are traditionalist with a strong distrust of a modern political ideologies and statecraft, which they call the managerial state.

The paleoconservative worldview is generally conservative on social issues (e.g. support for gun rights, the war on drugs, criticism of multiculturalism, and opposition to illegal immigration) but favor a protectionist policy on international trade and isolationist foreign policy. Prominent paleoconservatives, such as Pat Buchanan, have criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and neoconservativism, 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.

Libertarian conservatives

The libertarian faction of the Republican Party emphasizes free markets and minimal social controls. They oppose government social spending, regulation and taxes. They are generally split against the party with regard to gay rights, foreign policy, stem-cell research,and sometimes abortion, although they often also run counter to the Democratic Party's positions (for example, being for gay marriage but against judicial action on the matter). Similar to the fiscal conservative faction, libertarian Republicans seek to privatize most governmental assets or devolve them to the states; massive reductions in overall federal taxation, and an overhaul of the current American tax system; deregulation of industries; and open international trade. Unlike many conservative Republicans, however, the libertarian Republicans tend to oppose the "War on Drugs" and criminalization of prostitution, American membership in most international alliances, and the foreign policies that neoconservatives espouse. During the 2004 Republican National Convention, this faction "butted heads" with the Religious Right and the neoconservative faction over the party platform planks.

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. Late U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater is sometimes credited with being the father of this faction. Apart from Paul, it has no prominent leader inside the GOP, although former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson may be considered the highest-ranking elected official belonging to this group.

Neolibertarians are intellectuals and activists who support the political philosophy of laissez-faire. What sets them apart from other libertarians is that they favor a generally interventionist foreign policy and support the War on Terror. Similar to neoliberals, they believe that free markets can provide solutions to most economic problems and favor lower taxation and less regulation of business. They oppose government monopolies, and seek to provide private alternatives to public schools, promoting charter schools or school vouchers. Alan Greenspan is a representative leader. In contrast with traditional conservatives, they strongly support personal freedoms, opposing the War on Drugs and the criminalization of prostitution. However, in the United States, the term "neoliberal" is rarely used to describe Republicans; it is more often applied to New Democrats such as Bill Clinton.


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 "Reagan coalition" in the Republican Party comprises these three factions and together, they form the often form the general definition of a "conservative."

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 2003 Iraq War many argued the "neoconservative" wing of the party was clearly dominant, as they had been the faction the most supportive of the war. After President George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, however, many attributed the high turnout of Republican voters who claimed to be motivated by "moral values" as a sign that the Religious Right and social conservative factions of the party have gained considerable influence. 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 Bob Dole was in this overlapping type of model. Also past figures like Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, and the current Republican presumed nominee John McCain 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. Nixon and Dole, for example were 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.

Moderates and liberals


Moderates within the GOP tend to be, to varying degrees, fiscally conservative and socially liberal. While they often share the economic views of other Republicans - e.g., balanced budgets, lower taxes, free trade, deregulation, welfare reform - moderate Republicans differ in that they may be for some gay rights, abortion rights, gun control, environmental regulation, federal funding of education, fewer restrictions on legal immigration and illegal immigration, abolition of the death penalty, civil rights laws, legalization of drugs, stem cell research, anti-war policies, or any of the above. 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. Others may support deficit spending, but feel it ought to be more directed towards social projects. Concerning foreign policy, moderates may be less interventionist than neoconservatives, or place greater value on multilateral institutions. See Republican In Name Only. Also see compassionate conservative. Moderate Republicans have seen their influence in the Republican party diminish significantly since the 1990s. Once commonplace throughout the country, today moderate Republicans tend to be found in elected office primarily in the Northeast and Democratic-leaning areas of the West.

Moderate Republicans include U.S. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, and Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri. Members of some of the other factions sometimes characterize moderates as "Republican In Name Only". 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 "It's My Party Too!" 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 has rebranded himself as a more conservative Republican since becoming the 2008 Republican presidential candidate.


In the 1930s the terms "liberal" and "conservative" were introducedFact|date=October 2008, to refer to supporters and opponents of the New Deal. Most Republicans were conservative opponents of the New Deal, but not all. In the Northeast were many Republicans who denounced the corruption and inefficiency of the New Deal, but supported its basic programs. Other names for liberal Republicans are Rockefeller Republican and the pejorative Republican in Name Only. The notable liberal Republicans include Fiorello La Guardia, George Norris, Harold Stassen, Wendell Willkie, Alf Landon, Thomas E. Dewey, Nelson Rockefeller and Earl Warren. Historians debate whether Richard Nixon belongs to this group—his rhetoric was conservative but his policies were liberal in many areas. More recent liberal Republican office-holders include Michael Bloomberg, Lincoln Chafee, Amo Houghton and Jim Leach; Michael Bloomberg and Lincoln Chafee left the Republican Party, and Chafee and the other two no longer serve in Congress.


* Michael Barone and Richard E. Cohen. "The Almanac of American Politics, 2008" (2006) 1900 pages of minute, nonpartisan detail on every state and district and member of Congress.
* Thomas Byrne Edsall. "Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive For Permanent Power" (2006) sophisticated analysis by liberal
* Michael Crane. "The Political Junkie Handbook: The Definitive Reference Book on Politics" (2004), nonpartisan
* Thomas Frank. "What's the Matter with Kansas" (2005) attack by a liberal.
* Bruce Frohnen, Jeremy Beer, and Jeffery O. Nelson, eds. "American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia" (2006) 980 pages of articles by 200 conservative scholars
* Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten. "One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century" (2006), hostile
* Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait. "The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America" (2004), sophisticated nonpartisan analysis

ee also

*Neoconservative - Paleoconservative Conflict
*Factions in the Democratic Party (United States)
*College Republicans
*Republican National Coalition for Life
*Republicans Abroad
*Republicans For Choice
*Ripon Society
*Teenage Republicans
*Young Republicans

External links

* [http://www.nytimes.com/packages/khtml/2006/10/01/weekinreview/20061001_HERDS_GRAPHIC.html "A Guide to the Republican Herd" New York Times" Oct 5, 2006] interactive graphic
* [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/vault/stories/poll100498.htm Belief Spectrum Brings Party Splits] Washington Post October 4, 1998

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