Life After NY-23: Beware the Coming of the RINO

There are many messages that come out of New York's 23rd congressional district race.

Yes, as a general rule it’s a good idea to work through the two-party system. The special circumstances of New York’s 23rd district, including the existence of a center-right Conservative Party that the Republican establishment ignored and the obvious liberalism of Dede Scozzafava, made this race an exception. But the final result illustrates the challenge of working outside that two-party system.

Doug Hoffman, who didn’t live in the district, was a poor candidate to play the role of knight in shining armor. The best conservative to win on Tuesday was Bob McDonnell, successfully running for governor in Virginia. McDonnell didn’t win just because he was a conservative. He was a good candidate and he understood local issues. The people of the 23rd district were being asked to support a candidate who didn’t live in the district and who was backed by national political players who didn’t live in the district.

The one lesson that doesn’t come out of this mess is the one that’s being pushed by many who advocate the nomination of more liberal Republican candidates. Tuesday night did not prove the need to embrace RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) as the party’s nominees. Rather, the opposite was suggested, as Scozzafava was the latest in a long stream of RINOs to turn on her benefactors.

I don’t use the term RINO as some do and apply it to everyone I disagree with in the GOP. In fact, I usually avoid the term. But there is no other word that applies to Dede Scozzafava, whose stances on the issues made her a favorite of the ACORN-backed Working Families Party. She’s a liberal Republican, with no allegiance to the party and its platform. That made it  easy for her to back the Democrat.

Membership in a political party is a contract. You don’t back the Democrat publicly as Scozzafava did. This was after Republicans spent $900,000 to save her campaign from her own worst enemy: Dede Scozzafava.

Of course, Scozzafava is only the latest of RINOs to knife the GOP in the back:

  • President George W. Bush, Senator Rick Santorum, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) tried to save Senator Arlen Specter from a well-deserved defeat at the hands of Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania. Specter returned the favor by switching parties when it became apparent that his vote for Obama’s stimulus would cost him the Republican primary against Toomey in 2010.
  • In 2008, after losing a hard-fought Republican primary, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest endorsed Democrat Frank Kratovil. He also endorsed the election of President Obama.
  • Also in 2008, despite 30 years of support from Republican activists in Iowa, former Congressman Jim Leach endorsed Barack Obama for president.
  • Former Congressman Joe Schwarz endorsed Democrat Mark Schauer over the man who defeated him in the GOP primary of 2006.
  • The NRSC spent $1 million to save Lincoln Chafee from a primary challenge at the hands of a conservative mayor, but Chafee lost the general election. He became an independent and endorsed Obama.