Taking its name from Ripon, Wisconsin, the birthplace of the Republican Party, a loosely knit association of young business, academic and professional women and men formed The Ripon Society in 1962 to revive the Grand Old Party’s commitment to inclusion and reform. Founded on the values of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, Ripon believes in their legacy of innovation, equality of opportunity for all people, mutual responsibility, and self-government. The Ripon Society was the first major Republican Party organization to support the passage of the Civil Rights Bill in the 1960s. The group stayed true to its reform-minded mission by also pushing for the abolition of the military conscription in the 1970s.
The first public statement of The Ripon Society was written in the weeks following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was distributed to Republican leaders on January 6, 1964, as a new session of Congress convened and as the 1964 Presidential campaign officially began. In their own words, the founding members of The Ripon Society declared:
“While we yet sorrow, so must we seize this moment before our thoughts slip away to be lost in the noise of ‘life as usual.’ It is in this context that we have chosen to speak. We speak as a group of young Republicans to that generation which must bear the responsibility for guiding our party and our country over the coming decades. We speak for a point of view in the Republican Party that has too long been silent.
“We believe that the future of our party lies not in extremism, but in moderation. The moderate course offers the Republican Party the best chance to build a durable majority position in American politics. This is the direction the party must take if it is to win the confidence of the “new Americans” who are not at home in the politics of another generation: the new middle classes of the suburbs of the North and West – who have left the Democratic cities but have not yet found a home in the Republican party; the young college graduates and professional men and women of our great university centers – more concerned with “opportunity” than “security”, the moderate of the new South – who represent the hope for peaceful racial adjustment and who are insulted by a racist appeal more fitting another generation. These and others like them hold the key to the future of our politics.
“We believe that the Republican Party should accept the challenge to fight for the middle ground of American politics. The party that will not acknowledge this political fact of life and courageously enter the contest for power does not merit and cannot possibly win the majority support of the American people.”
— The Ripon Papers, 1968
They concerned themselves with building a vital new Republican Party, striving to rectify the mistakes of the past so they would not weaken the Party’s ability to create a constructive political dialogue in the years ahead. In a number of notable instances, they went on to provoke what they called “their moss-backed elders” in the Republican Party to fury and reform.
Ideas are at the root of our organization’s rich history. Today, The Ripon Society continues to promote the spirit and the stalwart principles that make the United States great and that contribute to the GOP’s past success. At the core of these ideas are keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low, and supporting a federal government that is not only smaller, but smarter and more accountable to its citizens.