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The Republicans’ RINO problem

Posted by Richard on May 9, 2008

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Club for Growth president Pat Toomey had a fine op-ed column entitled "In Defense of RINO Hunting." The Club for Growth is frequently attacked by Republican leaders for opposing RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) in primaries. Such prominent non-RINOs as Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich have joined in the criticism. Recently, Rep. Tom Cole, chair of the NRCC and 4th-ranking GOP leader in the House, denounced the Club:

"The problem I have with the Club is I think they're stupid," Mr. Cole said. "They spend more money beating Republicans than Democrats."

Republicans would be better off, the argument goes, if the Club PAC spent its money targeting Democrats instead of liberal Republicans. This is the argument of politicians who care more about maintaining power than using that power to implement conservative policies.

Toomey cited some of the RINOs that the Club was criticized for opposing (including Sens. Arlen Specter and Lincoln Chafee, and Reps. Joe Schwartz and Wayne Gilchrest) and looked at "how these liberal Republicans are serving the GOP today." It's not a pretty picture. 

The sorry record of these RINOs contrasts sharply with that of candidates backed by the Club for Growth: Sens. Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn are the #1 and #2 pro-growth, limited-government advocates in the Senate, according to the Club's latest Congressional Scorecard Senate rankings. The top four in the House rankings — Reps. Flake, Lamborn, Hensarling, and Pence — were all major beneficiaries of Club support, as were such other high-ranking up-and-comers as John Campbell, Scott Garrett, and Tim Walberg. 

Toomey summarized the Club's argument this way:

Winning for the sake of winning is an excellent short-term tactic, but a lousy long-term strategy. Just look at the consequences of the 2006 congressional elections, when the GOP lost control of both houses of Congress.

A Republican majority is only as useful as the policies that majority produces. When those policies look a lot like Democratic ones, the base rightly questions why it should keep Republicans in power. As the party gears up for elections in the fall, it ought to look closely at the losses suffered under a political strategy devoid of principle. Otherwise, it can look forward to a bad case of déjà vu.

Rush Limbaugh also doesn't think much of the current GOP strategy:

The Republican Party, as a party, does not have an attack machine. The Republican Party doesn't even have a defense machine. The Republican Party is just sitting around twiddling its thumbs and hoping people continue to send it money.

Despite Bush fatigue, war weariness, and the current mild economic slowdown, the Republicans ought to be able to do pretty well this year. After all, the Democrats are about to nominate for President a man who is more radically leftist than George McGovern — maybe closer to socialist Henry Wallace. The whole party has lurched far to the left and is controlled by the George Soros / MoveOn.org / nutroots crowd. And approval of Congress ranks below that of the President, thanks to the leadership of Pelosi and Reid, two utterly incompetent ultra-liberals.

But the GOP leadership and many of its elected officials have become so enamored of their perks and pork, and so estranged from the principles of limited government, freedom, and prosperity that the party supposedly represents, that many of its former supporters are disgustedly dismissing the whole institution as RINO. Or Democrat Lite.

If the GOP is going to avoid a thrashing this November, they'd better seize the opportunity the Democrats are handing them, start paying attention to people like Pat Toomey and the editors of Investor's Business Daily, and adopt once again Ronald Reagan's "banner of bold, unmistakable colors, with no pastel shades."

Unfortunately, they've selected a Presidential candidate who's quite enamored of pastels, a "maverick" who loves to "reach across the aisle" and has always seemed much more comfortable talking to his Democratic colleagues and Washington reporters than to the conservative Republican base.

Unless something changes, McCain will have a hard time turning out that base, much less classical liberal / libertarian types like me.

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2 Responses to “The Republicans’ RINO problem”

  1. Hathor said

    “The whole party has lurched far to the left and is controlled by the George Soros / MoveOn.org / nutroots crowd.”

    Just what are Democrats suppose to be?

  2. rgcombs said

    ”Just what are Democrats suppose to be?”

    Umm… how about “Kennedyesque”? Hell, the Soros/MoveOn/nutroots crowd would consider Hubert Humphrey to be too moderate.

    Twenty or thirty years ago, people like Dean, Pelosi, and Reid would have been considered the left fringe of the Democratic Party, and Democrats like Sen. Henry Jackson would have denounced them as un-American. Today, they run the show.

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