It used to be that to be labeled a RINO (Republican in name only), you literally had to ask for it.
Who knows why the RINO accusation used to be a rare thing? Maybe it was because the conservative movement was so small that those of us who wore the conservative label proudly, were welcomed with open arms?
... Or maybe it was because few people wanted to pretend to be a conservative, in the days when being conservative wasn't "cool"?
(Sure, there were always RINO’s -- we all knew Arlen Specter and Lincoln Chafee were RINO’s – they didn’t pretend to be otherwise.)
But it used to be that if you believed in God, guns, and low taxes that was pretty much the litmus test. Okay, I'm over-simplifying, but you get the idea...
Things aren't quite so simple any more. Today – perhaps because being conservative has been so in vogue that dilettantes and poseurs have infiltrated our ranks – or perhaps merely because the world has changed – more and more conservatives (you know, the kind who believe in God, guns, and low taxes) are being labeled “RINO’s”.
A prime example of this phenomenon is Lori Waters, a conservative who served as Executive Director of the conservative group, Eagle Forum, for four years. This past week, Waters (the incumbent) fought off a Republican challenge for Loudoun County supervisor. According to the Washington Post:
For months, she has been booed at Republican committee meetings. Party insiders have promised in internal e-mails to ostracize her. During a discussion on limiting development in rural western Loudoun last year, three committee members sat in the audience wearing safari hats and peering at her through binoculars.
They said they were hunting RINOs: Republicans in Name Only.
Now, if someone who worked at Eagle Forum for four years has to prove her conservative bona fides, as the Good Book says, "Who then can be saved?"
The conservative movement may not be a big tent, per se, but it has been big enough to fit conservative icons like Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley, even though they disagreed on the Panama Canal, for instance.
Were there a litmus test, Mr. Buckley might have found himself being accused of being, gulp, a RINO. (Of course, this is just one example of the many issues that good conservatives have found themselves disagreeing on …)
To remain an effective movement, conservatives must walk a fine line; to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, we need to represent, “bold colors, not pale pastels.”
But at the same time, there is a danger in becoming so paranoid that we purge friends who don’t always toe the movement orthodoxy...