The RINO question

What IS a Republican?  Is it merely someone who marks an ‘R’ on their voter registration card? Is it someone who seeks RINO123to protect the common people from the excesses of government bureaucracy?

THAT is a question that has been debated ferociously for decades on end.  In 1856 and 1860, at its formation, the GOP offered itself to the voters as a party of property rights, individual freedom, and states’ rights (except for secession).

In the 1930s and 40s,  Republicans led by senator Robert Taft (R-OH) knocked heads with those led by NY Gov. Thomas Dewey (R) over charting the ideological course of the GOP.    Taft was the leading opponent of FDR’s New Deal in Washington and was a key player in efforts to limit the power of labor unions in the wake of FDR’s death.   Dewey and his group supported a lot of The New Deal, the formation of the United Nations, and all kinds of military interventions in the early days of The Cold War.

In the 50s and 60s, you had Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater — both from out west — battling the GOPe forces of New York governor Nelson Rockefeller.  In the 1964 presidegoldwater-nixon-reaganntial race,  things came to a head between Rockefeller and Goldwater in the GOP primary.  Goldwater edged out Rockefeller in a vicious primary fight.  In the end, instead of showing that “party unity” that regularly is demanded of conservatives, the GOPe forces supporting Rockefeller started forming “Republicans for Johnson” groups and endorsing the reelection of the appointed Democrat incumbent.

In the 1960s and 70s, you had former actor and California governor Ronald Reagan slugging it out with establishment types like Gerald Ford and Bob Dole and Richard Nixon.  Reagan lost a primary fight in 1968.  Nixon slipped into office in 1968 campaigning as a conservative, but took a good hard left turn once sworn in.  In 1972, Nixon was saved by the rise of the hippies and George McGovern.  In 1974, thanks to VP Spiro Agnew’s corruption and subsequent resignation, and a little thing called Watergate, moderate Michigan congressman Gerald FordMTE5NDg0MDU1MTE1NjMwMDk1 found himself to be the first appointed VP and president in American history.

Down South, the 1964 Goldwater-Johnson race was having an impact.  South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond switched to the GOP.  In 1972, a North Carolina TV commentator named Jesse Helms registered Republican and became the state’s first GOP senator since Reconstruction.  That same year, a little-known state legislator named Jim Holshouser — offered up as a sacrificial lamb in a then-diehard Democrat state — slipped into the governor’s mansion thanks to Nixon’s overwhelming victory against McGovern and a vicious Democrat Party gubernatorial primary. davidrockefellerghwbush

The Holshouser  and Helms forces slugged it out on the state level in a micro- version of the events going on nationally with the Republicans. In 1976, Holshouser supported Gerald Ford’s reelection.  The Helms forces backed Ronald Reagan’s primary challenge to Ford that year — even helping to deliver North Carolina to Reagan in that year’s GOP primary.  (The Helms team also succeeded in achieving a rarity –denying a sitting governor (Holshouser) a role at the national party convention.) 

In 1980, the old GOPe vs. New Right clash heated up again.  Ronald Reagan was the GOP frontrunner, with establishment types lining up behind George H.W. Bush and liberal Republican congressman John Anderson of Illinois.  Reagan got the party nod, and took on Bush as his running mate in a gesture of party unity.  Anderson decided to make an — in the end — inconsequential third party run in the general election.

The meaning of “Republican” has been shaped and molded in different directions over the years. However, the party is in danger of making a mistake that kills many a product on store shelves — a lack of differentiation from the competition.  THAT is what killed off the Whig Party.  Prior to the formation of the GOP, the two helms1main national parties were the Democrats and The Whigs.  The ideological lines were so muddled that there were very few differences between the two — except for slavery.  Democrats were generally supportive, while Whigs were split on the issue. That split caused the Whigs to suffer at the ballot box.  Pro-slavery Whigs left to form something called The American Party, while anti-slavery Whigs formed the Republican Party.

