There is a lot of derisive talk from the Republican right these days about the people it calls RINOs – party members who are Republican In Name Only. The accusation is that because these Republicans are insufficiently committed to a single-minded focus on budget cuts or may support same-sex marriage or believe that a warming planet poses a threat to millions of Americans, they are not real Republicans.
It’s an intriguing theory and, in fact, one that holds important elements of truth. There are, indeed, party members who feign allegiance to the ideals of the Republican Party, a historic and crucial influence in the nation’s development, but it’s not the people whom the inhabitants of the far right are screaming at. It is they who are the RINOs – pretending to be Republicans while they crash the party infrastructure and turn what had been a genuinely conservative organization into a den of radicals.
Spending on infrastructure? President Dwight Eisenhower, a giant of the Republican Party, championed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 that saw the construction of the Interstate Highway System, a project that made transportation easier for all Americans. What do the RINOs think of that?
Taxes? President Ronald Reagan led the charge for a tax cut early in his first term, but then began raising taxes. Today’s RINOs would tar and feather him.
Gun control? Try this one on: “Unless we adopt and enforce strict gun control laws – ones much tougher than the Brady Bill – we will never succeed in stemming the violence spawned by the drug trade.” That was President Richard Nixon, in his 1992 book “Seize the Moment: America’s Challenge in a One-Superpower World.”
President Gerald Ford advocated the ban on so-called “Saturday night specials” and in 1989, then-President George H.W. Bush banned the importation of some semiautomatic firearms after a mass school shooting in Stockton, Calif.
Environment? The Environmental Protection Agency was proposed by Nixon and began operations during his first term.
Same-sex marriage? Even Former Vice President Dick Cheney, the champion of waterboarding, is a supporter. “Freedom means freedom for everyone,” according to Cheney, whose daughter, Mary, is gay.
Health reform? President George W. Bush backed and signed into a law a prescription drug program for seniors.
Illegal immigration? Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, granting amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants, among other steps. The RINOs of the 21st century would cast him, the great Republican hero, into the wilderness.
Ford opposed general gun control. Reagan criticized government as “the problem.” Cheney, Nixon, Bush … none of these men has ever been accused of not being conservative. But they understood that effective and fair government is not a purist’s pursuit.
Today’s RINOs have no such view. They are zealots. Spending is meant to be cut. Taxes are meant to be lowered. The environment is meant to be ignored. Gays are meant to be in the closet. Illegal aliens are meant to self-deport. In their pinched view of American life, there is no room for any interpretation but their own.
Thus, the nation is on the brink of disastrous budget cuts because the Republican Party – or what is masquerading as it – would rather inflict misery on the nation than find a middle ground that offers something to all sides.
It’s hard to see how all of this ends well, but one thing is certain: It can’t end well with the real Republican Party sitting silent as the radicals who have commandeered their ship steer it onto the rocks – with the nation in tow.
Government is supposed to solve problems, not make them worse. The RINOs don’t grasp the concept.