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Friday, February 1, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

What’s a RINO?1 McCain is often accused of being such, and I am curious, especially to those in the audience who consider McCain a RINO what is it that makes him one.

What are the litmus tests for “conservatism” or for being a “true” Republican?

I have no agenda here-I am just curious as to what people think.

Update:: I am not the only one asking such questions.

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  1. And yes, I know it means “Republican in Name Only” []
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Filed under: 2008 Campaign, US Politics | |


  1. Is it me, or do I hear crickets?

    Comment by Chris Lawrence — Friday, February 1, 2008 @ 1:26 pm

  2. I’m interested, too….

    My guess would be that it’s because he’s the Maverick. Reps feel like they can’t trust him because he won’t fall in line; he’ll trade in party unity for sticking up for what he believes. That doesn’t make him a RINO, though. They just haven’t come up with a better word for what McCain is. Or maybe they have and consider “RINO” less inappropriate :)

    I would still like to hear a Rep/Con take…

    Comment by Sophie — Friday, February 1, 2008 @ 4:06 pm

  3. Yup, thar be crickets indeed.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, February 1, 2008 @ 5:27 pm

  4. […] I have no agenda here-I am just curious as to what people think. Go here to post a response. […]

    Pingback by Political Mavens » A Discussion Question for the Audience — Friday, February 1, 2008 @ 5:28 pm

  5. Ok, here you go:

    A true conservative is a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution, believes in fighting crime, and strengtening America’s competitiveness. They are strong on defense and are small government-minded.

    Comment by Ratoe — Friday, February 1, 2008 @ 5:38 pm

  6. I wanted to post earlier, but on this end I kept having technical difficulties.

    The Professor already knows this but there are a couple of aspects at play here. The first is that conservatives include people worried about fiscal/tax issues and (other) people worried about social issues. Somebody who is fiscally conservative but socially liberal will be a RINO to somebody who likes big government programs to encourage socially conservative policies (and vice versa, of course). And then there are the libertarians who think the Republican Party is the more likely to get results than the Libertarian Party.

    The second aspect is that every state/region that I’ve lived in has a different political center. A Californian Republican is probably to the left of a Southern Democrat. so of course Giuliani is a RINO anywhere west of New York.

    As for McCain: he’s apparently in the middle of the pack socially, and not all that conservative fiscally. He’s pro-life, but doesn’t think the southern border needs a fence (neither do I, for the record). Additionally, he’s compromised on several of the big battles. He’s a founding member of the Gang of Fourteen and put his name on McCain-Feingold (and now has the gall to complain that McCain-Feingold makes it hard to raise funds when faced with a rich opponent). I wouldn’t say he’s a RINO, but I don’t consider him all that conservative either.

    Comment by Max Lybbert — Friday, February 1, 2008 @ 9:09 pm

  7. A Republican is one who has values, based upon literal reading of the Constitution, the Mayflower Compact, and that mankind has unlimited volition.
    The Democrat Party, for more that 80 years, has been infiltrated by followers of Marxist/Lenninism. RINOS are in transition to “Democrat” values, such as the USSR (Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics), the NAZI Party (National German SOCIALIST Party) The Fascist Party (Italian for “Bundling” — the bundling together of Big Business with Big Government).
    My father was National Organizer for the Socialist Labor Party You can’t fool the Lone Ranger. I am he.

    Comment by Dick Campbell — Friday, February 1, 2008 @ 11:49 pm

  8. Before this started w/ McCain, I thought RINOS were the do nothing Congress that lost us the 06 election, but with the on set of the campaigns, it is my understanding that a RINO is anyone who does not agree with strict conservative values that the so called strict conservatives decide what is, and be willing to stomp your feet and take your ball and go home if someone does not agree completely with them..Oh wait!..I might be describing the Liberals..I am so confused!

    Comment by Max Terry — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 12:24 am

  9. Well, he seems to vote with the Democrats an awful lot of the time. Then, there’s the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which is certainly not a conservative Republican approach to campaign finance reform (which is probably unnecessary anyway). McCain’s stand on gun control is certainly not mainstream Republican. Nor is his stand on illegal immigration and Amnesty for illegal immigrants. You get the idea….