The main point here?  Parties — like products on the store shelf — succeed when they offer a clear, concise, positive difference to their target audiences.  In North Carolina US Senate races, from 1972 through 1996, Jesse Helms won in overwhelmingly Democratic North Carolina by offering up a stark ideological difference between himself and his opponents.  People were — and still are — looking for more than the R and the D.   John East won in 1980 by painting a stark contrast with his opponent. In 1986, Jim Broyhill  lost a Senate race by thumbing his nose at conservatives and offering little toward making those Eastern Democrats cast their ballot for the R. In 1992, while George H.W. Bush was going down in flames, Democrat-turned-Republican offered the national GOP a rare win by painting himself as starkly more conservative than Terry Sanford. 

In 2002, Elizabeth Dole campaigned as starkly more conservative than Erskine Bowles. In 2004, so did Richard Burr.  In 2008, there was very little differentiation and Kay Hagan sent Dole back to her condo in The Watergate. In 2014, Thom Tillis succeeded by championing a lot of conservative successes he fought to water down and kill while he was speaker of the state House.

burrtNationally, the GOP has lost two straight presidential races against Obama by offering up candidates who did not offer that much of a difference.  We’ve got three great choices in Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson — three outsiders adequately preaching the anti-government gospel. Of course, we have folks like Bob Dole and Bill Kristol pouting about staying home and not voting if any of those three get the party nod.  Isn’t it funny how we’re bad when WE talk like that, but it’s apparently A-OK for them?cruz

I’ve recently had some NCGOP celebs scold me for tossing the RINO term around.  “I don’t know how a newcomer can dare to describe someone who built the Republican Party in this state as a RINO.”  — sniffed one. 

Until the early 1990s, the GOP was pretty much quarantined to small pockets around Greensboro, Charlotte, and  Asheville. It was quite the exclusive club.  The party grew – and started seeing a lot of its success — by convincing those conservatives who had been with the Democrat Party for decades and generations that their party had left them in the dust.  For some people, the R is all that matters.  But history confirms that a message of limited government and low taxes reaps the biggest and longest-lasting rewards for us all.  

It’s more than R vs D.  It’s statism vs. freedom.  And it’s your choice.

26 thoughts on “The RINO question

  1. Some of the terms like RINO and ”establishment” tend to be speaking in code for those who are attuned to politics. They are not descriptive to the average voter who does not live and breath politics. They are far too much inside baseball.

    I think terms that are self descriptive are much better. One writer put out a whole book built around the term ”Obama Republicans” and that caught on with some. It is a term whose meaning is not going to be lost on much of anyone. The terms ”liberal Republican” (or ”moderate”) versus ”conservative Republican” have been useful but many of the Obama Republicans try to blur that by trying to reinvent themselves as ”conservative” like Karl Rove and some of his candidates, who are not conservative at all. Some real conservatives have pushed back by using the term ”Constitutional Conservative” which is fine except that it is still too much inside baseball for the average voter to understand.

    Perhaps a relevant term these days for the more liberal part of our party, at least in the House, would be ”Boehner Republicans”.

    Another term that is much more descriptive and understandable is Big Government Republicans, with their more conservative adversaries on our wing of the party being Limited Government Republicans.

    If we are going to let the average voter follow along, which we need to do, we are going to have to stop speaking in code and start using terms whose meanings are obvious to the average voter.

    1. Exactly! Well said!

      Both Boehner Republicans and Big Government Republicans are accurate and well understood terms. These same Republicans are also generally Amnesty Republicans, but currently, Obama Republicans may be the best description of these traitors to conservative Republican ideals.

  2. The Democrats have the same factions as do the Republicans. However, during the past two Presidential elections the Democratic leadership was able to move the Democrats in the same direction while the Republicans run to and fro supporting fringe candidates who have zero chance of winning.

    The Democrats put more emphasis on winning while the Republicans put more emphasis on the idea of the day.

    1. You have that wrong, Junior. Republicans for the past few elections have been suckered by Big Media into nominating wimps who run to the center, do not raise issues, and put the GOP base to sleep, while not showing the contrast to get the ticket splitter vote. That is why 3 million voters who turned out even for McCain (maybe more for Palin?) failed to show up for Romney.

      We need another candidate like Reagan who can raise the issues that show the differences between the parties so that we can go back to winning and winning by landslides. Against the same centrist Democrat opponent, moderate Gerald Ford lost and solid conservative Reagan won by a landslide.

