CALIFORNIA, June 18, 2013 — The term “Republican in Name Only” (RINO) was created to describe a Republican who does not believe in the traditional tenets of the GOP. However, today, the term ‘RINO’ is meaningless, inasmuch as it is hypocritically used to punish people that the conservative elite wish to excommunicate from the in-crowd, while the term curiously escapes other sainted people who display the same ‘RINO’ behaviors.
Given the hypocritical application of the term, it is safe to say that being called a ‘RINO’ carries as much rhetorical sting as any random playground insult. Far from being a devastating critique indicting a political person for being insufficiently conservative, the current iteration of the term is largely futile.
Notably, the term RINO is currently being applied to Florida senator Marco Rubio because of his controversial immigration bill, which many deem to be amnesty for the act of entering the country illegally.
However, rather than disagreeing with Rubio on immigration and trying to change his mind on the issue, many people are content with simply calling him a RINO while pretending as though he has no value to the conservative cause. Interestingly, the people who call Rubio a RINO because of his immigration bill give Ronald Reagan a pass for nearly identical behavior—except Rubio is arguably more adamant about border enforcement than Reagan was.
It is unfortunate that Rubio is having his conservative bona fides challenged for doing precisely the same thing that conservative icon Ronald Reagan did. If the ‘RINO’ label is applied with intellectual honesty, then Reagan would be considered one along with Rubio. However, Reagan is still beatified in the eyes of many conservatives.
This glaring hypocrisy is one of the reasons why conservatism is often incorrectly seen as a clique, as opposed to a thoughtful intellectual and ideological movement. Ferocious hypocrisy is the only reason why Ronald Reagan supporters would still keep him on a pedestal as a conservative hero while trashing Marco Rubio.
Rubio may have some viewpoints that fall out of line with conservative orthodoxy, but so did Reagan. However, when Reagan is concerned, the insincere RINO chasers can rationalize that no thinking person can possibly hold every popular position that a political party advocates, but when it comes to Rubio, any slight deviation from conservative orthodoxy means he should be banished from the conservative movement altogether.
The fundamental problem with haphazardly throwing around the term ‘RINO’ is that it is dismissive rather than helpful. Throwing the term around does nothing to change the alleged RINO’s mind about the position he or she holds, neither does it comprehensively refute the arguments that the alleged RINO uses to support that position. Often, the term ‘RINO’ is used to supersede logic and evade engagement with arguments on an intellectual level.
The popularity of the term ‘RINO’ coincides with a lack of understanding that it is entirely possible for two people to have similar conservative intellectual frameworks, yet reach different conclusions on certain issues. Indeed, a critical problem with the term ‘RINO’ is that it calcifies current Republican Party positions by demonizing people who use conservative reasoning to arrive at alternative conclusions. It also falsely presupposes that all positions that are popular among right-wingers are always conservative. There are some Republican Party positions that need to change in order to better align with conservative philosophy—chief among these being the GOP’s position on the War on Drugs.
Conservatives understand the importance of restricting the nanny state when Michelle Obama proposes bans on soda and junk food in schools, but they fail to acknowledge the much larger statist implications of governments being able to throw people in prison because they do not like the substances that such people put into their own bodies. Conservatives cannot simultaneously believe in a small, unobtrusive government, while also believing that the draconian War on Drugs is a laudable endeavor. This philosophical point is enough of a reason for conservatives to be against the War on Drugs, even without considering much more powerful arguments for abolishing it on utilitarian grounds.
However, so many conservatives use sloppy reasoning to argue that because drug use has deleterious consequences for both individuals and societies, therefore it is kosher to have big government incompetently attempt to solve the problem, as opposed to families and communities dealing with the problem of drug abuse from its moral origin.
Debate is critical to the intellectual health of conservatism. Flippant terms like ‘RINO’ that are applied to trash people over picayune policy disputes are sophomoric and useless—especially when such terms are applied inconsistently in order to protect conservative heroes who also hold unorthodox views.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chidike Okeem is a writer. Born in Nigeria, raised in London, England, and now living in California, he writes about race, culture, religion, and politics. You can find contact information and read more of his writings at www.voiceofchid.com.
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