Charlie Harper: 'RINO' division needs to end

June 11, 2013 

Dear Republicans:

It's time to retire the word "RINO."

That's right. It's become a very comfortable word for many, even for those of you who spell it "RHINO" -- which is just silly. After all, if you're determined to call someone a "Republican In Name Only," why do you want to confuse the issue and call someone infiltrating the party of elephants a rhinoceros?

The term was once used to identify a Republican who actively supported the agenda of the opposition party against those of the Republican agenda. It has now become an overused lazy pejorative carelessly thrown about by purists any time they observe or hear something that does not conform to their personal world view -- regardless whether or not the "RINO" in question has actually strayed from the party position.

Determining exactly what the party's position is these days is a large part of the problem. After all, there is no clear national leader of the Republican Party these days. Many of those who want to reshape the party in their own image have taken to calling people actually elected to our Republican form of representative government RINOs.

Speaker John Boehner -- the party's highest-ranking member and someone in charge of actually crafting and implementing the official Republican agenda for Congress -- is often the subject of this name calling. This is done without any sense of irony from those who would question whether the Republican leader elected by Republican legislators is actually a Republican.

Boehner and other "establishment" types are not the only ones who suffer the derision. Recently Pat Toomey has been called RINO for his work on expanding gun background checks. Rand Paul has received the moniker for saying he's willing to consider some drone use so far as due process is followed. And Marco Rubio is currently in the crosshairs from those who originally pushed him to office because he dares to try to craft a solution to the clearly established illegal immigration problem that Washington has too long ignored.

Those slinging the RINO moniker should be judged exactly as our parents taught us when kids taunted us in grade school. Those who call names usually don't have the capacity for reason or debate. Instead, schoolyard bullies use name calling to intimidate when they don't have a better answer.

This, unfortunately, is only part of a bigger problem within Republican ranks as the party continues to form a consensus as to why the 2012 election was lost. Many believe it is because the party is not pure enough. While clarity of message and firmness of resolve may be honestly debated, the conclusion that those who are not "pure" must be driven from the party must be rejected on its face.

A good friend of mine likes to tell me there's something to remember about having those who are pure in their conservatism and also moderates within the party. The pure are responsible for giving the party its soul, and without a soul the party doesn't really stand for anything that matters.

But, he cautions, it is the moderates that actually give the party its power. For without them (and the independents they are more likely to identify with), the party with a strong soul will never have a majority.

The Republican Party is having an honest struggle among fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, libertarian-leaning conservatives and national security hawks. All of these groups' views are not completely compatible within their own views of limited government. For the groups to peacefully coexist as a single party there will have to be those who begin to agree to disagree.

If not, the results will be self-evident. Those who wish to continue to try to intimidate those with whom they disagree and invite them to leave a party by saying their credentials are "in name only" will eventually find themselves in a more pure, more resolute organization.

The downside of this newer, more pure Republican party will be that it will be one of a permanent minority party.

It does not matter if it is the social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, libertarians, or defense hawks that are purged. The party of "limited government" that cannot make room for any or all of the above will never be able to reach further toward the middle and attract the votes it needs to regain national majority status.

Charlie Harper, author and editor of the Peach Pundit blog, writes on Georgia politics and government;

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