A Time For Choosing in the Great RINO Hunt

If this past weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C., is any indication, we have a real RINO problem on our hands.

No, I don’t mean that Mitt Romney is a Republican In Name Only. I mean that a particular strain of attendees at this year’s conference seems obsessed with RINO-hunting – and that is not a productive sport in which to engage at this point, especially since the hunters don’t seem to have any idea what their prey really looks like.

Refresher course: A RINO goes to Washington and acts just like a Democrat. Tax and spend. Elitism. Corruption.

A RINO is not your fellow Republican who doesn’t happen to agree with you that gay marriage is the most important issue facing our country today.

Upon my arrival at this year’s convention -- and I mean literally while checking in -- someone approached and asked if I voted for pro-life candidates and would I be willing to wear a sticker saying "Kick the RINO out!" Later at the conference, I was heckled and called a "RINO" by a Rick Santorum supporter for declining the offer to wear his candidate's sticker.

I always understood the Grand Old Party to stand for, in a nutshell: Limited government, strong national defense, and individual freedom and responsibility. I respect that others have passionate and well thought-out arguments for traditional marriage and other social issues, but is it really worth dividing the party? Right NOW? Of course abortion is a controversial issue and if you believe that life starts at conception it is morally right to lobby for pro-life candidates and vehemently oppose abortions – but folks, you're only hurting the GOP with this RINO rhetoric.

Last I checked, we have a 15 trillion dollar deficit and a president who is a complete ideologue. A president who refuses to cut spending and modify entitlement programs despite our dire financial crisis. A president whose administration files suit against our own states for enforcing federal laws. A president who picks and chooses which laws he's going to enforce (DOMA) based on his ideology. A president who plays petty politics with class warfare. A president who doesn't listen to the American people when they speak out against unconstitutional power grabs like Obamacare. A president our enemies perceive as weak, cowardly, and unsupportive of our allies. This list goes on.

So the message at CPAC should be strong, targeted, and united. It was not. Of course, this is not particularly surprising given that the organization that mounts CPAC, the American Conservative Union, voted last year under pressure from the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America, among others, to exclude GOProud.

How exactly did the group not represent conservative values? One could understand the discomfort in supporting a group that pushes for gay marriage but is conservative in all other aspects, but GOProud doesn't even lobby or campaign on the issue.

You can disagree with someone's actions or lifestyle choices, but it is narrow-minded and against what I understand conservatism to be to reject this group from our limited government movement simply because they are gay. Did I mention we have a 15 trillion dollar deficit?

Yet it was issues like this that I heard about over and over again at this year’s CPAC.

I never thought I would look to Ann Coulter as a moderate voice, but her speech at CPAC was precisely right when she said that we need to focus on who is going to appeal to independents if we want to beat Obama – and we must beat Obama. She went on to point out that the only candidate capable of appealing to moderates is Mitt Romney. The rhetoric coming from Rick Santorum and his supporters may appeal to some staunch conservatives, but it isn't winning us any friends in the larger voter pool – and I personally don't even believe it's really in line with conservatism. I find it disheartening that people seem to think Romney (and other candidates too) are "RINOs" when those individuals are actually more conservative, in many ways, than many of our Republican icons. In fact, there is debate as to whether Ronald Reagan would even be elected today because some claim he wouldn't be conservative enough!

We can debate these social issues until we're blue in the face, but at the end of the day, it isn't about who was the most pro-life, or who made the most sense in their defense of traditional marriage. It's about beating Barack Obama and restoring the country to that of a government for, by, and of the people. This is truly, to quote Ronald Reagan, a time for choosing. Are we going to let these issues divide us and prevent us from beating Obama, or are we going to set aside our differences and save this country?