The RINO Party

When Colin Powell endorsed Barrack Obama, Rush Limbaugh had a convenient explanation, shouted into the microphone: “It was all about race.” Of course, the whole point of a program like Rush's is to provide his listeners with sound bites so that they won't have to think; thinking is hard and it is simply more efficient to farm the task out to people like Limbaugh. It's a division of labor sort of thing. But others proposed another explanation, namely that Powell was a Republican In Name Only (RINO) and so his endorsement was hardly a surprise.

The RINO argument, though more coherent, breaks down in the face of the slew of defections from the entire spectrum of the Republican Party. Christopher Buckley, Ken Adelman, Christopher Hitchens, Scott McClellan, Bill Ruckelshaus, William Weld, Lilibet Hagel (wife of Senator Chuck Hagel), Jeffrey Hart, C.C. Goldwater, and a host of other life-long Republicans have switched sides, calling the RINO argument into question. Even Bruce Bartlett has called for conservatives to “reach out to Obama.”

Only part of the problem can be laid at the feet of the McCain-Palin ticket. True, McCain continues the Cheney-Bush policies of replacing taxes with borrowing, expanding the federal government and especially the powers of the executive (the so-called “unitary executive” theory), foreign adventurism, and a slew of other policies that cannot be reconciled with the traditional Republican stance. Even on social issues, McCain is unreliable. As Tom Piatak points out in Chonicles Magazine:

Even on abortion, McCain is unreliable. On February 3, The Washington Post reported McCain's statement that 'it's not the social issues [that] I care about.' And on August 19, 1999, McCain told The San Francisco Chronicle, '[C]ertainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support the repeal of Roe v. Wade which would then force X number of women in America to undergo illegal and dangerous operations.' I the same interview, McCain stated he would not have a 'litmus test' for judicial nominees. McCain's former senate colleague, Rick Santorum, an indefatigable champion of the unborn, has stated that McCain did his best behind the scenes to prevent pro-life legislation from coming to a vote on the floor. Robert Novak has reported that McCain has described Justice Samuel Alito as 'too conservative.' Novak has also reminded his readers that, back when Vermont Republican Jim Jeffords became an independent and began to caucus with the Democrats, McCain was in negotiations with the Senate Democrats to do the same thing. There is also McCain's support for federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research (ESCR), which cannot be squared with principled belief in the pro-life cause. Indeed, McCain has recently launched an ad touting his support for more federal funding of stem-cell research, and his campaign spokesman, Brian Rogers, has stated that the ad, which does not distinguish between ESCR and other types of stem-cell research, is intended to reiterate McCain's support for ESCR.

If the problem is not that the defectors are RINO, nor entirely with ambiguous nature of McCain's policies and campaign, what is the problem? Let me suggest that the Republican Party itself that is Republican in Name Only. The Party long ago abandoned its core principles. The problem began early in the Reagan administration, when the tax cuts did not lead to a smaller government; indeed, Reagan merely substituted borrowing for taxing. But borrowing is taxing; it is merely a tax shifted from the current generation onto the next; it is taxing our children for benefits that we enjoy, a kind of inter-generational theft that is counter to everything a pro-family party ought to do.

The government did not shrink under Reagan, and under Bush “(even excluding post-9/11 “homeland security spending) [domestic spending] has grown faster than during the previous two decades of divided government, and the incidence of pork-barrel projects has reached an all time high,” according to Christopher DeMuth of The American Enterprise Institute.

In abandoning its conservative principles, the Republican Party did not really become more Liberal. What it has become is more Corporate. That is, the Party has become captive of Corporate America, and it is run more and more for their convenience and profit, a profit they do not share with the rest of the nation, and are, indeed, even unwilling to pay for. As James Galbraith points out, the political world has become...

...divided into two groups. There are those who praise the free market because to do so gives cover to themselves and their friends in raiding the public trough. These people call themselves “conservatives,” and one of the truly galling things for real conservatives is that they have both usurped the label and spoiled the reputation of the real thing.

At this point we can ask, “What does the Republican Party need to do to change, to recover its principles?” And the answer is clear: It needs to lose, and to lose big-time. A marginal loss won't be enough to force a self-examination. Only a clear and crushing defeat will allow the Party to begin the process of recovering the Party's principles. Alas, it often happens that only pain leads to self-examination, and only confession leads to healing. If the Republican Party is really to become an alternative to Democratic statism, rather than just a substitute for it, it needs time out of power to re-focus on principles and practical responses to real problems, qualities which have been in short supply for the Party for the last 20 years.

