I can’t quite recall the first time I ever heard the term, nor the first or last time it was ever slung at me. Doubtless, one day it will again be headed my way. I don’t lose sleep over it. Being from Detroit, I have been smeared with far worse terms, none of which may be repeated in polite company. It has largely been used in a highly subjective manner, but is it capable of objective definition?
The term in question is “RINO.” This is not a misspelling of the shortened name a rhinoceros, be it “a member of any of the five extant species (or numerous extinct species) of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae,” or the supervillain who keeps trying to impale Spiderman. The question of what constitutes a RINO is one that has been bandied about for quite some time.
As the mid-term elections impend, one realizes this is not an esoteric exercise in semantics. William F. Buckley’s advice to vote for the most electable conservative (or, in today’s movement, most electable populist) retains its sagacity, and remains the surest path to further Republican populism’s goals. Any conflation or confusion, be it witting or unwitting and by friend or foe, will have a detrimental impact on the recapture of Congress that is urgently needed to stem the damage from the national disaster that is the Biden administration.
Some argue that a RINO is someone who has deviated from the party line on an issue; and/or has insufficiently supported or outright opposed a prominent party figure and/or the party, itself. While such votes or actions may be symptoms, it is not a sufficient definition of the underlying disease. Few human beings agree with every aspect of a party platform; and Americans pledge allegiance to our nation not a person or a party. Thus, it is precisely these often deliberately erroneous arguments that both obscure the real RINOs and allow the self-interested – usually the real RINOs – to venally thrive in the Grand Old Party’s midst. The real definition of a RINO is more elementary and more protective of not merely the party, but of the republic.
Specifically, RINOs choose elitists over populists. Doing so, they betray their professed principles for the laurels and rewards of the powerful, selling out their constituents as they sell their soul to the swamp. The powerful elitists who benefit the most are those on the Left. Not only do they get what they immediately want from the RINO, they will ultimately get even more of what they want when the RINO ends up losing to a much more amenable Democrat, who doesn’t need to go through all the machinations or demand exorbitant contributions (or other monetary considerations) needed to continually deceive their constituents into believing that he or she is “on their side.”
Obviously, RINO is a pejorative term, one whose indiscriminate and venal use can lead to political disaster. The charge of being a RINO is most often heard during internecine GOP party purges and Republican primaries. In such instances, by the time the general election arrives, tremendous damage may well be done the GOP’s electoral chances, especially if the alleged RINO is elected the nominee. More damage occurs when the primary’s losing side continues in their RINO accusations against the GOP nominee during the course of the general election. The overall impact is abetting the election of the Democrat.
Well aware that dissension in the ranks of Republicans help elect Democrats, the Left is quite capable of exacerbating matters to press their unearned advantage by demanding the GOP candidate either agree with their radical positions or mute their own populist/conservative positions – both of which will depress GOP turnout in November. Unfortunately, too many GOP candidates are tempted in the moment; heed the Democrats and their media cohorts’ siren song, and capitulate; consequently, they alienate their base and lose their race.
This is not to argue that the term RINO needs to discarded. Rather, it is to objectively define it, so its impact isn’t diluted. After years of being deflated and betrayed by RINOs, the Republican/populist/conservative base voter has had enough. They are no longer merely going along to get along and vainly hoping for the best. Having been burned, the GOP base has learned: if you can’t affirm and defend your principles in a campaign, you won’t affirm and defend your principles in office – if you had principles in the first place. Thus, when winding in a RINO in primary elections, their preferred weapon is voting against them; in general elections, their preferred method is skipping that race, absent a true Republican/populist alternative. In sum, the aggrieved GOP base is on a RINO hunt. Yet, as with any hunt, the GOP base must first properly identify their quarry before firing, lest tragic accidents happen.
Though the RINOs do their best to conceal themselves, identifying them is eminently possible. While Marvel’s Rhino is more straightforward in his approach than are the more serpentine RINOs, both share a similar raison d' etre: “I'm Rhino. I knock things down. That's what I do. That's who I am.” For the criminal Rhino, it is to knock down Spiderman. For the political (and criminal?) RINOs, it is to knock down the GOP’s populist movement. True, the Rhino and RINOS have to date proven unsuccessful in attaining their aims. But they are incapable of halting their charge. As stated, it is what they do and who they are.
And charging is something at which they excel. For example, in the natural world Indian, Black, and White rhinos can all run at speeds of over 30 miles per hour. In the political world, hard charging RINOs may even more speedily sell out to the elite. Well aware of their venal machinations, the GOP base is bearing down upon them, driven to make RINOs political road kill. Unlike a skunk, though, when GOP voters see a RINO straddling the middle of road, their cars won’t be leaving any skid marks.