RINOs, DINOs, MAGAs
This morning someone, presumably someone who had just read this post about Doug Schoen sent me a message that my "journalism" would be better served if I stopped insulting people. That reminded me that I left out an important word when I published the post: DINO. Democrats don't use the word "DINO" as much as Republicans-- especially now-- use the word "RINO." Although RINO has taken on a new meaning.
Republican In Name Only has been transmogrified into a description of anyone refusing to recognize the supreme authority of Señor Trumpanzee, who considers the Republican Party a wholly-owned subsidiary of his. Earlier today we looked at how conservative Liz Cheney is, but in the new twisted definition of "RINO," it's almost as though the term was invented to describe her. Today, on Meet the Press, she said "I can tell you I have not learned a single thing since I have been on this committee that has made me less concerned or less worried about the gravity of the situation and the actions that President Trump took and also refused to take while the attack was underway."
In Lingua Trumpanzee that is RINOism. That she was boasting to Chuck Todd that the select committee is considering recommending enhanced criminal penalties for the "kind of supreme dereliction of duty that you saw with President Trump," would-- in Trump world also be considered treason, not just treason against Trump-- and thereby the GOP-- but treason against America, since Trump considers the country (or at least the New Confederacy) "his" as much as he considers the Republican Party his.
Early this morning, David Siders dealt with the evolving definition of "RINO" for Politico readers since it has become "the defining smear of the 2022 primary season... Trump’s frequent use of the term has given it a new life, weaponizing a description once largely reserved for party moderates and turning it into a slur to be avoided at all costs."
The mushrooming of the insult is measurable. In 2018, during the last midterm election, RINO barely registered as a mention in TV ads, according to an analysis compiled for Politico by the ad tracking firm AdImpact. But so far in 2022, candidates have already spent more than $4 million on TV ads employing RINO as an attack, in races ranging from House and Senate contests to state House races.
That doesn’t include the raft of RINO-focused appeals appearing on social media and in mailers-- or the “RINO Hunter” T-shirts worn by a group of far-right Republicans at a local GOP meeting in California’s Orange County earlier this year, with crosshairs in place of the “O.”
“It’s RINO season, and there’s no bag limit!” Nick Taurus, a long-shot House candidate, said on Twitter, where he posted a photo of the group.
...In Pennsylvania, a super PAC working to undermine Mehmet Oz’s conservative credentials in that state’s Senate primary ran TV ads depicting him crouching behind a rhinoceros. Just last week, after Trump suggested he may reconsider his endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks in the Alabama Senate primary, a desperate Brooks dropped a TV ad singing straight from Trump’s songbook. He was “tired,” he said, “of debt junkie, weak-kneed, open-border RINOs who sell out our conservative values.”
For the MAGA set, the term has become a useful shorthand to refer to the establishment. It’s effective in part, said Jim McLaughlin, a veteran Republican pollster, because it’s a phrase that “comes out of the mouths of the voters, that comes out of the mouths of the base.” There is a sense of familiarity that is reinforced when a candidate insults “squishy” Republicans just like they do.
Reminding base voters of the stakes of the primaries-- the “potential elimination of many, many RINOs”-- said Tom Tancredo, a former Republican congressman from Colorado, “helps fuel the fire.”
While the RINO term has been employed in some form for more than 100 years, its meaning has shifted over time. In previous decades, a Republican risked getting tagged as a RINO for supporting tax increases, gun control or abortion rights. Today, in a reflection of the GOP’s murkier ideological grounding in the Trump era, it’s a term reserved almost exclusively for lack of fealty to Trump.
The phrase’s significance, said Mike Madrid, a Republican strategist who was a co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, is in its ability to “enforce discipline among the tribe.”
“What used to be about ideology is now about loyalty,” Madrid said. “The party no longer has orthodoxy, so now it’s, ‘You’re not loyal.’”
The evidence of that is explicit. On ads on Facebook last year, one right-wing PAC spent heavily blistering Republicans who voted to impeach Trump or to investigate the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, labeling them “RINO turncoats” or “RINO traitors”-- even “RINO communist traitors.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has begun running social media messages asking voters to choose “RINO Establishment vs. Trump”-- juxtaposing an image of him and Trump against one of George P. Bush and his father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Claire Wirth, a Republican running to unseat Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), is calling out “RINO Republicans” in a video, suggesting Massie’s crime is that he “turned his back on President Trump.”
The use of RINO has become so widespread that it can now include almost any Republican, including some of the most conservative stalwarts in the party. During just the past six months, the list of Republicans Trump has branded with the term includes Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and “RINO Congressman Peter Meijer.” “Loser Liz Cheney” is a Republican-In-Name-Only. So is Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former President George W. Bush and the entire Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Rejection of Trump’s false claims of election fraud-- or worse, a vote to impeach the former president-- are common threads among those targeted by the former president for the insult.
On Friday, an independent expenditure committee supporting former Sen. David Perdue, Trump’s preferred candidate in the Georgia gubernatorial primary, began airing an ad featuring Trump calling Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp a “RINO governor.”
The term is now so ubiquitous, said James Dickey, the former chair of the Texas Republican Party, that it’s suffering from overuse.
“When a candidate uses that today against someone, I read that as a sign of desperation, that they don’t have the ability or the willingness to specify what they have a problem with, so they’re trying to just engender a sense that their opponent is not committed,” he said.
The impact, Dickey said, is “diminishing rapidly.”
It’s true that some uses of the term are more effective than others. Rory McShane, a Republican strategist, has tested RINO as an attack with Republican primary voters and found the line effective, but only when the opponent’s RINO-like behavior was explained-- whether on immigration, gun control or any other issue.
