The Republican Party is a conservative political party and one of the two major political parties in the United States, the other being the liberal Democratic Party. Historically the party of Northeastern and Midwestern business interests and Judeo-Christian morals, the Republican Party was founded as a classical liberal and abolitionist party, proposing a reformist vision of an industrial and educated society, based on individual freedom, the "free labor ideal" (social promotion through effort and merit), and the elimination of all forms of economic bondage such as African slavery. As a big tent coalition of anti-extentionist and conservative Whigs, anti-slavery Jacksonian Democrats, abolitionist Free Soilers and Libertyites, nativist Know Nothings, and socialist Working Men's Party activists, the Republican Party was initially held together by its opposition to slavery. Following the abolition of slavery at the end of the American Civil War, however, the party became divided between reformist and moderate elements and traditional elements, the former of whom viewed Reconstruction as corrupt as an overreach of governmental power, and the latter of whom supported both African-American enfranchisement in the American South and the spoils system. The moderates came to power in 1877 following Rutherford B. Hayes' controversial victory in the 1876 presidential election, ending Reconstruction and, under President James B. Garfield, advocating for civil service reform. The Republicans continued their political hegemony by associating themselves with the prosperity of the Gilded Age of the 1880s, and, by the 1896 presidential election, the Republican Party identified strongly with big business, the gold standard, and Old Stock (British Protestant heritage) Americans and had ditched its earlier commitments to social justice and African-American voting rights. The party briefly flirted with progressivism during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt from 1901 to 1909, but Roosevelt's protege and successor William Howard Taft oversaw the party's return to conservatism, alienating Roosevelt and the progressive movement, who split and formed the unsuccessful Bull Moose Party in 1912.
From 1912 on, the Republican Party continued to gravitate further to the right, and the New Deal of the 1930s-1940s led to the Republican Party and Conservative Democrats forming a "conservative coalition" in opposition to the Democratic Party's new social liberal platform. The Cold War led to the Republican Party strongly associating itself with anti-communism and social conservatism, and the exodus of white supremacist Southern Democrats to the Republican Party in response to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s led to the gradual demise of the moderate and liberal wing of the Republican Party. Under Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party championed neoliberalism starting in the 1980s, ushering in a new age of politics, the Sixth Party System (also known as the "Reagan Era"), during which even the Democratic Party was forced to accommodate the new neoliberal consensus and abandon its New Deal ideology, and the formation of the ideology of "American conservatism", a hybrid of neoconservatism and libertarianism, was completed. This consensus lasted until the 2010s, when the Great Recession led to the rise of the right-wing populist Tea Party movement and, after 2015, Trumpism in opposition to globalism, progressivism, and establishment conservatism. The Trumpist movement took over the party after Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential election, and the party continued to support Trump's cult of personality even after his defeat in the 2020 preidential election, with most of its state affiliates censuring Republican congresspeople who voted to impeach him in the aftermath of the 2021 United States coup d'etat attempt. By the early 2020s, the Republican Party identified strongly with cultural conservatism, anti-socialism, "America First" nationalism, anti-immigration policies, and the Christian right.