The first thing the Party needs to do is to send the former Trotskyites who call themselves “neocons” back to the liberal darkness from whence they came. The next thing the Party needs is to convert the anti-abortion movement into a true “Pro-life, Pro-Family” movement (See “Pro-Life or Just Anti-Abortion?”).

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I am adding my name to the list of defectors. To the chagrin of many of my conservative, Catholic friends, I am voting—have already voted—for Barrack Obama. Since in the current crises, the Republican Party has little to offer the country, voting for Obama can do little harm, and may do much good. At least he seems to recognize a point that has escaped the Republicans, namely that our economic problems require the healing of the “real” economy, the economy of making things. In this, he can do no worse and may do much better. Indeed, conservatism should be more concerned with the real economy than the merely financial one, and currently the Republicans don't seem to know the difference.

But I am also voting Democrat for the good of the Republican Party. Unless it loses—and loses big—it will not change. And if it doesn't change, conservatives will have no real home in American politics.


Anonymous,  Saturday, October 25, 2008 at 1:25:00 PM CDT  

This post makes a good argument for not voting for McCain. But to vote for a candidate who has publicly pledged himself to removing any and all of the existing meager restrictions on the murder of one's fellow human beings -- "first thing I'll do as President" -- and to enshrining into law forever the "right" to murder the innocent? And for what? A candidate bought and paid for by the hedge fund pirates of Wall Street (see who's funding Obama at; a candidate committed to an "all options on the table"(that means nukes,etc.) approach for dealing with countries who pose no threat to us?
What is the mysterious power this Obama has on otherwise sensible people? Don't vote for McCain. Fine. But I can't imagine telling my grandchildren"Yes, I voted for the guy who pledged to 'keep legal' the sucking of infants' brains out of their heads." Wow. That's a vote to be proud of.

Anonymous,  Saturday, October 25, 2008 at 3:03:00 PM CDT  

The way to teach both parties a lesson is not by giving the Dems the mentality that they have a mandate, because like the pendulum, it will swing way left. This may cause a huge swing back to the right. Either of which could be very evil and dangerous. It is sad that the 3500 babies dying a day do not pull more weight in your choice. At least with McCain we would have a chance to influence the outcome.
As for following the standard liberal media criticism of Limbaugh, calling his listeners basically "mind numbed robots" this is ignorant. While for many this may be the case, but as much can be said of the listener and viewers of the rest of the media.
Lets be honest, their is very little thinking that goes on period, but this cannot be blamed on Rush. At least people have a choice other than the Marxist media. I personally listen to some days, 4 different talk shows while working, after work I try to read books, and bloggs like this one.

My point is this: I agree with Micheal Savage's desire to start a third party. There are so many dissatisfied on both sides. This would give a wake up call to them both.

Richard Aleman Saturday, October 25, 2008 at 8:34:00 PM CDT  

I won't speak for John, but I may be more radical in regard to my political opinions.

In my mind, John McCain, along with the Republican Party, has no interest in ending abortion. After all, one cannot understand Roe v. Wade without comprehending Grisowld v. Connecticut.

Contraception is at the heart of the abortion debate, and Sarah Palin believes contraception is the solution to abortion.

Now for most, including myself, Obama is no alternative. But for only a few, myself included as well, neither party comes close to offering a solution.

We need independents running on a distributist platform, without a party mandate, at the local level.

Jesse Sunday, October 26, 2008 at 7:06:00 AM CDT  

I've had similar thoughts about the purging of the Republican party through a massive defeat.

I can suppose some telltale signs of a rebirth we might welcome: The acceptance of Pat Buchanan's fair trade message of the early-mid nineties (and, perhaps arguably, some of tenets of the Contract With America); a Murdoch-free Republican media outlet (which doesn't give us Republican commentators (O'Reily, Hannity) interviewing porn stars, Catholic commentators (O'Reily, Hannity), publicly dissenting from moral teachings of the Catholic Church, and an over-all network contributing to the rule of big business and the moral decay of our culture); radio and internet personalities who are not hypocrite drug abusers who've been married three or four times making millions off preaching virtues they don't practice; the recognition that because original sin rightly influences our view on limiting governmental authority, thus (ideally) preventing big government, it should just as equally influence our view on the limitation of big business; and finally, after many other things I'm sure YOU can think of, the ostracization of, as John said, the "neocons" -- to obscurity.

