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.