The Republican Party was founded in 1854 as a coalition of anti-slavery and abolitionist activists and political factions including the liberal-conservative Conscience Whigs, the classical liberal Locofoco Democrats, the center-right Free Soil Party (which included both Democrats and Whigs), the anti-slavery faction of the nativist Know Nothings, the socialist Working Men's Party, and the Temperance movement. The party took its name from the Democratic-Republican Party (contemporarily known as the "Republican Party"), as it combined Jeffersonian and Jacksonian ideals of liberty and equality with Henry Clay's program of using an active government to modernize the economy, synthesizing the classical liberal views of the Jacksonians with the classical conservative economic ideals of the Whigs. The injection of Free Soil and Democratic defectors, along with their individualistic and anti-slavery ideologies, led to the Republican Party taking on a character distinct from the Whigs. The Republican Party's main voter base initially consisted of Northern Protestants, factory workers, professionals, businessmen, prosperous farmers, and African-Americans. The Republican Party inherited the Whig party's big-government agenda, including support for the national banking system, the gold standard, railroads, and high tariffs. According to Cheryl Greenberg, "Republicans embodied nineteenth-century liberalism in the political sphere. The state protected individual rights through constitutional amendments abolishing slavery and barring disenfranchisement based on race. Yet business-oriented Republicans remained uncomfortable with further state intrusions and thus they opposed regulations that infringed on private economic arrangements, arguing that a free market would best protect opportunity." Also remarking on the character of the Republican Party during the Civil War era, prominent African-American political leader Frederick Douglass declared, "I am a Republican, a black, dyed in the wool Republican, and I never intend to belong to any other party than the party of freedom and progress." The conservative Democrats of the time accused the Republican Party of being "a party founded on the single sentiment ... of hatred of African slavery" and the "Black Republican party", and the New Orleans Delta claimed that ""It is in fact, essentially, a revolutionary party" because of its abolitionist platform.
The Republican Party had its strongest support base in New England and the Midwest, appealing to the basic beliefs and values of Northerners by arguing that slavery degraded the dignity of white labor by associating work with Blacks and servility as Southern whites retired "to the outskirts of civilization, where they live a semi-savage life, sinking deeper and more hopelessly into barbarism with every succeeding generation." The Republicans also claimed that Southern slaveholders conspired through their control of the Democratic Party to expand slavery, subvert liberty, and undermine the US Constitution, with former Jacksonians translating their enmity with the moneyed elite into a crusade against oligarchic "Slave Power". At first, the Republican Party was content to restrict slavery to the American South to ensure that free labor could flourish elsewhere, as the free American West could then provide vast economic opportunity for free men. The 1856 presidential election established the Republican Party as the main challenger to the Democratic Party, rather than the once-promising nativist Know Nothing movement.
The GOP's first President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, led the Union to victory over the Confederacy during the American Civil War of 1861-1865, resulting in the emancipation of the African-Americans and the formation of a strong voting bloc of Black freedmen, Northern Carpetbaggers, and Southern Scalawags in the Reconstruction-era American South. However, the Republican Party soon fell victim to factionalism between its left-wing (the pro-Reconstruction "Radical Republicans") and its right-wing (the anti-Reconstruction "Conservative and Moderate Republicans"); the Radical Republicans supported a military occupation of the South until each state fully enfranchised their African-American populations, and also set up Freedmen's Bureaus and Union Leagues to mobilize Black and white Republican voters in the South. Meanwhile, the Moderate Republicans allied with President Andrew Johnson, a conservative Democrat, and claimed that the use of the military to occupy the South was excessive and unconstitutional, that Reconstruction had allowed for the formation of political machines in the South and led to widespread vote-buying, and that, now that African-Americans were free and nominally enfranchised, the federal government's job was done. In the 1872 presidential election, the Radical Republicans nominated the incumbent Republican president Ulysses S. Grant for a second term, intending on continuing Reconstruction, crushing the Ku Klux Klan and the White League, and pushing for African-American equality. Meanwhile, the conservative Republicans formed their own party, the "Liberal Republican Party", which was joined by several of the Republican Party's co-founders and powerful newspaper editors, who championed a platform of anti-corruption, reconciliation with the South, and the ending of "oppressive" Radical policies. Grant won re-election in a landslide, and the Liberal Republicans scattered into both the Republican and Democratic parties, with the Liberal Republican returnees to the Republican Party being nicknamed "Half-Breeds" for their Democratic sympathies.