      1. you are right we have to show the differences with the parties. We should never give up our values or lower our standards just to win elections. If we win by standing for nothing we have not just won nothing we have lost everything

        This is what the state party needs to call out other elected republicans when they make votes that go against the party platform

  3. You folks seem to have forgotten Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment! If Reagan were alive you folks would probably label him a “rino.” I am a Jesse Helms conservative who has been helping build the GOP in NC since the late 1970’s. Governor Jim Martin did more to help build the party in Eastern North Carolina than almost anyone still around. Your constant whining about so-called rino’s is not helping things for conservative Republicans. In my view, any Republican is better than a democrat! How about stopping all your bitching and do something that helps us win!

    1. Governor Jim Martin did indeed do a lot to build the party. His appointees in state government were party folks, and included many Jesse Helms conservatives, unlike our present governor who seems aloof from appointing party activists. I worked in Martin’s campaigns and also all of Jesse Helms beginning with the first one in 1972. However, the person still around who did the most to build the party in eastern North Carolina was undoubtedly Jim Gardner, who won the Rocky Mount based Congressional district in 1966, twice ran close races for Governor and then became Martin’s Lt. Governor. Gardner’s former campaign manager, Jack Hawke, served in the same role for Martin’s first election, and later as party chairman.

      As I recall the whinging comment on the Haymaker about ”someone who helped build the party” was about Phil Kirk, who was from the Holshouser administration (although he was also around for part of Martin’s). Phil Kirk supported Holshouser’s massive purge of Gardner / Helms supporters in the 1973 set of county, district, and state conventions, the worst ideological purge in the party organization in recent memory, and the attempted but unsuccessful purge of conservative legislators in the 1974 GOP primaries. When I think of someone claiming Kirk ”helped build the party”, it makes me want to laugh. When someone calls Kirk a conservative, it makes me want to laugh hysterically. Maybe soon, they will be calling Holshouser’s chief hatchet man L. Gene Anderson a ”party builder” and a ”conservative”!

      As to party infighting, the very worst and most disgusting intra-party attack I have seen recently was the establishment’s (big government Republicans’) vicious and dishonest Watergate style attack on conservative frontrunner Chris McDaniel in the Mississippi Republican primary for US Senate last year. It saddens and disgusts me that our own Senator Richard Burr helped finance the most underhanded part of those attacks, the last minute race-baiting part, something for which he has not apologized. What Burr did in Mississippi, I suspect, is going to come back to haunt him in North Carolina.

      Jim Martin was a unifier in the party. Jim Holshouser was a divider. Pat McCrory is somewhere in between, not nearly as good as Martin, but not nearly as bad as Holshouser.

    2. no I totally do not agree that anyone with a R beside their name is good enough. I do not support people I support a set of values and if they do not fight for them then they are taking a spot from someone that could and they are causing harm because that are not standing up and fighting with the few that are standing up and fighting for conservative principles

      1. If they have only an R by their name and not an R in their hearts, then they are a phony. And the term Obama Republican is a apt name for them.

    3. Joe just out of curiosity why are you so proud of the Rino establishment? Why did they run in 2014 on : defunding executive amnesty, securing the borders and de funding Obama Care when they had no intentions of doing any of it? The Rino establishment is a bunch of liberals masquerading as republicans for the sole purpose to win an election and dupe naive voters. What is the difference in Burr and Bernie Sanders?

  4. Yes, Raphael, Jim Gardner is certainly the greatest conservative Republican still around. He’s also a strong supporter of Governor McCrory. Guess that makes him a “rino” to the likes of the Haymaker. Do these supposed conservatives really think they are helping the cause by bashing Republicans when they are in effect just lending comfort to the likes of Roy Cooper and Hillary with their constant complaining. If you have a candidate to support by all means do so. But once the choice is between R and D, any real conservative that wants to see at least some if not all of their positions advanced, better get behind the R.

    1. The problem is when we have total sellouts in leadership, who may advance some things for the special interests but none that relate to party principles while doing the bidding of the Democrats, and I am thinking of Boehner, Ryan, and McConnell at the federal level and Tim Moore at the state level, the only way to get anything worthwhile done is to change the leadership. It may be necessary to see some leaders and some of their key supporters replaced by Democrats in order to reach critical mass to change the sellout leadership. Granted it would be better to replace them with conservative Republicans, but the key is getting them G-O-N-E. I notice on RedState, some have even been suggesting that getting rid of Mitch McConnell is so critical that even letting the Democrats getting a Senate majority back would be worth it. I would not go that far, since having even RINOs in the Senate will make it easier to get Ted Cruz’ judicial appointees through. But McConnell is plain awful. He is Harry Reid in drag. And his little lap puppy, Richard Burr also makes me puke.

