Am I a RINO?
Full disclosure: I loathe the term “Republican in Name Only (RINO).” In my experience this term is generally used to describe any Republican who disagrees with the complainer on any given topic. Social-issues conservatives use it to describe libertarians, defense hawks use it to describe non-interventionists, and fiscal hawks use it to describe Bushian “compassionate conservatives.”
It’s not that some of us – indeed, all of us – are not sometimes justifiably subject to criticism. It’s just that this term, RINO, has been battered around so much that it’s lost all meaning. It’s now the intellectual equivalent of shouting “TROLL!” on an internet message board. It doesn’t mean anything; it doesn’t draw any valuable distinction; it’s just a whine, an ad hominem with no significance – a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
And, I’ll admit, part of my irritation with this term stems from having had it applied to myself, on more than one occasion. Why? Because I dare to think for myself, and depart from what some folks consider Republican orthodoxy.
I’m an atheist. There’s an old saw that states “if a conservative is an atheist, he doesn’t go to church. If a liberal is an atheist, he tries to get any mention of religion removed from public life.” I’m perfectly happy if other folks are religious, and it brings them peace, solace and a sense of well-being. I don’t share their beliefs but that doesn’t mean their beliefs are without value – to them. I say “Merry Christmas.” Why? Because that’s the name of the holiday. I am probably more irritated with activist leftie atheists than Christians are, because I get tarred with the same broad brush that the lefties are hit with in reply.
And so to many Christian conservatives I’ve encountered, my atheism renders me a suspicious character – maybe a RINO.
I’m a (small-l) libertarian on most social and legal issues. I think the War on Drugs has been an unmitigated disaster and should be ended. I think the War on Poverty has been an unmitigated disaster and should be ended. I think the Imperial Federal government should get the hell out of things like education, commerce, child care and health insurance. I don’t see anywhere in the Constitution that allows the Imperial Federal government to intervene in people’s personal decisions unless those decisions cause harm to someone else.
So to many establishment-type and law-and-order conservatives I’ve encountered, my libertarian streak renders me a suspicious character – maybe a RINO.
I have a strong science background. I don’t “believe” in evolution; belief implies acceptance without evidence. There is plenty of evidence. In fact there are – literally – tons of evidence. I accept biological evolution, intellectually, as the best explanation of the present diversity of life on Earth, based on an examination of the (tremendous amounts of) evidence, evidence that includes varied fields such as genetics, zoology and paleontology. I understand climate change – that is, I understand that Earth’s climate has changed continually, cyclically, through most of the planet’s 4.55 billion year history, and that it will go on changing, whether Western civilization cripples itself to appease a few hysterics or not. And I understand that the Earth is 4.55 billion years old. As liberal icon Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously said(and he was, in this case, correct) people are entitled to their own opinions, but not there own facts. As an Objectivist, I base my decisions and opinions on facts.
So to many evangelical Bible-believing conservatives, my science background renders me a suspicious character – maybe a RINO.
And here’s the big one: I don’t think abortion should be illegal, within limits. Those limits? I think limiting late-term abortions is reasonable, especially as the father of a 30-week preemie who is now a college student and a 2nd degree black belt. And I think parental rights for minors trumps everything else – when my kids were minors, they couldn’t have a tooth pulled without parental consent, I’ll be damned if an invasive procedure should be exempt. And finally, I object to public funding for abortions – again, not for moral reasons, but for economic ones. The taxpayers are not responsible for people’s poor decisions; an abortion is an elective procedure, and should no more be done on the taxpayer dime than should a nose job. But outside of those narrow exemptions, I think abortion should be legal and safe.
I think Roe V. Wade was bad constitutionally, as I think it intruded unreasonably on the principle of federalism – but my criticism of that finding is constitutional, not moral. I also think things like this are appropriately handled at the state, not the Imperial Federal level. But I also don’t think government at any level should be making blanket legislation regarding medical decisions. And the moment you start carving out exceptions for every different circumstance, you eventually end up with – the IRS.
So to many pro-life conservatives, my libertine stance on abortion renders me a suspicious character – maybe a RINO.
On the plus side for almost everyone in the Republican Party, I’ve been a registered Republican and a reliable GOP voter since 1979. I’m a Life Member of the NRA and a long-time (40 years) Second Amendment activist (probably something of an understatement there.)
I wrote a book on the antics of hysterical (and almost universally left-wing) animal rights kooks. I think, and regularly write, that the three great, transcendent crises the United States faces today are the runaway Imperial debt, the unconstitutional ballooning of the Imperial Federal government and the rise of radical, fundamentalist Islam.
But, as I said earlier, the term RINO is all too often used to describe any Republican that the complainer disagrees with on any given issue. And I’ve had it applied to me, by one or two (hundred) folks, because they differ from me on one or more of the above issues.
That’s far too broad – and ridiculous – a brush.
A long time ago Ben Franklin quipped “We must all hang together, or we shall most assuredly hang separately.” We of the political Right need to learn from him. We need to remember that someone who disagrees with us 20% of the time agrees with us 80% of the time.
We’ll keep losing Presidential elections until we figure that out.