Into the 1870s, the factionalism between the Radical Republican, pro-Grant, and pro-spoils system "Stalwarts" and the reformist, anti-Reconstruction, and pro-civil service reform "Half-Breeds" persisted. During the 1870s, social pressures led to most white "Scalawags" in the South returning to the Southern Democrats, and, following the Compromise of 1877, the end of Reconstruction, and the gradual implementation of Jim Crow laws, the African-American vote was gradually suppressed by the Southern Democrats, causing the now-powerless Southern Republicans to split between the "Lily-Whites" (who believed that the Southern GOP's future lay with urban white farmers and white leaders) and the "Black-and-Tans" (who supported Black involvement in the Southern GOP, including at leadership levels). In the 1884 presidential election, the Republican factionalism led to the victory of the conservative Bourbon Democrat Grover Cleveland winning the presidency, as upper-class Republican reformers known as the "Mugwumps" chose to side with Cleveland against the Republican nominee James G. Blaine, whom they viewed as corrupt. According to Richard Hofstadter, "The typical Mugwump was a conservative in his economic and political views. He disdained, to be sure, the most unscrupulous of the new men of wealth, as he did the opportunistic, boodling, tariff-mongering politicians who served them. But the most serious abuses of the unfolding economic order of the Gilded Age he either resolutely ignored or accepted complacently as an inevitable result of the struggle for existence or the improvidence and laziness of the masses...The Mugwump was shut off from the people as much by his social reserve and his amateurism as by his candidly conservative views."
However, the Republican Party's fortunes recovered due to an economic boom (especially with industry, railroads, and mines) and the prosperity enjoyed by the North's fast-growing cities, and the Republican Party supported pro-growth policies. While the Democrats came to be controlled by the pro-business "Bourbon Democrats", the Republicans advocated for pro-big business policies such as the fiscally conservative gold standard, high tariffs (to reduce foreign competition and protect manufacturing jobs), and generous pensions for Union Army veterans. By that time, in the North, 95% of Quakers, 80% of Free Will Baptists, 75% of Congregationalists, 75% of Methodists, 65% of Regular Baptists, 60% of African-Americans, 60% of Presbyterians, and 55% of Episcopalians voted Republican, while, among immigrant groups, the party won 95% of Haugean Norwegians, 85% of Swedish Lutherans, 80% of Norwegian Lutherans, 70% of German Sectarians, 65% of British-Americans, 60% of Anglo-Canadians, 55% of less-confessional German Lutherans, 50% of French-Canadian Catholics, 40% of German Calvinists, 35% of confessional German Lutherans, 30% of Catholics, and 20% of Irish Catholics. By the late 19th century, German and Irish Catholic immigration came to outnumber British and Scandinavian Protestant immigration, favoring the Democrats, who won 80% of the Irish vote and 70% of the Catholic vote as a whole. The Republican Party enjoyed widespread support among evangelicals, who pushed for social reforms such as the temperance movement, while liturgical groups such as Catholics, Episcopalians, and Lutherans joined the Democrats for protection against pietistic moralism. As the Republican Party began to advocate for Prohibition, it gradually lost the support of the German-American community, which defected to the Democrats in the 1892 presidential election.
The 1896 presidential election was a realinging election, with the debate over the gold standard creating a divide between liberal bimetallists in both the Democratic and Republican parties and the fiscally conservative "Gold" Republicans and Democrats. It also marked the end of the Third Party System - one dominated by the civil rights debate between the liberal Republicans and the conservative Democrats - and the start of the Fourth Party System, in which an increasingly conservative Republican Party fought to preserve the prosperity of the Gilded Age against an increasingly progressive and populist Democratic Party. The left-wing of the Republican Party in the West formed the Silver Republican Party (backed by silver miners), while the left-wing of the Democratic Party - led by William Jennings Bryan - seized control from the Bourbon Democrats and allied the Democratic Party with the bimetallist Populist Party. This left the conservative wing of the Republican Party, led by William McKinley, as the dominant faction at the 1896 election. McKinley built an alliance of finance, the railroad industry, and the middle classes to fight for a "sound money" and pro-business platform, and he argued that high tariffs would reverse the Panic of 1893 and create a prosperity to be enjoyed by all ethnic and religious groups. McKinley won the whole of the Northeast, the Midwest, the border states (Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, and Kentucky), and the Western states of California and Oregon, as well as 51% of the popular vote, leading to him winning the election with 271 electoral votes to Bryan's Democratic-Populist-Silver Party ticket's 176. McKinley also pushed an imperialist agenda in the Caribbean and the Pacific, annexing Hawaii and conquering the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and several other islands from Spain in the Spanish-American War of 1898. In the 1900 presidential election, public approval of America's success in the Spanish-American War and McKinley's support for imperialism and bimetallism won him re-election in a rematch against Bryan; while he lost the support of some "hard money" Germans, Gold Democrats, and other anti-imperialists, he won the election by an even greater margin than in 1896.
