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Mama, We’re All RINOs Now

The Great Conservative Purge of the Impure is in full swing, writes The Anchoress. Too bad the purist "true conservatives" are blind to the many ironies of their action.

by
Elizabeth Scalia

Bio

February 19, 2008 - 5:00 pm

If anyone is keeping tabs on it, the Great Impure Conservative Purge is continuing apace. It seems both Cal Thomas and Oliver North — yes, Oliver North — have suggested that right-wing voters unify behind presumptive nominee Senator John McCain, and thus they have been tagged in right-wing internet forums as impure RINOs. Having failed to meet the exacting standards of the “true conservatives” within the GOP, these two are the latest heretics and infidels to be identified as “Republican In Name Only.”

North and Thomas join an illustrious gang of other RINOs identified and purged from the ranks of the “true conservatives,” including President George W. Bush, Karl Rove, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson (his endorsement of John McCain earned him a place), Ted Olsen, Tony Snow, George Will, Deb Price, Bill Kristol, the Wall Street Journal‘s Mark Helprin, Ross Douthat, David Brooks, Don Surber, the pre-Florida-panic Mitt Romney, most of the GOP “establishment,” and anyone else who suggests that a John McCain presidency — in a time of war, and with several formaldehyde-sucking SCOTUS justices likely to need replacing the moment George W. Bush helicopters out of Washington, DC — might be preferable to a Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama presidency.

A few days ago, Douthat wrote:

With their inflexibility, grudge-holding, and eagerness to evict heretics rather than seek converts, too many of conservatism’s leaders sound like the custodians of a dwindling religious denomination or a politically correct English department at a fading liberal-arts college.

Or like yesterday’s Democratic Party. The tribunes of the American right have fallen into the same bad habits that doomed their liberal rivals to years of political failure.

Well, yes, there does seem to be within the ranks of the “true conservatives” a strain of self-defeating extremism that finds its counterpart on the far left. A random look around conservative political forums will find posts on the heretical RINOs declaring:

[Cal] Thomas has his opinion and I have mine. I am a true conservative and Thomas is not. It’s that simple.

[Ollie North is] … stuck on stupid.

I will never vote for Juan McLame.

Better to vote for genuine Democrat socialism than for McAmnesty!

McNasty will get my vote when he promises to secure the border — maybe.

Is it too late to nominate Gen. Petraeus?

The wicked irony here is that the “true conservatives” (or TCs) who are busily kicking every flawed Republican to the curb will tell you in a heartbeat that they are “conservatives first, Republicans second” — which means, if we’re being logical, that they, the “true conservatives,” are actually the “true RINOs.” And I suppose the so-called RINOs are actually then Conservatives in Name Only, or CINOs. So, the TCs are actually RINOs and the RINOs are actually CINOs, except some of them really are conservatives; they’re just not conservative enough to be “true.” So they’re the “just not conservative enough moderate conservatives who also have no principles” or JNCEMCWAHNPs.

My head hurts.

This ongoing purge of experienced and electable Republicans — and the moderate conservatives who support them — by the “principled” base has necessarily thinned the bench for them. They have Tom Tancredo. Presumably they have General Petraeus, but a fine soldier’s patriotism and service do not always and automatically translate into “true” conservatism, as the undesirable pluralism of General Colin Powell — and for that matter, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, that most establishment of establishment Republicans — can attest. I’m pretty sure they still like UN Ambassador John Bolton, so that’s something. And they like Allen West, who seems like a fine man only slightly less experienced in governing than Barack Obama.

And of course they still like Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Talk Radio True Conservatives, who have basically yakked themselves into a corner with their demonization of Senator McCain as a “liberal, no different from Hillary!” So unrestrained have they been in their absolutes that they no longer have the option of suggesting that maybe the TCs should “hold the nose and vote for McCain.” In suggesting such a thing, the Talk Radioists would be identifying themselves as “untrue” conservatives (J’accuse!) to be kicked curbside by the very purists whose anger they have nourished, and who will not be appeased because — truly — they are Republicans in Name Only, and the party simply cannot meet their principled needs.

It must be wondered at: besides bellyaching incessantly about President “Jorge Arbusto” and his betrayals of both “the base” and “true conservative principles” for the past three years, what were these principled, concerned, informed, and highly selective TCs doing to find, encourage, and bring to speed a “true conservative” candidate who could have fulfilled their requirements? Why were they not more proactive in developing the candidate they want, rather than — like Goldilocks — rejecting every candidate on the right for not being “just right?”

Bellyaching is the easiest part of democracy, but it doesn’t get you the candidate or the president you want.

Three years of bellyaching, though, for hours and hours a day might eventually get you the party you crave.

It is very clear, given the results of last week’s Virginia and Maryland elections, that a good percentage of “the base” will refuse to unify with the GOP in November. For them there is only one answer, one way to separate the RINOs from the CINOs, the corrupt “establishment” from the incorruptible TCs, and to allow the Talk Radio True Conservatives to save face: secession. The TCs are going to have to start their own party, and while some — like me — may suspect that the formation of such a party is precisely the destination to which the talking radio heads have been leading, this will have to seem like a grassroots effort.

Happily, at least one such effort appears to be underway, and I say good for it. It is very unlikely that such a group could mount a presidential candidate for 2008 — unless both a miraculous windfall and an acceptable candidate come their way, and in this crazy season, never say never — but this is an opportunity for the unhappy and homeless TC-RINOs to define and empower themselves. If they do indeed form exceptional candidates — “true conservatives” who are capable of looking at the rest of the country without revulsion but with a willingness to work together for the good of the nation — they might be heartened to know that we CINOs, not nearly so fastidious as the TCs (which is part of their disgust with us), will be happy to investigate them and perhaps even vote for them.

Yes, it is entirely possible that the purist TCs, forming their True Conservative Party with their impeccably conservative candidate, will someday be courting the CINOs and other filthy moderates for their votes, and relying on the very open-mindedness, pragmatism, and flexibility they currently abhor, to bring about the Great Conservative Nirvana that they seek.

Ahhhh … I love the smell of irony in my politics.

Elizabeth Scalia is a contributing writer to First Things Magazine and the blogger known as The Anchoress.
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