  5. Whatever label you want to put on him, McCrory has been a disaster for conservatism in North Carolina. This is one conservative who will not vote for his re-election. He is a total phony.

    1. He is not a phony he is a moderates moderate which still makes him alot more conservitive then the liberals liberal that is running against him from the other side

      But yea he is a disapointment and he always has been back when the voters voted NO on a referendum for no uptown arena in charlotte and then he helped push a deal against the voters wish and not with this toll road he has refused to stop

    1. Are you addressing the first point made above? I see that Rove is now calling conservatives ”RINOs”. And the supporters of the establishment’s carpetbagger who is running against conservative Walter Jones are out calling Jones a RINO because Jones will not follow Boehner and Ryan’s orders to cave in to Obama on funding Obama’s programs. It looks like RINO is a term that everyone can throw around, accurate or not.

    1. I think you have to take that one on a case by case basis, and look at all the ramifications. Sometimes ditching an Obama Republican, even if you get a Democrat is worth it, and sometimes not. For example if you have one who leads a lot of other Republicans the wrong way, and his seat flipping to the Democrats still leaves the GOP with a comfortable majority, we are probably better off with the Democrat. If losing that seat means we lose the majority, it might give you the opposite answer. And that is just one of the factors you have to look at.

  6. “but currently, Obama Republicans may be the best description of these traitors to conservative Republican ideals.”
    And the biggest traitor of them all is House Speaker Paul Ryan. They are going to try and “primary” him out of office. GOOD RIDDANCE!

  7. Just so you know, I decided I was a Republican when I was ten years old and Goldwater was running for President. I voted for Helms in 1972 and every time he ran for the US Senate. I supported Reagan in 1976, 1980, and 1984. In 1988, I ended up holding my nose to vote for Bush ’41 when I was left no other choice then and had to do the same in 1992. Along the way, I also supported Pat Buchanan and Alan Keyes. I even returned a fundraising letter from Bush ’43 in 2000, and told him he might make a good Vice-President for Keyes. I’m tired of holding my nose for people like McCain and Romney, too. I want a genuine constitutional conservative patriot in the White House. I also hope we get an influx of such people in the NC Legislature, and that I get to hang around for another term and serve with them. We have to clean up the corruption in DC and in Raleigh, uphold the rights of our citizens, and flush political correctness down the tubes, along with Common Core and “gun control”, or we are done for. Where does all that put me in your estimation?

  8. WOW! Great debate folks!
    I take RINO to mean: “Republican In Name Only”. Campaign as a Republican – then once in office, vote as a Democrat.
    Admittedly, this latest budget deal in Washington was a total sellout by the Republicans. They didn’t even TRY to get any of their proposals in, they just bent over and grabbed their ankles!
    Hell, even Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi (which last I checked, were the MINORITY leaders) were crowing about it!
    Paul Ryan is a huge disappointment! He was thought to be a rising star as a Conservative Republican. Alas, he turns out to be another ankle grabber like the rest of them.
    Faced with national outrage from their voters, some of the RINO’s are back-peddling, and/or hiding under their desks! And they damn well should!

  9. Could it be that the GOPe in NC consist of Democrats who decided long ago to pretend to be Republicans to infiltrate the party and get elected to office so that they could vote their Democratic agenda? When this question first popped into my mind, I dismissed it as silly. However, since becoming painfully aware of how the liberals have become masters at long-term planning (Saul Alinksy), I wonder if the question is valid. Otherwise, I’m lost for the answer. Our representatives lie to us and run as conservatives only to get into power and then vote like Democrats.

    The earlier question, what’s better, a RINO or a Democrat, is one with which I struggle. Should a lying RINO be rewarded by returning him or her to office? A related question might be, is it easier for a conservative to run against a RINO or a Democrat. I’m thinking the answer is a Democrat.

    We have to get smarter.

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