McKinley's assassination in 1901 led to his Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, becoming President of the United States. Roosevelt initially identified as a progressive-conservative who supported imperialism overseas, yet also supported conservation efforts, anti-trust lawsuits to break up powerful monopolies (to support small businesses), and supported women's suffrage. He later proposed a leftist "Square Deal" to implement his "Three C's": conservation of natural resources, control of corporations, and consumer protection, leading to backlash from the conservative wing of his party, which blocked many of his proposed programs during his second term. In 1908, Roosevelt's handpicked successor William Howard Taft won the presidency after a third defeat of William Jennings Bryan's presidential aspirations, but Taft - unlike Roosevelt - decided to weigh in on the divisive tariff debate (the industrial Northeast supported tariffs, the rural South and West opposed them, and the Midwest was divided). Taft supported the Payne-Aldrich Tariff, which resulted in George W. Norris leading a progressive insurrection against the conservative Republicans.
In 1912, Roosevelt decided to fight for his return to the White House for a non-consecutive third term; after he lost the nomination to Taft (who was backed by Southern African-Americans due to his generous patronage offers), Roosevelt and his delegates left the Republican Party and founded the Progressive Party, promsing restrictions on campaign finance contributions, reduced tariffs, the establishment of a social insurance system, an eight-hour workday, and women's suffrage (while remaining silent on African-American voting rights in a bid to win the support of Southern whites). However, the Progressives were torn apart due to disagreements over trust-busting and imperialism. Roosevelt and Taft sufficiently split the Republican vote (27.4% and 23.2%, respectively) to allow for the former Bourbon Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the presidency in a landslide. Most Progressives ultimately returned to the Republican Party as a minority faction, while others joined the Democrats.
Wilson's victory led to the prevalence of Democratic liberalism for the next eight years, and the Republicans experienced an identity crisis, nominating the moderate progressive Charles Evans Hughes for President in 1916; he lost re-election to Wilson, who promised to refrain from entering World War I on the Entente side. However, Wilson ultimately joined the war following the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, German unrestricted submarine warfare, and German plans to ally with Mexico in the case of America's entry into the war. Following the war's end in 1918, President Wilson pushed for America to assume more international responsibilities with the League of Nations, generating a strong isolationist reaction which destroyed his popularity. Among those who bolted from his coalition included Irish-Americans (who opposed his alliance with Britain) and German-Americans (who opposed his war with Germany), and, at the 1920 presidential election, Irish-American city machine bosses refused to help his campaign, while many Midwestern German-Americans either voted Republican or stayed home; both led to Republican landslides in each situation. In addition, Roosevelt's death in 1919 led to the demise of the Progressive Era, and the Republican presidential candidate Warren G. Harding promised a "return to normalcy" by abandoning progressivism's reformist zeal, withdrawing back into isolation, and dealing with rising anarchism and political radicalism amid a series of meatpacking and steel strikes, terrorist attacks, and race riots from 1919 to 1920 (generating the "First Red Scare"). Harding won in a landslide, winning every state outside the South, plus the Southern states of Tennessee, Missouri, and Oklahoma. While the Teapot Dome scandal threatened to ruin Harding's popularity, Harding died shortly after, and his successor Calvin Coolidge assigned most of the blame to his late predecessor, ensuring that the GOP enjoyed continued support. The widespread prosperity of the "Roaring Twenties" led to the Republican Party enjoying a new heyday, firmly aligning itself with fiscal conservatism; even the Democrats' 1924 presidential candidate, John W. Davis, shared the Republicans' desire for limited government, reduced