“You can’t just say this person is a RINO. Republican primary voters are anesthetized to that,” he said. “I think it’s become cliché. You have to explain how they’ve betrayed the conservative movement.”
Another Republican strategist who has poll-tested the effectiveness of RINO messaging came to a similar conclusion. He also found “Liz Cheney Republican” may be just as effective for a stand-in when RINO gets old.
For some Republicans, it already is. Inglis, a victim of the tea party wave in 2010, said he used to run in fear of being branded a RINO.
“It’s terribly effective,” he said. “It’s a claim of apostasy, it’s a claim of Benedict Arnold. You’re a traitor to the team, and that’s a powerful emotion.”
But the term is also, plainly, an exclusionary one. In the long term, said Inglis, it’s not a winning strategy to “have a party where we figure out who to kick out.”
As Trump and others continue to “throw people out of the party,” he said, “maybe they’re going to whittle it down to the point where all the folks who have had an attempt on their party membership rise up and say, ‘Wait a minute, maybe you’re the Republican-In-Name-Only.’”
If that happens, it likely won’t be soon. But the term may still wear out. In Wyoming, where the RINO sticker has been plastered on Cheney more consistently than almost anywhere else, Richard George, a former Republican National Committee member from the state, said he won’t vote for her reelection because of her handling of the Trump impeachment and its aftermath-- not because her ideology is suspect.
Cheney is a “pretty conservative person,” he said, “and I won’t say she’s a RINO.”
“One of the biggest problems we have in the Republican Party,” George said, “is if you have an ultra-right conservative who has a slight disagreement with another Republican, it doesn’t matter if they’re in the same lane 90 percent of the time or 50 percent of the time, usually the term RINO gets thrown out there.”
Meanwhile, DINO is a term with little salience and isn't being used in any Democratic primaries as far as I've seen. Blue America is running a Facebook ad right now, exposing Erica Smith's opponent, Don Davis, as an anti-Choice, anti-Medicaid expansion DINO, but without even ever using the word. Watch:
Blue Dogs and New Dems, with their conservative anti-New Deal policy agendas, define DINO. This morning, Orange County progressive congressional candidate Mike Ortega, who's running for the seat occupied by reactionary Blue Dog Lou Correa told me that "For decades, identifying as a Democrat meant that you were fighting for kitchen table issues for working people, and railing against the corporate power that stood in the way. In the past 30+ years, however, we’ve been told by Democrats that the health and growth of Wall St. equates to progress for working people. These old school Democrats, like my opponent Lou Correa, are no longer 'Democrats'-- aligned with the proponents of the New Deal or union power. They’re aligned with the money they’ve taken from corporations and the ultra-wealthy. They tell themselves it’s necessary to defeat Republicans-- but they’ve become the very enemy they’ve sworn to protect us from. That’s why we need this new generation of progressives to defeat this old mentality. That’s why Lou Correa has to go-- he’s become a millionaire in his 25 years in public office."
Washington progressive Jason Call: "For me, what distinguishes a 'good Democrat' and a DINO is pretty simple. The challenge is who gets to drive the narrative. For the last 30 years, Democratic Party politics have steered away from social supports for the underclass and towards corporate welfare for the ownership class. It's not hyperbole to say that every Democratic administration since 1992 has been more conservative than Richard Nixon. Pew Research released an analysis on March 10 that showed while Congressional Republicans have veered sharply to the right, the comparative move to the left among Congressional Democrats has been minimal. For the most part, bipartisanship consensus is reached when conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans are able to forge a deal, and it usually means that progressive policies get axed. But what about the actual policies the Democratic Party says it believes in-- the platform and resolutions? For me, this is where the DINOs are identified. Platform and resolutions are largely determined by rank and file Democrats in their state parties. As a Washington State Democrats Central Committee member for four years (2017-2020), I did a lot of work with progressives (and even some more moderate Democrats) to rewrite our state platform - and the truth that many voting Democrats locally really need to see is that the corporate incumbent in WA-02, Rick Larsen, is not a 'good Democrat.' His voting record over 22 years is way out of step with the party platform. In fact, according to the American Conservative Union (the folks who host CPAC), he's the 35th most conservative sitting Democrat in terms of voting record in alignment with their preferences. We have all of these misaligned priorities documented on the Rick's Receipts page of my campaign website. Does this make Rick Larsen a DINO, or has the Democratic Party simply become that conservative? Well, the Pew research says the party has moved to the left, albeit fractionally. As I've said over the last 17 years of being his constituent, Rick Larsen is a moderate Republican."
Former state Senator Vincent Fort is taking on Blue Dog David Scott in the inner suburbs of Atlanta. This morning he reminded me that "While the concept of being a big tent party is appealing to some, the line must be drawn when it comes to endorsing and donating to Republicans; voting for tax cuts for the rich: collaborating with predatory lenders; and funneling 100s of thousands of dollars to ones family and business as David Scott has done, the term DINO is probably not enough. Scott is the Joe Manchin of Georgia." Clicking on that thermometer on the left will make it easy to contribute to Sen. Fort's campaign or the campaign or any of teh progressive Democrats mentioned in this post.
San Fernando Valley progressive Shervin Aazami: "The old guard of the Democratic Party, which Brad Sherman is a part of, feeds us lip service about how they’re fighting for the working class and struggling Americans, while they take legal bribes from corporate oligarchs. In his 26 years in office, Sherman has enacted two bills, both of them under Republican administrations. He has taken over $5 million from Wall Street firms and real estate developers. I passed more bills in 2 years as an advocate on Capitol Hill than Sherman has in 26 years as a legislator."