    Comment by Brooks Lyman — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 1:16 am

  10. John McCain is neither a RINO nor a Republican. He’s just another Politician who will say anything that his handlers tell him to say, just to get elected. That’s the Name of the Game nowadays. Travel around the country and tailor your speeches and your positions on the issues to the audience. Tell them what they want to hear. Then if enough of them vote for you, you can do whatever you want when you’re in office. IMO, not one of the current crop of candidates of either party stands out as being any different from the others. Whomever you vote for, it’s Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
    And BTW, I’m a Liberal Democrat from the Northeast who just subscribes to your website to see what the “other side” is saying.

    Comment by Richard Stark — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 5:27 am

  11. IMHO, a Republican is one who does not rely upon Government programs for any service[s] other than those dealing with national defense and the necessary ability of the USA to function as a nation. A Republican does not utilize Socialism/Marxism, i.e. government run programs such as Socialized Medicine, Socialized child care [Hitler was universally condemned for the latter program, called “Hitler Youth”], etc. etc. et al such as Obama/Clinton advocate in their “Tax and Spend” programs they term “Universal This and That”.

    Comment by Sheila Pickerill — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 7:06 am

  12. Your question requires comparison between “RINOs” and “true Republicans”. However, if any comparison is to identify likenesses and differences, a clearly defined basis for the comparison logically must be accepted by all who are interested in the comparison. (Try comparing the weight of two pieces of meat without a clearly defined and accepted by all parties concept of weight measurement). In contemporary US politics, what concept, principle, or idea is clearly defined and accepted by all who are interested in politics such that the concept, principle, or idea could serve as basis for comparison?

    Of course, such questions under such conditions make for more or less pleasant passage of time. But, when all is said and done, is anyone more knowledgeable? Is anyone any the wiser?

    Comment by tony camele — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 7:18 am

  13. I have read the comments and believe they are from Democrats that would love to have McCain nomitated. He is no better than Hillary, or Obama, and works with the Democrats against the Reagan Repubs. Anyone who would team up with Finegold to sponser campain silence and Ted(swimmer) Kennedy on Ammnesty is not a Republican PEROID. Also remember the Keating 5 and voting against all Bushes tax cuts because he beat him in SC for tellinf how John was lying about him. He should be the democrat nominee.

    Comment by Companydrunk — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 7:29 am

  14. I am a registered Democrat who has decided she will vote for McCain if Obama is the candidate. McCain doesn’t have Carter as an advisor. Obama does. Obamaq would make a lbetter clergy man than a politician. That way he can inspire people. Mc Cain is not afraid to make deals that would see this country move ahead. He knows what is happening on the international front. What do you think a man who is friends with Black Muslims and once was a Muslim is likely to do?

    For the record I can vote for Hillary even though I preferred Edwards or Kucinich.

    I don’t think the Republicans should worry if McCain gets the nomination. He’s a good person. He’s got the endorsement of a maverick Democrat.

    Comment by Phyllis — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 8:04 am

  15. So, here’s what the conservatives’ argument is here: If a Republican has ever demonstrated leadership and judgment independent of The Party Leadership, then (s)he is a RINO. Also, one is a RINO if one ever disagrees with the conservative who is making the judgment.

    Interesting how doing exactly what we elect Senators to do is a sin.

