The Five Greatest Republicans

Lists, Ranking

The Republican Party is one of the oldest political parties in the world, and one of the two most powerful. Depending on how the electoral college shakes out every four years, a member of that party can control the most powerful military and the most powerful nuclear arsenal in the world. They were founded in 1854 by activists opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. They were mostly anti-slavery advocates from the North.

There were genuine abolitionists, those who argued for containing slavery to the South, business owners and workers who didn’t want to compete against slave labor, and others. Two years later, they nominated John Fremont of California to run for president. He caught an epic beat-down. But, four years is a lifetime in American politics. In 1860, their second nominee won the presidency. His name was Abraham Lincoln, and he was pretty good at being president. 

Since that 1860 high water mark, Republicans have been trending more conservative. As an incredibly old political party, they’ve made some truly redefining decisions about America. Many of them are actually quite good. As of late, most of them are dangerous foolishness. I want to be fair, though. I want to be fair to the Party of Lincoln. So, here are my five favorite Republicans. 

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was the prototypical activist par excellence. He was at Seneca Falls for the first convention of American feminists. He was in the White House advocating for the abolition of slavery. He kicked a “slave breaker” so hard that he broke the dude’s ribs. Frederick was one of the best Americans ever. 

And much like any liberal activist, he was consistently pissed off at Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln believed that slavery should be contained to the South and not expand to federal lands. President Lincoln believed that containment would eventually sap slavery of its economic benefits and lead to it’s abolition. It was a moderate position. However, as any moderate knows, progressives don’t have time for that. Frederick Douglass consistently agitated for full abolition immediately; it’s the job of activists to be consistently displeased. It’s the job of decision-makers to translate that agitation into attainable goals. 

Douglass was the first Black American to run for vice-president. He ran as the running mate of Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president. 

Possibility He Would Be a Republican in 2022: 0%

Fighting Bob La Follette

Fighting Bob was a progressive from Wisconsin, the birthplace of the GOP. He served in a bunch of different roles – representative, senator, governor. As governor, he implemented primary elections. As senator, he advocated for the public ownership of electricity and railroads. He also advocated for farmers and workers. He was considered a progressive champion in the early 19th century. He ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket in 1924. He earned about 17% of the vote, one of the best showings ever for a third party. 

Fighting Bob was a left-wing Republican who kept his focus on the working class. 

Possibility He Would Be a Republican in 2022: 0%

Rep. Thaddeus Stevens

Played to perfection by Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln, Thaddeus Stevens was first elected as a Whig. After that party fell to pieces, he became a Republican, leading the Radical Republican faction. Stevens and the Radical Republicans argued for the aggressive expansion of civil rights. Unlike the more moderate Republicans, Stevens argued for the abolition of slavery. 

After the Civil War, Stevens wanted to confiscate land from Southern planters (you know, because of all the treason) and redistribute it to newly-freed Black Americans. This was obviously too radical a step; thus, it never happened. 

He also served as the impeachment manager during the impeachment trial for Andrew Johnson. 

Possibility He Would Be a Republican in 2022: 0%

Theodore Roosevelt

The 26th president lived a fascinating life that consisted mostly of hiking in untamed places and having a great mustache. He also managed to reform American politics in his spare time. At the end of the 19th century, the Republican Party still held to its northern/midwestern big business roots. Teddy Roosevelt led a progressive faction within the party. At the time, progressivism didn’t refer to liberalism the way we think of it now. Early 1900s progressives advocated for modernizing and industrializing the United States. Railroads, a national bank, new industries, new manufacturing, etc. Essentially, they wanted all of the stuff that would make it possible to win WWI a few years later. 

Teddy left office after his second term; however, he reentered politics in 1912 due to the rightward shift of the GOP. He ran for the Republican nomination in 1912, but the more conservative Taft was renominated. In response, Teddy founded the Progressive Party (The Bull Moose Party). He advocated for more aggressive trust-busting, enhanced labor rights, a federal income tax, and several progressive reforms. He was shot in the chest at a campaign event, but instead of going to the hospital, he decided to deliver a 90-minute speech while bleeding from a bullet wound. That’s GOAT-ish behavior. 

Possibility He Would Be a Republican in 2022: 10%

Sen. Everett Dirksen

His name adorns the Senate Office Building; so, he must be pretty awesome, right? Not so much. Senator Dirksen started out conservative and moved further right throughout his tenure. That doesn’t make him a bad person by any means, but it makes him far from awesome. However, he supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and several other pieces of civil rights legislation. As the leader of the Senate Republicans, he helped move the bills that helped move America towards a more perfect union. For that, we’re in his debt. 

Essentially, Dirksen stands in here for all of the Republicans (mostly Northerners) who voted for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. 

Possibility He Would Be a Republican in 2022: 75%