Why I’m Done with “RINO” Accusations

Never say never. Or so I’m told. Advice I normally attempt to heed, but plan to momentarily shirk. Accordingly, I am summarily abandoning the word RINO and will NEVER be using it again.

I seem to recall first hearing the derisive term on a talk radio show about a dozen years ago…and liking it a lot. In rather a catch-all fashion, it summed up all the frustrations of conservatives towards a 1990’s Republican majority that had failed to deliver on a number of issues.

In retrospect, the RINO label was fraught with a major misnomer: it stood for “Republican In Name Only.” Several questions then arise: What, in fact, does it mean to be a Republican? Furthermore, has the term remained static at any given time for more than a few decades, if even then? (Doubtful.) If, however, allying with the Republican Party should indicate adherence to a set of principles, how much deviation is permissible? Who gets to decide?

For conservatives, this line of thought transitions automatically to the next level, since one fact is patently obvious: while most conservatives tend to be Republicans or at least vote that way, it is abundantly true that many Republicans are not conservative. Is it even the same discussion? I contend that it should not be.

Here’s why. Conservatism is a multi-pronged movement that is only partially electoral and political in nature. It seeks to inculcate the principles of limited government, free market economics and strict originalist interpretation of the Constitution into the population at large via multiple vehicles. These tools of persuasion include political processes, but also media outlets, educational sources and word-of-mouth conversations.

Republicanism, in contrast, is about coalition building in order to win elections. Conservatives find a home in the Republican Party because it welcomes their ideas and is pleased that they show up at the table. But seemingly, we tend to forget that our numbers are not yet sizeable enough that we can win every election in every state on the strength of our current numbers alone. Thus, Karl Rove’s rule of thumb when casting a ballot comes to mind: “Vote for the most conservative candidate who is electable in any given election.”

The debate regarding who is or is not electable provides for robust primaries. This is well and good and should continue. What should not persist is the “sour grapes” refusal to participate when our preferred conservative ends up NOT being electable by a majority.

I have rarely seen such profanely silly flinging of the “RINO” pejorative as has been displayed in the last few days in various social media outlets. The likes of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Red State’s Erick Erickson and “National Review’s” Jim Geraghty, brave conservatives all, have been subjected to this vilification in the last week, due to their statements regarding an explosive Senate primary. Thus, one perceived deviation from conservative orthodoxy  is sufficient to render years of service to the cause null and void. How is this just? Especially when, in most cases, these gentlemen were not approached and asked if they could explain their stances?

It needs to stop. I have always found it more helpful to try to seek an audience with those who take stands with which I disagree before choosing to pick up the tar and feathers. Even if I have to deny someone a vote in the end, have I poorly served either them or myself through the dialogue process? Labels tend to be lousy substitutes for seeking to understand, but they also draw more attention, so I see why they get used. But I plan to forsake the “RINO” brand for good.

Really, “Conservative in Name Only” would be more precise, though I don’t see CINO coming into vogue to displace RINO any time soon. At least, I fervently hope not. Let the latter die and remain unresurrected in any manner.


4 thoughts on “Why I’m Done with “RINO” Accusations

  1. I have often found myself disturbed when Christians do not vote for a fantastic candidate, who for instance, does not ‘speak out enough against gays’ or other such thing they feel is necessary. Or maybe they don’t like Sarah Palin (or another woman candidate) because she ‘needs to be at home taking care of her kids.’ When we act that way, we are the losers – we let the worst candidates win because we are looking for perfection. That is something you will never find! Good article!

  2. You say Republicanism is about “coalition building.” But that begs the question, to what end?

    You say the Conservatism “is to inculcate the principles of limited government, free market economics and strict originalist interpretation of the Constitution.” If that is the end purpose of Republicanism, how can that be accomplished with a coalition that includes people who do not believe in, and more importantly, do not vote for those ideals?

    You state “What should not persist is the “sour grapes” refusal to participate when our preferred conservative ends up NOT being electable by a majority.” Interesting twist, which I will answer towards the end.

    I never supported O’Donnell in the primary. I didn’t like Castle, either. I stated my dislike for both candidates before the primary, along with my hope/advice for all Republicans to rally behind whoever wins. After all, either of them would be better than the Democrat Coons.

    In the California primary, I did care who won. I was an avid supporter of Chuck DeVore. But the voters of California choose Carly Fiorina. I dutifully followed my own advice and have supported Fiorina ever sense. No sulking.

    And that is what bothers me about the reaction to O’Donnell’s win in Delaware. Many Castle supporters (and I do understand why they supported Castle) have not rallied around the candidate chosen by the Delaware voters.

    A week later many Castle supporters are still sulking. This includes some who were actually advising O’Donnell supporters before the primary to rally around Castle when/if he he won. I wish they would take their own advice.

    It also bothers me that the attacks on O’Donnell are occurring after she has won the primary. Like it or not, she is the candidate on the ballot in November. What purpose does it serve for Republicans to attack her at this point, other than destroying whatever small chance she may have to win?

    If it is not okay for Republicans to attack RINOs (and I agree with you on that), why then is it okay for Republicans to attack O’Donnell? There seems to be a double-standard at work in this matter.

    Karl Rove is proving to be really interesting in his handling of this matter. Yes, he is an analyst and cannot play favorites, but it is obvious at this point that he is concentrating all his analytical fire on O’Donnell, saving none for the “Breaded Marxist” Coons. Why?

    On Twitter, I have called loudly and often for Republican unity and to rally around O’Donnell. As I would have for Castle had he won. As I did for Fiorina when she beat my candidate DeVore. I have done so without attacking anyone or calling anyone a RINO.

    What I’ve gotten back from Castle supporters, unfortunately, is nothing more than sulking and a few snide remarks. Luckily, no one seems to have unfollowed me yet. But a few friends have taken to ignoring me.

    So it seems to me the only “sour grapes” refusal to participate that I see is coming from Castle supporters whose preferred candidate proved unelectable in the primary.

    A final thought: Is winning the ONLY thing that matters? How far off from Republican ideals could a candidate get before he or she is TOO far away from those ideals? If Nancy Pelosi or Dennis Kucinch were to suddenly switch to the Republican Party without changing their core beliefs, would it be okay to vote for them just because they could win in their districts?

  3. Very excellent piece. I’m happy to see the same comments I have been making over the last few months come from a different source. It at least lets me know that I’m not some crazy kook.

    Thank you!!

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