    Comment by Patrick — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 8:43 am

  16. IMHO a true conservative is one who cares enough about the freedom of the people to be a good leader and say no on many things. Conservatives should have a basic understanding of the principles of freedom; one has the right to make life choices and the responsibility to abide by the consequences of those choices, whether the consequences be good or bad. A true conservative in today’s parlance is merely the newspeak for what once was considered a “liberal” mindset; to allow people to go their own way and do their own thing as long as it does not impinge on the rights of other people. Seat belt laws are a perfect example of how far off the path we have strayed. I know people who consider themselves “conservatives” who believe protecting adults from themselves is not only right, but a requirement in order to show how much you care. And we will not even begin the argument over “same-sex marriage”. A true conservative doesn’t care.
    A good Republican is, in my mind, someone who understands that the government does not earn money, it takes money by force from the citizens and therefore should use fiscal discretion in everything they do. A good Republican understands that we need a strong military because there are people who want to destroy this nation. Class envy is not just a product of the USA. A good Republican understands that pork should be something you BBQ, not something that gouges the pocketbooks of the working men and women of America. Above all, a true Republican respects the idea that the Constitution of our country is a limit on the Government and not the people.
    So conservative and Republican are not always the same person, but they are certainly first cousins.
    John McCain matches none of the requirements set forth in my mind. Other than his stance on protecting us from enemies, foreign but not domestic, he is a raving “progressive” in conservative clothing. he is a politician, as posted above, and will say anything to get elected. I will probably vote Libertarian, even though I know it’s a vote cast for someone who will never hold the office. I’m sick of voting against candidates. I want to vote for someone I actually want in the Presidency.

    Comment by beckie in the heartland — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 8:59 am

  17. From a Mark Levin Article:
    Of course, it’s one thing to overlook one or two issues where a candidate seeking the Republican nomination as a conservative might depart from conservative orthodoxy. But in McCain’s case, adherence is the exception to the rule — McCain-Feingold (restrictions on political speech), McCain-Kennedy (amnesty for illegal aliens), McCain-Kennedy-Edwards (trial lawyers’ bill of rights), McCain-Lieberman (global warming legislation), Gang of 14 (obstructing change to the filibuster rule for judicial nominations), the Bush tax cuts, and so forth. This is a record any liberal Democrat would proudly run on. Are we to overlook this record when selecting a Republican nominee to carry our message in the general election?

    Comment by greg — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 10:42 am

  18. I address some of those issues here.

    The Gang of 14 as a big issue is odd, as the net result was that Bush got basically what he wanted.

    And it is clear that McCain’s stance on immigration is not as unpopular with GOP voters as many are making it out to be (a stance not unlike that of Bush, btw).

    And if one looks at the whole of his record over a long career, one finds that he could hardly run as a Liberal Democrat.

    I can understand not preferring McCain, but the notion that he is somehow outside the Republican Party is empirically not true.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 10:50 am

  19. And again, if McCain-Feingold was the worst of all legislative sins, why did Fred Thompson (who voted for McCain-Feingold) not receive a similar black mark? It makes no sense.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 10:50 am

  20. Brooks (#9): He may seem to vote with Dems a lot, by but actual numbers indicate a different story. See, the numbers cited in post linked in my comment above. His overall voting record during his career is quite Republican.

    What we are seeing here, in part, is why it is difficult for a Senator to be elected president. If one is in the legislature long enough, one is bound to vote for things that can be used as an argument against you.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  21. Companydrunk (#13):

    The point of my question was to hear how other people define the terms. If I gave my own definitions, it would obviate much of the point of the question.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 10:57 am

  22. I believe there are two types of Republicans - Rockefeller Republicans include both Bushes and McCain. Fiscally conservative, philosophically liberal.
    Reagan Republicans, I believe, combine fiscal conserevatism with philosophical conservatism. The government (nation, state, municipality) should do the minimum required (suggested?) by the Constitution to maintain sovereignty, protect the public against entities they are not large or organized enough to defend against (why we have armies, police departments, fire departments), maintain an infrastructure (some roads, FAA, FCC, FDA, SEC) and oppose suppression of civil rights (narrowly constructed),e.g., voting fraud, SEC violations. Other than that, they let the grand experiment unfold, believing that the nation (that is, the citizens combined) will meander down the road in the correct general direction; recognizing and correcting mistakes.

    Comment by Charles Carroll — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 11:49 am

  23. I think the branding of McCain as a “RINO” by some is simply a function of the currently exaggerated polarization of America. Ten years ago no one questioned his “Republicanism” and there isn’t a lot that has substantially changed about him in that time. It isn’t about McCain, it’s about the audience that is throwing the labels around.

