Ten Miles Square


July 16, 2012 11:17 AM Why There there no DINOs?

By Hans Noel

The Tea Party, and the conservative movement more broadly long before it, has tried to take ownership of the Republican Party. When a member of Congress is insufficiently conservative, the movement targets them, perhaps through primaries. They call these candidates “RINO’s” or “Republicans in Name Only.” While there is diversity within the Republican Party on many issues, it’s clear that to the conservative base, being Republican means being conservative.

The movement has not qualms about targeting Republicans for ideological deviation. It’s the exception to Reagan’s 11th Commandment. The movement pays close attention to votes in Congress. And there is some evidence that the movement has been successful in electing like-minded legislators, and in keeping them in line.

The modern progressive movement also has no qualms about criticizing Democrats for too much compromise. Obama has almost as many critics from the left as from the right, notably on Obamacare (too watered down) and foreign policy (unmanned drones).

But liberals/progressives/the left do not take ownership of the Democratic Party. They seem to recognize that the Democratic Party is the party that they should like, but they put the onus on the party to come to them. Its the Democrats’ fault because they have no spine. The Tea Party never lamented that the Republicans didn’t have a backbone. The Tea Party decided it was the party’s backbone. The Tea Party didn’t wait for the Republicans to come to them. They put a rope around the party and pulled.

If there is any truth to the characterization that polarization today is mostly a consequence of the Republicans moving to the right, this must be a big part of the explanation. There is a movement invested in moving the Republicans, while the equivalent movement on the left, which I think it just as vibrant, seems like it has given up on moving the Democrats.


[Cross-posted at The Mischiefs of Faction]

Hans Noel is an assistant professor of government at Georgetown University.


  • Bill Peterson on July 16, 2012 1:15 PM:

    No DINOs?
    You are unaware of Sen. Diane Feinstein?

  • James E. Powell on July 16, 2012 3:24 PM:

    To understand the phrase "Democrat in name only" or DINO we first have to decide what a Democrat is. I think that is a very tough question.

    If we look at the Democratic elected officials who are clustered around the ideological mean, who do we find there? Harry Reid? Dick Durbin? Nancy Pelosi? Whatever you can say about them, they are not left in any sense of the word as I use it.

    The people who vote for Democrats range much further to the left than do the elected officials. There are a number of voters, though I don't know if anyone has counted them, who vote for Democrats only because they are not going to vote for Republicans. I'm pretty much like that and I don't think I'm alone.

    So, whereas a RINO is a Republican who deviates from the ideological mean of the party, the elected officials who are called DINOs by progressive are pretty close to the ideological mean of their party.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 16, 2012 4:08 PM:

    Plenty of people talk about DINOs, but more to the point, why is there no concerted effort to use primaries to get them out of the party? Today's Democrats are more pragmatic and less ideological than their GOP opponents. They rightly see that nominating their own Sharron Angle or Christine O'Donnell is just a good way to lose a seat.

    One key exception was Ned Lamont. The Lamont nomination probably drove Shameless Joe closer to the Republican camp, but Joe has always been more of a corporate whore than a Dem anyway. Eliminating him would have been great and was well worth the risk.

  • Anonymous on July 16, 2012 7:41 PM:

    Lieberman is a good example, also Blanche Lincoln. The Republicans rescued Joe, but Blanche sank.

  • POed Lib on July 17, 2012 8:22 AM:

    There are many DINOs. They are called Blue Dogs, and most of them lost in 2010.

  • SadOldVet on July 17, 2012 9:34 AM:

    No DINOs??? Surely you jest!

    Take a role call of the Dumbocraps in the U.S. Senate and tell me with a straight face that their are no DINOs.

    Plus, everyone ever associated with the DLC will forever be branded (by me) as a DLC/DINO/Repuke-Like Clintonista fool, a sell-out of progressives, and a DINO. Sorry, Ed Kilgore, you own the label forever.