However, with all that said, I must add that I cannot bring myself positively to vote for Obama. I can understand that there are those, like John, who will; listening to Colin Powell, I found myself thinking how reasonable and convincing this all sounds, that was, until a very definite point in his interview where he started talking about the importance of Supreme Court nominations, and (I believe in reference to that subject) the feared "narrowing" of the party. To be sure, Powell was saying it's largely because McCain has embraced people like faithful Catholics who wish to see Roe overturned, and the prevention of the application of the Comity Clause to the homosexual marriage issue, that he is fleeing the party by way of his support for Obama. It may be that McCain will ultimately betray people like me when it comes to choosing Supreme Court Justices -- I can only take his word that he won't. However, and regardless of "what ifs," we should all keep in mind that Mr. Powell has taken McCain's word as one major reason to support Obama -- thus, for people like me who find Mr. Powell to be insightful, just as large of a reason not to.

Athanasius Sunday, October 26, 2008 at 8:39:00 AM CDT  


I am as much against McCain as you are, if not even more. However, I might add that in spite of that I could never vote Obama, and am somewhat puzzled by your decision. Principally by two things, a)Obama is not merely "I support a woman's right" etc., but he is also of the mind that abortion must be aggressively supported. And b) It seems that the Republicans are headed for a big loss any way without our votes for the Obamanation.

I understand your reasons, and I understand why McCain is not even a lesser of two evils since all his pro-life pandering is as much a lie as Obama's pledge to distribute wealth. But it seems to me you could have accomplished your ends without voting Obama.

God bless,


Unknown Sunday, October 26, 2008 at 6:25:00 PM CDT  

While I appreciate your quoting from my piece in Chronicles, I cannot agree with your conclusion that Republican fecklessness on abortion justifies a vote for Obama. In my view, that fecklessness justifies voting for a third party pro-life candidate, such as Chuck Baldwin. It does not justify voting for the most pro-abortion candidate ever nominated by either major party, which is what Barack Obama in fact is.

John Médaille Sunday, October 26, 2008 at 7:49:00 PM CDT  

The thrust of the comments on my position is that a critique of McCain does not constitute a defense of Obama. And that is true, but it was not intended to be such a defense. It was merely, as I said, in the interest of full disclosure; I dislike commentators who pretend to be neutral when, in fact, they have already made a choice. Honesty requires that the reader know my choice, or any other commentator's.

But as Tom Piatak asks, "Why not Baldwin?" Why not Barr? Very briefly, the reasons for voting against Barr and Baldwin are the same reasons for voting against Bush. Barr and Baldwin believe that Bush got it wrong. But on the contrary, Bush got it right, in the sense that any successful capitalism looks like this, with heavy gov't involvement and staggering from bailout to bailout; this is simply the history of capitalism. Indeed, this is what Adam Smith documents in the Wealth of Nations. Not much has changed since 1776, and there is little reason to think it will change. Belloc was right; this is simply the nature of capitalism, what the beast looks like and what it does.

Barr and Baldwin both believe that with a little tweaking, the laissez-faire system can be made to work. This is what Bush said in 2000 and McCain in 2008. What is their argument? While I have a great deal of sympathy for many of the specific stands of both candidates, in the end there is not that much that separates them from McCain or even from Bush; Bush used exactly the same rhetoric in 2000. So in the end, the question isn't, "why isn't Médaille voting for McCain?" but "Why isn't Barr voting for McCain?" Both, at least, are capitalists.

I am not.

Anonymous,  Sunday, October 26, 2008 at 9:41:00 PM CDT  

The lesser of two evils is still evil. I cannot in good conscience vote for either candidate. I really wish as Catholics we wouldn't resign ourselves to voting against one candidate or another. I'd like to believe there is still strength in numbers, and if good Catholics across this land would stand up a third party option would be viable. Maybe we wouldn't accomplish our goals this go around, but with God on our side we will only get stronger. We are called to bear good fruit for the Lord, but how can we if we burn down our fields in spite of our enemies? One vine dedicated to the Lord is worth more than a hundred vineyards tended for the world . And however little my vote may be, I know it will be cast for good.

John Médaille Sunday, October 26, 2008 at 9:52:00 PM CDT  

Lady G. Alas, Catholic identity in this country isn't that strong. It would have to overcome media indifference. If there was not a media control limited to two parties, a third party would collect a substantial amount of the vote, but that won't happen.

As you say, the lesser of two evil--of of four--is still evil. But living in the world requires these kinds of choices. "Man was made to serve God in the labyrinth of his mind," as Robert Bolt has Thomas Moore saying. I imagine the Chancellor of England had many occasions to look the other way, until one occasion when you couldn't look away.

But then, I shouldn't totally blame the media, or the money, or the Liberals, or anything else. The anti-abortion movement itself is to blame for its own limitations.

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