RINO. It’s a word that has become popular among true conservative reformers in recent years. It’s actually an acronym: Republican In Name Only. But what do we mean by it?
The Republican Party is, in our modern era, the conservative party. We profess to believe in limited government, federalism, balanced budgets, paying down the national debt, low taxes, and a strict adherence to the Constitution, principles that came out of the American Revolution and what came to be called Jeffersonianism.
BUT Republicans have not adhered to the principles they campaign on or the planks in the platform enacted every four years at the national convention. They may call themselves Republicans, but they govern like Democrats. So they are, in actuality, Republicans in name only.
A recent rambling column by an Establishment shill at Y’all Politics asked if Chris McDaniel, and his supporters, including myself, actually know what a RINO is. The article, though, didn’t really have a main thesis, except maybe the fact that every Republican nominated and/or elected since FDR was a Republican. It was mainly an attack on McDaniel, the self-professed Taft-Goldwater-Reagan conservative, as some sort of fanatical extremist who would probably not get along with Taft, Goldwater, or Reagan.
(In a side note, he got some historical facts wrong: Barry Goldwater was known as “Mr. Conservative,” not Taft. Senator Robert Taft was “Mr. Republican.” He also chided Taft for opposing NATO – he also opposed the UN – but the reason was a good one: “It obligates us to go to war if at any time during the next 20 years anyone makes an armed attack on any of the 12 nations” in the pact, he said.)
But what McDaniel understands, as do his many supporters, is that we are in a different era than Taft, Goldwater, and Reagan. Our situation is much more perilous than it was then, especially in terms of the growth of government and our out-of-control spending. Many of us rightfully discern that if we don’t take some action now to fix our republic’s many problems, all will be lost.
And the Republican Party is the vehicle we have to enact reforms, but first we must clean up our own party before we can make any progress on national issues. We once had a strong, vibrant party that fought for what it stood for.
Both major parties after the War Between the States had a right wing and a left wing – the progressive wing tended to dominate the 19th century GOP, while the conservatives dominated the Democratic Party. But this all changed over a quarter of a century, from 1896 to 1920 – the Democrats slowly embraced progressivism, while Republicans became more conservative.
The Republican Party has always had a strong conservative wing, which became dominant as a reaction to Wilsonian Progressivism. The Republicans that won both houses of Congress in 1918 dug in against Wilson’s League of Nations, and won, and with the election of the Harding-Coolidge ticket in 1920, began reversing Wilson’s reforms, cutting taxes and spending, and reducing the size and scope of government. It was a great party with strong, courageous leaders who actually stood for what they believed.
After Hoover and the Great Depression ran the conservative train off the rails, the Republicans were out in the cold but in the 1930s they didn’t lay down and quit; they opposed the New Deal and, regaining power in the late ‘40s, made plans to repeal much of it. But the Eastern Establishment, known as the “Rockefeller Wing,” gradually took over in the 1940s and ‘50s. No longer were we a party of Harding, Coolidge, and retrenchment, but one of Tom Dewey and Earl Warren, who did not oppose the New Deal; they embraced it. And conservatives have been at war with their own party ever since!
As Senator McDaniel said in my book, Remember Mississippi, “The RNC … is beholden to a platform, and the Republican Party works every year for a platform, where they are supposed to uphold the provisions of that platform. But if it simply exists to perpetuate their own power, not a core set of principles, then it seems to me that we are all just wasting our time at this point.”
And that’s his main critique: Republicans that won’t adhere to their own platform, which they agreed to adhere to, then they are, by definition, Republicans in name only.
In our modern era, since the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, the GOP has held the House for 20 of 24 years and the Senate for 16 out of 24 years. As for the presidency, from 1980 to 2020 (to include Trump’s full first term), a period of 40 years, Republicans will have held the White House for 24 of them.
So the government should have been reduced, right? Not even close. Government has grown enormously and the party has failed on most everything in the platform.
Let’s look at a just a couple of the 2016 platform planks:
“We pledge to make government work for the people, rather than the other way around. Much of what the federal government does can be improved, much should be replaced, and much needs to be done away with or returned to the states.”
This is an often-used plank but has never happened. Government has not gotten smaller under Republicans, and almost no governmental functions have been returned to the states. Washington has grown in both power and scope. The rights of the people and the reserved rights of the states have also been reduced.
“Republican budgets will prioritize thrift over extravagance and put taxpayers first. We support the following test: Is a particular expenditure within the constitutional scope of the federal government? If not, stop it. Has it been effective in the past and is it still absolutely necessary? If not, end it. Is it so important as to justify borrowing, especially foreign borrowing, to fund it? If not, kill it.”
This is a complete joke. The Republican-controlled Congress just passed a budget plan that spends $4.4 trillion and returns us to Obama-era deficits of more than $1 trillion. There was no thought to the constitutionality of any part of the budget or its necessity. Nothing was killed and foreign borrowing will continue.
Over the last 40 years, as I noted much of it under Republican rule, we’ve had trillions in debt. In 1980, the debt was $590 billion; today its approaching $21 trillion. We’ve also gotten new entitlement programs that are continuing to swell our unfunded liabilities, which are now, by some estimates at $200 trillion. That’s more than unsustainable and, making things worse, the party seems to be snake-bit when it comes to entitlement reform.
Since 1980, we’ve had numerous foreign wars and engagements, much of it without any congressional authorization. We’ve run up $12 trillion in trade deficits, lost tens of thousands of factories, and millions of manufacturing jobs. We’ve had bank bailouts and crony capitalism run amok. Republicans once fought for a restrained foreign policy, for our industrial base, and for balanced budgets. No more. For we are not a true Republican Party these days.
Our point is simple: We already have a big government party. We call them Democrats. The idea is to have a true two-party system with two political organizations that are diametrically opposed to one another, not two wings of the same bird of prey.
We are fighting against Democratic Party-lit, to make the GOP a true alternative, not a party that is taking us down the road to Hell on a slightly slower train.