    Not sure if Dr. Taylor got what he was looking for in these comments - but the comments are themselves a very interesting. It was pretty easy for me to pick out party affiliation in each comment before any was mentioned, and where it wasn’t, I’d be willing to bet my pension where the author falls.

    Comment by Captain D. — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 3:03 pm

  24. #17 and #22 nailed the picture. This isn’t about where McCain and the Republican Party are going, it’s about where true Conservatives are gonna go. The Dems have apparently decided to drive off the left side of the planet and the Establishment Republicans have decided to follow, pursuing some notion of accommodation to do……..what? And McCain has been leading the charge for a decade. Back when George Allen was still a player, I e-mailed him that a Clinton/McCain ticket wouldn’t surprise me, McCain wouldn’t threaten the Dems and even then, he had more in common with Hillary than his base. Rino? irrelevant. Get in touch with the base, we know where we need to go.

    Comment by Bob Flood — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 8:10 pm

  25. The problem with such logic is that if McCain is so radically out of touch with “the base” why is he about to win the nomination?

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 8:25 pm

  26. Good point, but not totally on the mark. McCain has not had a clear numerical majority in any of the contests; Romney is still in contention; McCain is the “darling of the left” and gets a freebie boost from the MSM and left wing pundits who are trying to call this show for us; Huckabee, staying in it while knowing his role will not progress past that of a spoiler, is probably a draw-down on the more conservative Romney (by the way-I’m not a Romney shill); the Republican Establishment is still behind the green curtain; the conservative base has not had sufficient time to react and flex in an organized way, since the Phoenix so quickly rose from the ash heap. I don’t think it’s time to hand over the keys, yet. But it sure is getting interesting, on both sides.

    Comment by Bob Flood — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 9:07 pm

  27. There is no doubt that the fragmented nature of the field has helped McCain. Still, the notion that what we are seeing is anything other than the process playing itself out in a normal way is difficult to defend. What would make it impossible for the base to react? What does that even mean? And the notion that there is some Republican Establishment pulling the string is ludicrous. The only way that elites have to manipulate the process would be via money and it isn’t as if McCain’s coffers have been overflowing.

    Plus, it seems to me that much of the so-called “Establishment” doesn’t like McCain. And how much more free media can a candidate get than Romney getting the talk radio crowd, which is listened to by “the base.”

    The notion that somehow McCain will win the nomination but not actually be the first choice of the party is simply incorrect. Indeed, the only way The Party writ large ever speaks is via the primary process. If that process produces an outcome that one doesn’t like, one has to reassess one’s own position vis-a-vis the party, not the other way around.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 9:56 pm

  28. When you receive the kind of endorsements from your Democrat opponents you must be a RINO!

    Remember this Americans, whenever a professional, political parasite or pundits endorse a candidate they expect pork barrell paybacks and/or a job in the administration if their candidate wins the election. Governor Scharzenegger’s endorsement of Steriod John McCain.

    Governor Huckabee: Rush said, “So he’s going to try to get the Huckabee vote with the global warming route and try to get the evangelicals”.
    McCain allows 1.5 Million Illegals to cross his borders each year. He says, ” I know how to secure the borders”. He cannot secure Arizona’s borders. How does he plan to secure America’s borders and keep us safe from murderers, rapists and thieves?

    Will Juan Hernnadez, become McCain’s DHS Secretary?

    Steriod John said, “I will build “the g*#damn fence if that’s what they want”.
    McCain’s Comprehensive Immigration Amnesty Bill will become law.
    Immigration is a MAJOR “Flip-Flop” of McCains. Illegal Mexican aliens send over $25 billion annually back to Mexico! Other illegals send $20 billion.

    An endorsement by Obama, Hillary and Edwards. ALL (D).

    Heraldo Rivera endorses McCain.

    Illegal Aliens APPROXIMATE Annual Costs to American taxpayers: $200 Billion revenue lost by suppressed wages for ILLEGALS.

