In recent years, many conservatives have blamed RINOs – Republicans in name only – for the recent Republican failures at the polls as well as for the failure of the GOP to stop the explosive growth in government. The use of RINOs as a target and scapegoat is not new and predates the advent of the Tea Party. But are RINOs really to blame for Republican Party’s woes and would the party be better off if RINOs were kicked out?
In 2005, four years before Barack Obama became president and sparked the Tea Party movement, Human Events published a list of that year’s top ten most wanted RINOs. Where are these RINOs today? Have they been replaced by Tea Party inspired conservatives or are they still subverting the Republican Party from within?
The first RINO on the list is Lincoln Chafee, at the time a senator from Rhode Island. Chafee lost his seat to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in 2006. He left the GOP a year later according to Ballotpedia and was elected governor of Rhode Island as an independent in 2010. He became a Democrat in 2013.
Next is Olympia Snowe, a senator from Maine. Snowe retired from the Senate in 2012 and was replaced by Angus King, an independent who consistently votes with the Democrats. Since her retirement, Snowe started Olympia’s List, a website that promotes candidates who “follow the principles of consensus-building.”
Arlen Specter, the next RINO on the list, is infamous in conservative circles. Specter left the Republican Party in 2009 to become a Democrat. He lost the 2010 Democratic Senate nomination to Joe Sestak, who then lost the general election to Republican Pat Toomey. Arlen Specter died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2012. Since taking office, Senator Toomey has scored 100 percent from the American Conservative Union.
Susan Collins, also a senator from Maine, is number four. Collins is still serving in the Senate as a Republican and faces reelection in 2014. Her voting record makes her the most liberal Republican in the Senate according to the American Conservative Union, but she remains to the right of most Democrats.
Connecticut Rep. Chris Shays was replaced by Democrat Jim Himes after the 2008 elections. In 2010, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Joe Lieberman’s Senate seat. He lost that primary to Linda McMahon, who in turn lost the general election to Richard Blumenthal, a far left Democrat.
Gov. George Pataki of New York was the next most wanted RINO. Pataki was succeeded by three consecutive Democrats, Eliot Spitzer, David Paterson, and Andrew Cuomo, when he left the governorship in 2006. Cuomo was instrumental in passing strict new gun control laws after the Sandy Hook mass murder as well as introducing same sex marriage into the Empire State.
Rep. Sherwood Boehlert of New York retired in 2006. His congressional district in the Utica area is now represented by Republican Richard Hanna, a moderate with a 52 percent lifetime score from the American Conservative Union.
The next name on the list, Mitt Romney, is also well known to Republicans. In 2005, Romney was governor of Massachusetts. Human Events singled him out for his support of gun control and civil unions. Unmentioned was his namesake health care program, Romneycare. Romney declined to run for reelection and was succeeded by Democrat Deval Patrick, whose expansion of Romneycare significantly drove up costs and who is staunchly in favor of strict new gun controls.
At number nine is Mike Castle, at the time the sole congressman from Delaware. In 2010, Castle ran for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat vacated by Vice President Joe Biden. Castle lost the nomination to Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell, who subsequently lost the general election to another liberal Democrat, Chris Coons. O’Donnell is perhaps best remembered for her declaration in a campaign ad that “I am not a witch.”
In the final analysis, the majority of the 2005 RINOs were replaced by more liberal representatives. Five eventually lost to Democrats and one was replaced by a leftist independent. Another lost a primary to a more conservative candidate who lost the general election to a Democrat. One was replaced by another moderate Republican. With one 2005 RINO still serving, only one was replaced by a more conservative official.
The important thing to learn may be that when a state’s voters elect a moderate, it is because that is what they feel is best for their state. Staunch conservatives are not likely to get elected in New York and Maine. If a moderate Republican there is to be replaced, the odds are good that it will be with a liberal Democrat. Those who think that moderate Republicans are as bad as or worse than Democrats need look no further than Obamacare. When the Affordable Care Act was passed, not a single Republican in either the House or the Senate voted for it. Not even the RINOs. Ninety percent of Democrats did.
NOTE: The quest for political purity is no longer limited to the Republican Party. James Taranto of the Wall St. Journal recently described how Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos celebrated the fact that many moderate Democrats had been evicted from Congress as well. Although Moulitsas did not use the term “DINO,” he cited ten Democratic moderates from 2004 and celebrated the fact that eight are no longer in office. The remaining two Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) are likely to lose this November. The results of this cleansing were similar to that of Republican RINOs. The majority of moderate DINOs were replaced by members of the other party. Only Joe Lieberman (Ct.) was replaced by a more liberal senator.