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Sunday, November 13, 2005

The RINO – An Endangered Specie? Let's Make it Happen.

Over the past few years Republican politicians known as RINOs (Republican In Name Only) have caused a lot of grief for those of us who want to see the Republican Party be the party of limited government, low taxes, and personal liberty in the conservative vision of Ronald Reagan. RINOs have caused set-backs for implementing these ideals through their cooperation and compromise with liberals at both the state and national levels.

Those of us in the conservative wing of the party have been extremely tolerant of the RINOs, providing considerable financial and volunteer support for their campaigns and supporting their reelection even when a primary challenger with better conservative credentials comes forward. What have we conservatives gotten in return for our support? In most cases diddly-squat. It's high time that the RINOs are held accountable for their legislative actions through real negative political consequences.

This last week, after serious political hard-ball had gotten a budget bill through the left-leaning Senate with oil exploration in ANWR intact (actually quite a feat) RINOs in the House (including Jim Ramstad and Mark Kennedy from Minnesota) banded together to undo the progress made in the Senate and forced the removal of ANWR exploration from the bill. The President, who campaigned tirelessly for many of the RINOs in spite of severe criticism from his base, really needs ANWR exploration as a critical piece of his long term economic and national security strategy. Although ANWR exploration may be restored in the final compromise between the House and Senate it is not guaranteed, and the actions of the RINOs have made it tougher on the President to get what he needs.

A few months ago the infamous gang of seven RINOs led by Lindsey Graham and John McCain bypassed Senate leadership and negotiated a horrible agreement with liberals that thwarted invocation of the “nuclear” (although more correctly, the “constitutional”) option to change Senate rules and once and for all end filibusters of the President's judicial nominees. In the agreement the Republicans lost a great opportunity to start running the Senate like the majority party and gained absolutely nothing. The Democrats lost nothing in that they still maintained their “right” to filibuster nominees under “extraordinary circumstances” where the definition of “extraordinary circumstances” was left open to be defined however and whenever the Democrats want. Senate Leader Bill Frist was far too tolerant of this break in discipline and did not administer consequences for this insubordination. He had the right and, in my thinking the duty, to strip all of the RINOs of choice committee memberships and chairmanships. The remaining threat of a Democrat filibuster continues to be a major obstacle to the President making good, hard-core constructionist appointments and probably had a lot to do with the Harriet Miers debacle.

Perhaps the most egregious example of the damage to the cause RINOs have inflicted is that “Jumpin'” Jim Jeffords single-handedly turned control of the Senate over to the Democrats for nearly half of President Bush's first term. At a time when the President was enjoying good popularity and support, the opportunity to implement many conservative initiatives was blocked because the obstructionist Democrat Tom Daschle controlled the Senate. Currently RINOs like Olympia Snowe and Lincoln Chafee are hurting progress in making President Bush's tax cuts permanent and in permanently eliminating the inheritance tax. Social Security and tax reform have also been stymied largely through the actions of RINOs.

At the state level, RINOs have scuttled many conservative initiatives. RINOs were instrumental in the Democrat's success in preventing the Protection of Marriage referendum from making it onto the 2004 ballot. Many analysts believe that if this referendum had been on the ballot the turnout of the conservative base would have been much stronger. A strong turnout by the base may very well have prevented many of the DFL gains in the Minnesota House and possibly could have put Minnesota into the Bush column in the Presidential election.

RINOs also had a lot to do with the horrible legislative session in Minnesota last year. By not banding together as Republicans RINOs allowed the Democrats to successfully cause a state government shutdown and place the blame on Governor Pawlenty. The Governor was far too accommodating of the RINOs and is starting to show some RINO tendencies himself with his ill-advised “health impact fee” which has been a real business and job killer for the tobacco industry. RINO support of the gas tax increase and the appalling mugging of the taxpayer by the education lobby has emboldened the Democrats to push for more of the same in the coming session. These actions have led to a lot of the public taking the attitude that there is no substantive difference between the parties. When so-called Republicans come out for smaller budget increases than Democrats instead of banding together and calling for budget cuts it's easy to see how the public can get the “no difference” perception.

After aiding liberals and Democrats, whether intentionally or not, what have the RINOs received in returned for their accommodating go-along-to-get-along posture? About the same as the conservatives have received from RINOS—diddly-squat. The liberal media is no kinder to RINOs unless it serves liberal interests. The politically correct “big tent” attitude has done nothing but water down the Republican message and political gains. All in all, playing nice with the libs has accomplished nothing for the RINOs and has hurt the Republican party as a whole. What incentive is there for conservatives to help put RINOs into office if they just give away the farm?

It's high time conservative Republicans start holding the RINOs' feet to the fire and demand a modicum of loyalty to conservative ideals and initiatives. We as a party have endured far too many set-backs from self-inflicted wounds. We live in serious times and cannot afford to let the liberals gain control of the judiciary or of economic, social, and defense policy—the stakes are just too high.

A good start toward our conservative goals would be to put the RINO on the endangered list and actively work for its quick extinction.

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