taxes, and less regulation. The Republican candidate Herbert Hoover won re-election in a landslide in 1928, but the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression led to a reversal of fortunes for the GOP. The GOP lost the big-city and ethnic-Catholic support it had won in the 1920 and 1924 elections, and Hoover's propagation of defeatist "rugged individualism" was contrasted with the Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt's social liberal "New Deal". In 1932, Roosevelt swept America in a landslide, and, for the first time ever, the big cities became Democratic strongholds. The 1932 election brought about the Fifth Party System, in which supporters of the New Deal from both parties came to be seen as the system's "liberals" and opponents of the New Deal came to be seen as its "conservatives". The Republican Party - which had made inroads into the Democratic Solid South in 1928 due to Hoover's support for the Lily-Whites - lost its monopoly on the Black vote during the 1930s as African-American laborers who had come to the big cities during the Great Migration voted Democratic due to the benefits provided to them by the New Deal. While Hoover held the Black vote in 1932, the majority of African-Americans voted Democratic in 1940.
The Republican Party soon came to be divided between the moderate, internationalist, and predominantly Northeastern "Liberal Republicans" (later known as the "Rockefeller Republicans") and the anti-collectivist, anti-communist, isolationist, anti-New Deal, and predominantly Western and Midwestern "Taftite Republicans". An "Old Right" was formed by moderate Republicans, former Progressives, and small numbers of Farmer-Labor Party members, Nonpartisan League members, and Midwestern "prairie socialists", and the conservative Republicans allied themselves with the Conservative Democrats, whose ranks consisted mostly of reactionary Southern Democrats. In 1937, Roosevelt's plan to "pack" the US Supreme Court led to the loss of his Conservative Democratic support, and a renewed recession in 1938 led to Republican seat gains in the House. During World War II, the GOP was again divided between its internationalist wing, led by Henry L. Stimson and Frank Knox, and its isolationist wing, led by Robert A. Taft and Arthur Vandenberg. The Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 ended the isolationist debate, and the return of prosperity due to wartime production enabled the "Conservative coalition" to undo much of the New Deal during the war. After Roosevelt's death and the war's end, the GOP took advantage of the initial unpopularity of President Harry S. Truman and rising anti-communist fears to win control of the House in 1946, but the arrogant Republican Party lost the 1948 presidential election after Truman attacked the Republicans for being a "do-nothing" Congress.
During the 1950s, the internationalist wing of the GOP, led by Dwight D. Eisenhower, came to power after winning the 1952 presidential election. Eisenhower was seen as a war hero and a foreign policy expert, and he won in a landslide, including in the Southern states of Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida. The "Second Red Scare" also contributed to the Republican Party's resurgence, and it won both houses of Congress. However, Eisenhower failed to shift the GOP towards moderate "progressive conservatism" in 1956, and his widespread popularity did not translate to widespread support for the GOP. Richard Nixon's defeat in the 1960 presidential election further weakened the moderate wing of the party, and, in 1964, Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater ran on a hawkish, staunchly anti-communist, anti-New Deal, and anti-United Nations platform which fused libertarianism and conservatism into a "fusionist" conservative ideology, one which would come to define his "New Right Republicans". At the same time, the national Democratic Party's increasing support for the Civil Rights movement alienated many conservative white Southerners, allowing for Goldwater to win several Southern states in 1964 with his promises of states' rights. The Black voters enfranchised by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 voted 85-90% Democratic, causing white segregationists to bolt the party at the 1968 presidential election and form the American Independent Party in opposition to the racially-liberal national Democratic Party.
