Stop calling everyone RINOs
By Rachel Alexander
I've written about a disturbing trend on the right calling fellow conservatives "grifters" who really aren't, and it's not the only trend like this occurring on our side. Some are expanding the definition of the acronym RINO to include solid conservatives, merely because they disagree with them about strategy. Lawmakers with 100% or close to 100% lifetime ratings from the American Conservative Union are finding themselves accused of this label.
As with the grifter accusation, much of this criticism is coming from activists new to the movement, who don't understand how difficult it is to change the political infrastructure due to laws, rules and the difficulty of getting all of the compromising personalities out of office. Additionally, as one member of Congress told me after I said term limits were a good idea, "Wouldn't make as big of a difference as you think; many congressional staffers stick around for years, they actually run much of the place."
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.-14) has a 100% lifetime rating so far from the ACU, but now some of these critics are turning their sights on her. They disagreed with her support of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.-20); they wanted to oust him. Sources tell me it came down to a strategic difference; Greene believed that the compromises McCarthy had figured out how to entice the Democrats into were worth more than replacing him with someone who might not have the connections to do that. Greene was apparently just ousted from the House Freedom Caucus over that and some other issues.
On the other hand, many conservatives wanted Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio-04) as speaker, who also has a lifetime 100% rating from the ACU. When you're pitting two people with the top conservative scores against each other — as much as we love Jordan — could there possibly be merely a strategic difference?
Some of these elected officials accused of being RINOs represent swing districts. If they show up at Trump rallies and constantly talk about him, the left will target their districts and it will be far easier to take them out with carefully crafted ads tying them to Trump. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.-06) is a classic example. He has a respectable 94% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union (ACU), but since he doesn't campaign with Trump, some label him a RINO.
There are "show horses" in Congress, who rally up the conservative base, stump with Trump, and rake in fundraising, but it often means they must sacrifice being effective and getting legislation passed. There is a need and place for them; when Rep. Ron Paul was in Congress, he only got one bill passed, but in other ways he was considered one of the most effective elected officials due to his strong principled stances which accomplished the right-leaning agenda in other ways.
In contrast, there are "work horses" like Schweikert, who work tirelessly behind the scenes where they can be truly effective. The only time he really steps out into the public eye is to deliver one of his epic speeches on the U.S. debt crisis, one of few members of Congress who repeatedly crunches the numbers and exposes how bad it's getting.
His district was a swing district when he first won in 2010. By carefully crafted campaigning, he defeated incumbent Democrat Harry Mitchell, who was so legendary in the district after serving as Tempe mayor that a statue was erected of him. After redistricting in 2022, the district leaned even more Democratic, and Schweikert barely won reelection by less than 4,000 votes.
Also in Arizona, State Sen. Warren Petersen (R-Mesa), the Senate Majority Leader, was censured by some Republican precinct committeemen this year for allegedly not being aggressive enough on election integrity measures. However, Petersen has a lifetime rating of 97% from the ACU, and is widely considered to run the Senate under conservative leadership. Petersen merely disagreed with a strategy that some Republicans proposed, which was to hold off on approving a budget until Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs signed three election integrity bills. According to sources, Petersen knew Hobbs was unlikely to sign them, and so thought it was better to focus on getting concessions in the budget bill.
The RINO label has popped up a lot lately in the election integrity area. Newcomers with no expertise in the area are suddenly appearing who were never involved in politics until after the corrupt 2020 election, claiming they know how to fix the problem and declaring that anyone who doesn't adopt their strategy immediately is a RINO. Some of them are gradually being discredited, since their sloppy research is being exposed. Those ones are not helpful for solving the election fraud problem, because the courts will be easily able to dismiss their efforts based on obvious and embarrassing mistakes. While this issue needs as many eyes as possible on it, it's self-serving to claim that your own solution is the only way.
Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who not only served on the J6 Committee but voted to impeach Trump, and who earned a 72% lifetime rating from the ACU, is clearly a RINO. The late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had an 81% lifetime rating from the ACU and was also clearly a RINO. So why aren't all the members of Congress with ratings in the 80s being called out too? Or low 90s? Could it be because there's more going on than judging them by conservative principles?
The label RINO should be applied to someone who doesn't adhere to fundamental conservative principles. The America First and MAGA platforms are built on those principles. They include pro-life, Second Amendment, lower taxes, lower regulations, smaller government, no extreme LGBTQ agenda, anti-globalism, family values, etc. These are what we should use to judge our elected officials and fellow activists. Whereas strategic differences should be open to a healthy, polite debate.
Look at someone's actions. Are they speaking to lots of lefty and RINO groups? Are they allowing those groups to use their names for promotional purposes? There are behaviors that are much more revealing about someone's character than procedural differences.
Rachel Alexander and her brother Andrew are co-Editors of Intellectual Conservative. She has been published in the American Spectator, Townhall.com, Fox News, NewsMax, Accuracy in Media, The Americano, ParcBench, Enter Stage Right and other publications.