A favorite of headline writers, GOP dates back to the 1870s and ’80s. The abbreviation was cited in a New York Herald story on October 15, 1884; “‘ The G.O.P. Doomed,’ shouted the Boston Post…. The Grand Old Party is in condition to inquire….”
But what GOP stands for has changed with the times. In 1875 there was a citation in the Congressional Record referring to “this gallant old party,” and , according to Harper’s Weekly, in the Cincinnati Commercial in 1876 to “Grand Old Party.”
Perhaps the use of “the G.O.M.” for Britain’s Prime Minister William E. Gladstone in 1882 as ” the Grand Old Man” stimulated the use of GOP in the United States soon after.
In early motorcar days, GOP took on the term “get out and push.” During the 1964 presidential campaign, “Go-Party” was used briefly, and during the Nixon Administration, frequent references to the “generation of peace” had happy overtones. In line with moves in the ’70s to modernize the party, Republican leaders took to referring to the “grand old party,” harkening back to a 1971 speech by President Nixon at the dedication of the Eisenhower Republican Center in Washington, D.C.
Indeed, the “grand old party” is an ironic term, since the Democrat Party was organized some 22 years earlier in 1832.