The Vietnam War, the rise of the New Left and the counterculture movement, and the advances made by the civil rights, gay rights, feminist, anti-war, Black Power, and other social movements during the mid to late 1960s led to the collapse of the New Deal coalition as socially conservative white ethnics began to reaffiliate themselves with the Republican Party. Inner-city race riots in 1967-1968 alienated white ethnic immigrant groups such as Italians, Irish, Poles, and Jews, who felt abandoned by the Democratic Party's newfound concentration on racial minorities. Richard Nixon won the 1968 presidential election as part of a conservative backlash against the counterculture movement, while most segregationists voted for Wallace. However, in 1972, Nixon's "Southern strategy" - making use of dog-whistle terms such as "states' rights" to imply opposition to federally-mandated civil rights directives - helped him to sweep the Solid South. The success of Vietnamization and backlash against the leftward shift of the Democratic Party under George McGovern (who was associated with "amnesty, abortion, and acid") led to Nixon winning the election in a landslide. The Watergate scandal of 1974 briefly halted the nation's conservative realignment, as the GOP was tarnished by scandal, and the moderate Southern Democrat Jimmy Carter defeated the Republican President Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential election.
1980 was another realigning election which embodied the rise of the Sixth Party System, one in which America's two major parties distanced themselves from the counterculture movement and the New Left and instead embraced neoliberal economics. The Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, a charismatic former actor, Governor of California, and 1976 presidential candidate, won the support of social conservatives across the nation due to the rise of the Christian right (an alliance of evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics, especially white ethnics) and fiscal conservatives due to his support for "trickle-down economics". Reagan was also popular among young Americans, many of whom rebelled against their parents' counterculture upbringings and supported Reagan, whose conservative ideology appealed to the deeply individualistic desires of the disaffected "Me Generation" which grew up following the disillusionment of the Vietnam War. By 1984, many working-class whites had become "Reagan Democrats", supportive of Reagan's social conservatism and hawkish foreign policy, having felt that the Democrats had catered solely to African-American and social liberal interests.
The dying-down of Cold War tensions following the Dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to anti-communism fading from the political limelight of America, while the rise of a new generation of neoliberal Democratic leaders, the "New Democrats", energized the declining Democratic Party. By the 1990s, both major parties had become staunch supporters of neoliberalism, as many former adherents of the counterculture movement had become assimilated into general society, and many former "Cold War liberals" (foreign policy hawks) and anti-Stalinist leftists became "neoconservatives" who supported the promotion of American democracy in the Middle East, the US alliance with Israel, and a strong military. While the New Democrat Bill Clinton won the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections, the realignment of Southern whites to the Republican Party was nearly completed by the 1994 "Republican Revolution" as the Republicans - led by Newt Gingrich - promised a "Contract with America" which would include maintaining a balanced budget, anti-crime legislation, welfare cuts (ostensibly to discourage teenage pregnancy), middle-class tax relief, small business incentives, and 12-year limits for Congressional service (which failed to achieve a two-thirds majority). This new program created a Republican resurgence, with the "Establishment Republicans" coming to embody these views. In 2000, the Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush was awarded the presidency by Congress after the deciding state in the election, Florida, was refused a vote recount by the US Supreme Court despite electoral irregularities. The 9/11 attacks of 2001 diverted public attention from the 2000 presidential election controversy and united American public opinion in support of Bush's promised "War on Terror", which marked the peak of neoconservatism. The Republican presidency launched an invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to destroy al-Qaeda and overthrow its allied Taliban regime, as well as a 2003 invasion of Iraq, launched under the false premise that the Ba'athist dictator Saddam Hussein was an ally of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (when, in fact, they were avowed enemies). However, the growing unpopularity of the Iraq War, Bush's poor handling of Hurricane Katrina, and the onset of the Great Recession in 2007 led to the GOP losing popularity, and, in 2008, the moderate conservative Republican presidential candidate John McCain was defeated by the New Democrat Barack Obama, the first African-American presidential nominee of either major party, who promised a better future with his motto, "Yes We Can". Republican Senator Arlen Specter's