Political Animal


July 10, 2012 2:24 PM Everybody But Me’s a RINO

By Ed Kilgore

One of the odder phenomena of contemporary political discourse is the regular denial by Republicans that their party has significantly moved to the right in the last few years. No! they insist, it’s Democrats who’ve moved left! (you know, by embracing what used to be Republican policy positions like a a private-sector based system for expanding health insurance via an individual mandate, and a market-based cap-and-trade system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions). You’d think self-conscious conservatives would be a little louder and prouder of their victory over the moderate Republicans of yore (a victory confirmed by the fact that virtually no Republican pol would dare self-identify as “moderate”).

This act of deception finds its most definitive refutation in Republican primaries, where candidates call themselves “conservatives” or “true conservatives” or “constitutional conservatives” with almost every breath, while describing opponents as though they were Jacob Javits reincarnated. Check out this snippet from Dave Weigel about the reaction to the Supreme Court decision on ACA from the two GOP candidates running for the Senate in Texas, which began with the observation that Ted Cruz used to talk about John Roberts as his favorite jurist:

When Roberts helped save “Obamacare,” Cruz immediately blasted the Court for having “abdicated its responsibility to safeguard the Constitution.” He didn’t mention Roberts by name, but he insisted that the decision was more proof that Republicans needed to reject Cruz’s opponent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. “My opponent is, by nature and by over a decade of political office, a conciliator. Now is not a time for conciliation.” Take that, Larry Tribe. Stuff it, Walter Dellinger.
Over to Dewhurst. Cruz has campaigned against him as a liberal sellout — on blogs, he’s become known as “Dewcrist.” Was he going to blow the chance to point out that Cruz’s ally had saved Obamacare? No. “Supreme Court Justice John Roberts,” said Dewhurst, “sold constitutional conservatives down the river.”

Maybe the point is that conservatives can’t admit they’ve taken over the GOP and driven it straight to Goldwater Country (the 1964 Goldwater, not the one who took to criticizing the Christian Right in his older years) because then it would be hard to describe it as a rat’s nest of RINOs that needs to be cleaned out by fill-in-the-blank.

Still, it’s odd. I recall from way, way back a runoff for Lieutenant Governor in Georgia between the famous ax-handle seggie Lester Maddox and a better-educated but still flamboyant right-wing demagogue named Peter Zack Geer. Each of the two race-baiters tried to label each other an “extremist” (Geer won, though Maddox went on to become Governor later after edging out some guy named Jimmy Carter for a runoff spot). Were they around today and running in a Republican primary, I imagine Maddox and Geer would be calling each other “sellouts” and “conciliators.” The wind is blowing in just one direction in the contemporary Republican Party, and it’s not towards the Left Coast.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on July 10, 2012 2:47 PM:

    I have an idea of how we can stop them from moving even further right.

    Look, they don't believe that the universe is billions of years old, or that the Earth revolves around the Sun, or that people evolved from apes, or much of science, or in global warming, right?

    Well, how about we tell them that the Earth is flat?

    And that they're at the right edge, where there are monsters and dragons that will devour them.

    Never mind.
    They'll either start saying the world is round, just to be on the opposite side of the "argument," or they'll just start trying to shove everyone over first.

    And we all know that the Earth ain't flat - Conservatives heads are.

    Oh well, it was an idea...

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 10, 2012 3:06 PM:

    It's not just the wingnut politicians claiming Dems have moved left. This is FACT amongst the riff-raff Useful Idiot wingnut population, too. How could it not be with the recent proliferation of Socialist running rampant since the election of the Kenyan Keynesian Socialist?

  • TeaPartyPointOfView on July 10, 2012 3:12 PM:

    Thank god there are still heros around who are willing to stand up to the liberals, even those who pretend to be real republicans.

    Paul LePage
    Richard Murdock
    Rick Scott
    Michele Bachmann
    Steve King
    Louie Gomert
    plus many, many more...

    Now, it would really make my day if some of them would denounce that RINO from Alaska Sarah Palin.

  • Zorro on July 10, 2012 3:13 PM:

    I had a self-described "traditional liberal" (aka Tea Party conservative) tell me that President Eisenhower was a RINO. Ditto President Nixon. I tried to explain to him that holding a 1950s or 1970s President to standards of the 2010s is as absurd as saying that the Founding Fathers were reactionaries b/c they didn't favour full female equality. But, as with most conservatives these days, he was blessedly immune to the manifest dangers of logic.


  • joel hanes on July 10, 2012 3:47 PM:

    The 2012 GOP is far, far to the right of "1964 Goldwater country".

    They're getting close to 1938 Charles Lindberg/Irenee Dupont/Francisco Franco country.

  • dp on July 10, 2012 3:53 PM:

    If conservatives ever admitted they were in control, then they'd be stuck with the responsibility for the inevitable disasters that would ensue.

  • LaFollette Progressive on July 10, 2012 3:55 PM:

    "You’d think self-conscious conservatives would be a little louder and prouder of their victory over the moderate Republicans of yore..."

    Here's what you're missing: the perverse incentives of fundraising.

    It's the same reason why every political victory the NRA achieves drives them to demand ever-more-ridiculous policies (open carry in churches!) and monger ever-more-ludicrous fears about non-existent conspiracies to steal their guns. It's the same reason environmental groups never took credit for the substantial improvement in our air and water quality, but immediately pivoted to sounding whole new sets of alarms... some genuinely important (climate change), some less so.

    If your non-profit or political action group pats themselves on the back for achieving their goals, supporters will give them a nice round of applause and stop sending them money, preferring to send money to organizations that need it more.

    So to meet their fundraising goals, conservatives have to terrorize their donors with ever-more terrifying monsters. You can't just complain about a health insurance expansion (especially not one based on Republican policy papers)... you have to tell them it's a socialist/fascist/Muslim takeover of health care. You can't settle for purging incumbents who actually cut deals with Nancy Pelosi... you have to purge incumbents who once came within three feet of Pelosi without punching her in the face. Etc... etc... ad infinitum

  • Mimikatz on July 10, 2012 4:10 PM:

    It is hard to see how it emds, unlessmat some point the cognitive dissonance becomes too much to bear and the followers turn on their own leaders. This might happen with climate change, which seems to be accelerating way beyond the predictions of the 2007 IPCC Report. If the report next year is anything close to realistic, and things keep getting worse, it might cause some people to question denialism. OTOH they may just blame NE messengers as usual. In any event, the GOP is getting so divorced from reality it is hard not to think some kind of crash is just ahead.

  • Area Man on July 10, 2012 5:54 PM:

    Conservatism has been turned into a kind of Platonic ideal, something that can never be fully realized but represents everything good and holy. It is through this delusion that they avoid any accountability for anything that has gone wrong or will go wrong. All failures can be explained away by insufficient fealty to the cause.