    $20 Billion for WIC, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Welfare and Free Lunches.

    $231 Billion for teaching English, Anchor Babies, Incarceration and Social Services.
    His Comprehensive Immigration Bill will become law. Be afraid! Be very afraid!

    Comment by FromTheTop — Sunday, February 3, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

  29. I’m not so naive as to say there isn’t a “machine” at work in both parties. That would be as ludicrous as saying there isn’t a “machine” in Chicago. But you’re exactly right: Eventually this all comes down to that one-on-one in the booth. McCain plays well publicly, has an unimpeachable public/national service record. Most voters aren’t policy wonks, in the end they want to vote for a candidate they “like”.

    But to say one has to alter his core values and bend to the to the party direction never produces dynamic results. That’s little more than a recipe for drift, a recipe the party has unfortunately followed since the fire went out of the Contract with America.

    Incidentally, I didn’t say it was “impossible” for the base to react, my point was exactly the opposite. The base will and is reacting, but timing (really, lack of time) is the problem: McCain’s rapid rise right at Super Tuesday.

    For the Conservative base, we have no one to blame, least of all McCain. Where is our dynamic conservative candidate? Which I believe closes the circle with your position, but only to the point that when this all shakes out, we get behind the Party’s candidate. But core conservative values are not up for grabs.

    Comment by Bob Flood — Sunday, February 3, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  30. /* The Gang of 14 as a big issue is odd, as the net result was that Bush got basically what he wanted.

    Bush got what he wanted with regards to the Supreme Court, but many of his nominees were left out in the cold ( “The only way that the Dems could justify stonewalling Dubya’s circuit and district court nominations was that the stonewalling happens mostly out of sight, and rarely if ever makes a blip on the general public’s radar screens. They couldn’t get away with denying a floor vote to a SCOTUS nominee. But John McCain led the deal that let the Dems guarantee that they could continue to exercise an effective veto on circuit and district court nominations for the remainder of George W. Bush’s term, regardless of the outcome of the 2006 elections. The unquestionable result of the Gang of 14’s ‘compromise,’ as brokered by John McCain, will be two-fold: There will be more judicial vacancies at the end of the Bush-43 term than there ought to be; and such district and circuit judges as have been nominated and confirmed by January 2009 will be mostly bland ones whom McCain’s Democratic allies permitted to go through because the Dems couldn’t dredge up or even manufacture remotely plausible objections. … But if your goal is conservative judges, giving the Dems a near-secret and unaccountable veto, which ie exactly what McCain did, is a very, very bad idea.” ).

    /* And it is clear that McCain’s stance on immigration is not as unpopular with GOP voters as many are making it out to be (a stance not unlike that of Bush, btw).

    I remember a billboard in Southern California that showed a toddler with the caption “In my lifetime, immigration will double the population of the United States, and it’s not fair.” I thought that was a pretty stupid billboard, and I don’t care how many immigrants live in the country so long as they are working hard at improving their lives, which will generally improve my life.

    Thing is, there’s a substantial portion of America that thinks of money as a fixed quantity. If there are twice as many people in the US, then everybody gets a smaller slice of the pie. That’s garbage, as Americans are generally better off today than Americans were in 1960 (today’s population is about 300 million, 1960’s was about 150 million — ). The more people in the US, the better chance some of them will think up the microwave, television, computer chip, cheap food production techniques, etc.

    However, when the idea of a fence along the southern border last came up in Congress, it seemed pretty clear that even the politicians most open to open borders had a strong feeling that their constituents supported the fence. I don’t remember any national polls at the time, but it was interesting to watch these politicians change their tunes very rapidly once they started getting phone calls and began paying for their own polls among their own constituents.

    Comment by Max Lybbert — Monday, February 4, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  31. Oops. Should have been 1950 census: . First thing comes to mind when comparing the US in 2007 to the US in 1950 is polio. Yeah, I’d say we’re better off today.

    Comment by Max Lybbert — Monday, February 4, 2008 @ 11:59 am

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