I am no longer a RiNO

On January 25, 2008, in General, by Neil Stevens

For the record, I no longer consider myself a RiNO. I will vote for the nominees of the Republican party* all the way down the ticket automatically. That’s my new policy.

This is a major change for me. I’ve always considered voting for another party to be a reasonable message-sending approach. but I was misguided: my thought processes hinged on the assumption that the Republican party is truly and rightfully Reaganite. But that is not the case, so I have to adapt.

When Ronald Reagan first took prominence in the Republican party, conservatism was a small and unpopular faction in the party. It can be argued that the only reason Senator Goldwater could take the party nomination in 1964, the year of Reagan’s groundbreaking speech to the convention, was that all the more popular Republicans saw no point in running against the ticket of President Johnson and President Kennedy’s Ghost.

Sure enough, the hostility never went away. After Goldwater’s defeat, Reagan had to continue to sell the country and the party on conservatism. Even when he successfully ran for Governor, some California Republicans were so harsh in their attacks on him as a conservative that he coined his 11th Commandment that we know today.

Why did some Rockefeller Republicans hate Reagan so much? I believe it’s because they felt entitled to the party, and to its nominations. Reagan was an outsider, someone who threatened and challenged their views, and so he had to be shouted down. Persuasion went out the window, and so eventually their views went out the window by 1980.

I believe conservatives must not make the same mistake the Rockefeller Republicans made. No matter how many victories we had, no matter how well President Reagan and Speaker Gingrich governed and showed how conservatism works both in politics and in practice, we must not grow entitled. We must not ever let ourselves believe that the party belongs to conservatives, and that our ideas are obviously correct to anyone who’s a real Republican.

We must work, we must persuade, we must argue tirelessly as much with our fellow Republicans as with the Democrats on the merits of our views and our policies. We must put in the thankless work within the party, taking positions within it to keep it functioning, and later lead it. We must show solidarity with other Republicans, and not just the conservatives. All these things are vital in order to show our good faith, so that we can count on other Republicans to join us when we get our next turn at the top.

Even if conservatism is the Republican Party’s Michael Jordan, we must remember that Jordan never won a league championship until he started running an offensive system that let his teammates have their turns with the ball. It’s time for conservatives to stop being ballhogs, too, so that we can win both as a team, and for our own faction.

No more withholding our votes. No more calling people RiNOs or sellouts. No more sitting back and complaining about the establishment without getting involved ourselves. It’s time for Reaganite activism, in his example.

* I take this phrase to exclude people who are not nominated in the usual fashion, so that people who wouldn’t have counted include Arnold Schwarzenegger in the recall election, or David Duke in a Louisiana runoff.


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