defection to the Democratic Party in 2009, accompanied by the defections of fellow Republican politicians Jim Jeffords and Lincoln Chafee, marked the demise of liberal Republicanism, as most social liberals within the Republican Party had shifted to the Democratic Party during and after Reagan's presidency. The Republican Party was energized by opposition to Barack Obama's "Obamacare" healthcare program and his new taxes, shifting the party's core from the Northeast to the towns and rural areas of the South and West, with more populist, anti-tax, anti-government, and anti-big business Republicans being elected to office. This populist movement, calling itself the "Tea Party", believed that big government and big business worked hand-in-hand (especially following Obama's bailout of Wall Street), and appealed to white working-class anti-elitism. The party's core electorate shifted further to the right, and the party opposed the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, the legalization of same-sex marriages, and other social liberal legislation. However, the establishment Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was defeated by Obama in 2012, and tensions between the establishment and populist wings of the party intensified. This culminated in the highly-divisive 2016 presidential election, during which a surprise candidate, New York businessman Donald Trump, defeated several establishment (Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio) and Tea Party candidates (Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Ben Carson) to win the party's nomination with his populist promise to "Make America Great Again". Under Trump, the Republican Party shifted into far-right territory by making nativist appeals to anti-Muslim xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment (particularly Mexican and Central American immigrants, whom he claimed were mostly "rapists and criminals"), lent credence to the "Great Replacement" conspiracy theory (arguing that multiculturalism and diversity led to rising crime and terror rates, and that immigration degraded America), played into the stereotype of African-American "criminality" by promising to be a "law-and-order" president, and fed into anti-feminist and homophobic backlash which had been building up during the latter years of the Obama era. His anti-establishment platform and the unpopularity of his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton led to his upset victory, during which he won former Democratic strongholds such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as the swing state of Florida. During Trump's presidency, Trump and his administration's use of social media to attack his detractors, his frequent firing of cabinet and administration officials for perceived slights, and fears of Trump's impact on their re-election prospects led to most Republican politicians falling in line behind Trump, including some of his most fierce critics during his 2016 campaign, such as Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz. 2020, a highly eventful and impactful year across the world, saw the Trump administration face several challenges, including the escalation of the Persian Gulf crisis, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the nationwide racial unrest which accompanied the George Floyd protests. Trump drew increasing criticism for his poor handing of the pandemic (which he and most of his prominent supporters initially insisted was the "common flu" or not a serious health problem) and relief for small businesses and frontline workers, for his deployment of the military to suppress protests in Washington DC, for his racist "law-and-order" rhetoric during the Black Lives Matter protest wave, for his refusal to disavow the "QAnon" conspiracy theory, for his unease at denouncing his large white supremacist following (which had received nationiwde attention after the 2017 Unite the Right rally), for his insistence that he would not recognize the 2020 presidential election results unless he won, for his suggestions to postpone the election, and for claiming that mail-in votes would lead to "massive voter fraud". Ultimately, Trump was defeated by Democratic nominee Joe Biden by the same margin by which he had defeated Clinton four years earlier, a vote of 306 to 232. Biden won the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada, as well as the traditional Republican strongholds of Arizona and Georgia, in large part due to extraordinary voter turnout, especially among African-American and Hispanic voters. However, Trump and a significant faction of the Republican Party refused to acknowledge his defeat or concede to Biden; even into January 2020, several Republican leaders challenged the election results and refused to recognize Biden as President, resulting in the 2021 United States coup d'etat attempt.
By the 21st century, the party's platform included support for free market capitalism, free enterprise, fiscal conservatism, a strong national defense, deregulation, restrictions on labor unions, social conservatism, and upholding "Judeo-Christian ethics". Since the 1990s, the party's strongest support comes from the American South, the Great Plains, the Mountain States, and rural districts in the North, as well as from conservative Catholics, Mormons, and Evangelicals.