Although the Grand Old Party (GOP) formed in 1854, it hadn't grown to prominence until Abraham Lincoln's election. Lincoln's political campaign didn't just involve banning the spread of slavery in the territories - he wanted to nationalize the railroads, start a national paper currency, and eventually fought a war against the tenth amendment that cost our nation over 600,000 lives. He created the nation's first income tax. He also suspended our right to a fair trial, arresting and imprisoning Americans and holding them indefinitely - which is exactly what Republican John McCain has proposed through his Enemy Belligerent Act of 2010.
The only thing Lincoln had right were his lenient reconstruction policies for the post-war era. Of course, he was conveniently assassinated and a harsh, fascist reconstruction policy was adopted instead. The Radical Republicans adopted policies in the South that created massive animosity between the races that still exist to this day. They occupied the South militarily for 12 years; blockading Southern ports, refusing to allow elections in the Southern states, and confiscating Southern land and homes. Imagine if today the federal government came to your house, kicked you out, and gave your home and all of your property to illegal immigrants. That is paramount to what happened after the War for Southern Independence, which caused great violence and bloodshed between blacks and whites that our society is still fighting today - all thanks to the Republican Party.
Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's vice-president, supported leniency, but the Radicals became so popular with the North that Johnson held no power and was even impeached, being saved by just a single vote.
Ulysses S. Grant, Northern hero of the War Against the South, had one of the most corrupt administrations ever. Cabinet secretaries awarded government contracts to friends and even to their own companies, defrauding the nation of millions of dollars. Many politicians and even judges were sent to jail over this.
Rutherford B. Hayes was not elected president at all - he was given the presidency through a special deal with the Democrats. Although the Democrat won the election, the Republicans called for a recount. Several newspapers claimed that blacks had been denied their vote in three states, which conveniently would give Hayes a one-vote electoral college victory. Hayes, a Radical Republican who voted for the Reconstruction Acts and in favor of impeaching President Johnson, agreed to end the military occupation of the South if given the presidency, which the Southern Democrats agreed to. While in office, Hayes called for sending more federal dollars to the states for free public education and for changing the presidential term to six years.