WASHINGTON — RINO hunting, the long-popular political sport that morphed in 2008 into a sort of hysteria-driven obsession, lately has become a suicide mission.
RINO, of course, refers to Republicans In Name Only and is the pejorative term used against those who fail to march in lockstep with the so-called conservative base. I used “so-called” because, though the hard-right faction of the party tends to be viewed as The Base, this isn’t necessarily so. My guess is there are now more RINOs than those who, though evangelical in their zeal, are poison to their party’s ability to win national elections.
Yet, as always, the base manages to control the message because it is vocal, loud and, most important, makes for “Good TeeVee.” Spittle sells. Stay calm and carry on ... right past the elevators and leave your visitor badge on the counter on your way out the door.
There are now so many RINOs wandering the barren plains that, banded together, they might even form a critical mass. A base, if you will. If only they weren’t so attractively independent. The individualist nature of those most likely to be drawn to the Republican Party is such that they tend not to gather in groups. Ostracized by their own tribe, they feel alone in their exile.
Quite the opposite is true. Indeed, as the base seeks El Savior, isn’t it time for a RINO Rebellion?
Take a cue from the tea party, RINOs. Embrace your alienation. Slap a bumper sticker on your angst and rally that dispassion. Witness how bloggers turned others’ insults into a movement. What were random basement bloggers in terrycloth bathrobes and Uggs are now the respected and influential Pajamas Media, a.k.a. PJ Media.
Own your insult, in other words. Why should RINOs hang their heads in shame and be relegated to the fringes of their party? The party is the fringe. Isn’t it time to reclaim the salt lick? RINOs need to be defiantly proud, aggressively centrist and unapologetically sane.
There are a couple of obstacles to this obvious course. First, sane people are too busy Being Normal to organize. No, “normal” is not a relative term. We all know what normal is and it doesn’t involve carrying gigantic photos of aborted fetuses to political conventions. For example.
We fetishize politics and political display in this country, or at least the media do. But The Normals really are not so interested in politics as guerrilla theater as programmers, consultants and spinners seem to think they are. Most would like the country to rock along without drama — operating within a reasonable budget, with respect for privacy and the rule of law, compassion for the disadvantaged and an abundance of concern for national security, including border control but not necessarily drone attacks on citizens. More or less.
Another related obstacle to RINOs organizing is that RINOs don’t much like organizations. Remember John McCain the Maverick? Precisely. Though long considered a RINO by his own party, McCain enjoyed kinder, gentler treatment by the media — and, therefore, the sexier “maverick” moniker — at least until he fell for Sarah Palin, the tea-chugging Diana of RINO-haters. The truth is, most RINOs, mavericks by any other name, would rather be alone, which makes playing well with others problematic.
Finally, they lack the necessary grandiosity to recognize how fabulous they are. Ever seen a RINO in one of those silly hats that screams: “I Belong! I Am A Member Of The Party!”? No. They tend to be discreet — strangers in a strange land, keeping a low profile and an eye cracked for signs of fellow travelers. At most, they gather in smallish groups and dine on ironically named dishes such as Baked Alaska. At their most enthusiastic, they form polite alliances, such as the “No Labels,” um, something.
Sorry, guys. The sentiment behind no-labels is at the core of my very being, though I prefer Walker Percy’s more eloquent imperative that we should repent of labels. It is the essence of my Moi-ness: Stop fussing and fix it. But movements don’t begin with “No.” No-labels is a non without a sequitur. A yield without a merge.
Thus, what has become glaringly clear is that RINOs need to stop being so normal and grant their better angels a sabbatical. Forget taking back the country. Start by taking back your party. Do it for your country.
KATHLEEN PARKER writes for the Orlando Sentinel. Her column is distributed by Washington Post Writers Group.