The Ten Best Republicans in American History

These days, it is hard to associate the word “Republican” with anything good. However, in times long past, there were actually- gasp!-?good Republicans.?So, we give you the top ten best Republicans in the history of this great nation.

1. Abraham Lincoln

No comments necessary.

2. Theodore Roosevelt

TR is now ranked one of the top four presidents in several of the major presidential rankings by historians. He vigorously enforced the antitrust laws, something president day Republicans would oppose as not being consistent with free market fundamentalism. He was a great early environmentalist and supporter of setting aside land for national forests and parks. He, like the current president, won the Nobel Peace Prize while in office?in his case for mediating the end of the Russo-Japanese War. When the Republican Convention in 1912 rejected his attempt at a third term, Arthur M. Schlesinger said that party lost its social conscience and never got it back.

3. Dwight D. Eisenhower

He forcefully rejected the view of the right wing of his own party that it should use its then large majorities to repeal the New Deal and labeled the proponents of that view ?the stupidest people in the country.? He built the interstate highway system. Toward the end of his presidency, he tried hard to establish a d?tente with the Soviet Union that would have ended the Cold War, but his last summit with Khrushchev was ruined by the Powers incident (Soviets shot down a U.S. spy plane over its territory just prior to the summit). Eisenhower would not fit in any faction of today’s GOP.

4. Thaddeus Stevens

The great abolitionist and later Radical Republican made a great improvement on Reconstruction after Congress wrestled control of it from President Andrew Johnson in 1867. He, the most forceful member of the House, wanted a more punitive Reconstruction and may have been the most non-racist public figure of the Nineteenth Century. He was played by Tommy Lee Jones in the recent movie, ?Lincoln.?

5. Charles Sumner

Sumner was the Senate’s version of Thaddeus Stevens. His anti-slavery views before the Civil War were so strong that, after having given a speech in the Senate in 1856 against the Slave Power, Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina beat him with a cane while Sumner was still at his desk?and never able to stand up and defend against the blows?so badly that Sumner was incapacitated for two years.

6. Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant was the north’s greatest general and the one who finally brought the South to its knees at Appomattox Courthouse. As president, his second term was marred by scandal (of which he was not a part), but his first term continued with Radical Reconstruction, and he sought to have a more humane policy toward Native Americans, though not everyone in his administration cooperated. Lately, he has been moving rapidly up in the presidential rankings of historians as the influence of the literature of the ?Lost Cause Mythology??Confederate Apologia?has lessened.

7. William Tecumseh Sherman

The North’s second greatest general and the architect of the ?March to the Sea? that was part of the final months of the Civil War, Sherman has been called the ?first modern general? for his use of ?total? warfare in the March to the Sea. He has also been criticized for those tactics, of course, but he defended them at the time as necessary to demonstrate to the secessionists that they should never again resort to unconstitutional rebellion to achieve their goals after losing a presidential election. One might ask: where is Sherman when we need him now?

8. Gifford Pinchot

He was one of the truly great early environmentalists, the head of the Forest Service under TR. Later, he was a Progressive Republican governor for two non-consecutive terms in Pennsylvania and, in the latter, was a supporter of the programs of FDR. Like TR, he also for a time bolted the Republican Party for the Progressive Party.

9. Colin Powell

The low point in Colin Powell’s career occurred when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney tricked him into presenting false information to the United Nations about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. An attractive aspect to Powell is that he admits that this was the lowest point of his career and is apologetic about it. In his years of public service, he has led those who wish to use American military power sparingly and only when it clearly can achieve desirable results. He and his top lieutenant, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (both of whom declined to participate in the second term of the Bush/Cheney regime) have been frank in their strong condemnation of the Bush/Cheneyism, and Powell has supported Barack Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, in spite of strong resentment from their former colleagues. Powell and Wilkerson may be instrumental in keeping Bush/Cheney in the very last tier of the presidential rankings, where they reside now.

10. Robert M. Lafollette, Sr.

?Fighting Bob? Lafollette was an on again, off again Republican who was one of the heroes of the Progressive Movement. Clearly, he would have been a liberal Democrat in today’s environment. He championed many of the Progressive Movement’s reforms as Governor of Wisconsin and, as the presidential nominee of the Progressive Party in 1924, received 17% of the national vote when the major parties both nominated conservatives.

Honorable Mention:

Lawrence Wilkerson, Wendell Willkie, and Nelson Rockefeller.


Edited/published by: SB

Dan Boyd is a founding director of the Roosevelt Institute ( and serves on its Board of Governors. He is a lifelong progressive and a Dallas-based trial and appellate lawyer.