Who are the Real RINOs?

Editors’ Note: Editorial reposted from the Roanoke Times, May 13, 2021.  The morphology (study of the form of things) of the GOP across a few decades provides a more recognizable view of the present.

Former President Donald Trump recently called the Republican governor of Arkansas a “RINO” — “Republican in name only” — because he disagreed with something that Asa Hutchinson had done.

Hutchinson joins a long list of Republicans whom Trump has branded as “RINOs” and an even longer list of other Republicans who have been called that.

Former Rep. Denver Riggleman of Nelson County got called that, even though he was endorsed by Trump (but did officiate at a same-sex wedding, which proved politically troublesome with 5th District Republicans who refused to renominate him).

Wyoming’s Liz Cheney has definitely been called RINO. As we comb through our archives, we find lots of Republicans who have been accused of being “Republicans in name only.”

It’s a rather astonishing list, actually. Former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling says he’s been called a RINO.

In 2018, a letter-writer to The Roanoke Times called then-Rep. Bob Goodlatte a RINO.

The year before, another letter-writer said that all five Republican members of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors were RINOs.

In the recent contest for the Republican nomination for governor, it seems just about all the leading candidates were called a RINO at some point — with the possible exception of Amanda Chase.

Taken at face value (something we only do to prove a point), these are serious charges. It’s fashionable for some to say that there’s “not a dime’s worth of difference” between the two parties, and when it comes to their capacity for disappointment and venality, that’s certainly true.

But there are some pretty definite ideological difference between the two parties, so if someone is being accused of not being a “real” Republican, that raises some pretty big questions.

What is a real Republican? And who gets to decide who’s real and who’s not?

Such as: What is a real Republican? And who gets to decide who’s real and who’s not?

Conveniently, the party itself from time to time has formally declared what it believes, so we have a yardstick against which to measure who is fully in line with party doctrine and who isn’t.
Now, we all know that parties evolve over time — at one time Southern Democrats were pro-slavery — so which version of a party should we be going by?

Again, we have a ready guide. A few years ago, in response to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, the pollster Ipsos ask Americans which decade they felt was the greatest.

Among Republicans, one of the most popular decades cited was the 1950s — a decade when they controlled both the presidency and, for a time, Congress, as well. So let’s use Republican Party platforms from the 1950s (and one from 1960, which still reflected a lot of ‘50s values) as a test.

In 1956, Republicans declared they believed in “an immigration policy which is in keeping with the traditions of America in providing a haven for oppressed peoples, and which is based on equality of treatment, freedom from implications of discrimination between racial, nationality and religious groups.”

In 1960, Republicans went further. “Immigration has historically been a great factor in the growth of the United States, not only in numbers but in the enrichment of ideas that immigrants have brought with them,” the party resolved.

Now, though, the party complained that “immigration has been reduced to the point where it does not provide the stimulus to growth that it should, nor are we fulfilling our obligation as a haven for the oppressed. Republican conscience and Republican policy require that: The annual number of immigrants we accept be at least doubled.” That was the platform that Richard Nixon ran on.

Clearly, then, it’s Trump who is the “Republican in name only” for so severely restricting immigration during his term.
Clearly, then, it’s Trump who is the “Republican in name only” for so severely restricting immigration during his term.
To be in keeping with their party’s heritage, Reps. Bob Good, R-Campbell, and Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, should be leading the charge for more immigration.

After all, their districts have seen the least economic growth, and the great population declines, of any congressional districts in Virginia. Immigration would help fix the latter and help fuel the former; that was the Republican position in the ‘50s. If it’s not now, who is being “Republican in name only”?

In 1953, the new Republican majority in Congress passed legislation to expand the admission of refugees, particularly from countries that were specifically restricted by previous laws.

The Refugee Relief Act of 1953 was an emergency measure, designed to deal with the migrations set off by the end of World War II and the fall of the Iron Curtain. It expired in 1956.

That year the Republican platform gave its “wholehearted support” to extending the law — and thus admitting even more refugees. Trump then must have defied Republican principles by reducing the number of refugees admitted; Republicans today ought to be demanding Biden increase the refugee ceiling and apply it to those fleeing political instability in Latin America.

Republicans were the first to call for statehood for Puerto Rico, describing that as a “logical aspiration” in their 1940 platform. They declared themselves in favor of “eventual statehood” in 1952 and again in 1960.
For that matter the platform that Trump ran on in 2016 declared Republicans in favor of Puerto Rican statehood. We understand why Republicans today are opposed to statehood for the District of Columbia, but historically many states have been admitted in pairs — one Democratic, one Republican.

Republicans today probably don’t believe in many or even any of these things. Parties, like the people who comprise them, have a right to change their minds. But what, then, does it mean to be a Republican in name only?

Why aren’t today’s Republicans pushing more forcefully for Puerto Rican statehood as a counterbalance? One Republican argument against Washington, D.C., statehood today is that it’s too small (although the district, with 712,816 people, has more population than Vermont and Wyoming). In 1960, Republicans declared themselves in favor of “eventual statehood” for the Virgin Islands, then home to just 32,500 people.

Republicans today probably don’t believe in many or even any of these things. Parties, like the people who comprise them, have a right to change their minds. But what, then, does it mean to be a Republican in name only?

 



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