Don't make RINOs an endangered species
Lately, there's been a lot of rage going around at RINOs. (For those who aren't familiar with the appellation, it stands for "Republicans in Name Only"--or what used to be known as "Rockefeller Republicans" in a somewhat less acronym-mad era).
Quite a few members of the dread "Gang of 14" are RINOs, assumed to have sabotaged hopes for the real conservative nominee for Supreme Court Justice that Bush could--and would--have chosen, if only the Gang of 14 and the RINOs didn't exist.
So, get rid of 'em, who needs 'em? say many real conservatives in the Republican Party.
It wasn't so very long ago that the Republican Party considered itself a "Big Tent," a party in which moderates were welcome and considered an asset. The phrase was coined in 1988 by Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater (as mentioned in this Time magazine article from 1999, which features an almost cuddly Karl Rove--the times, they have a-changed, haven't they?). Interestingly enough, the Time article cites Rove himself as having transformed Texas from a Democratic to a Republican state by following Big Tent precepts.
So, what's happened? Perhaps certain Republicans have forgotten that they didn't get where they are today by alienating the middle. Of course it's also true that--as Jerry Falwell points out in this article--they didn't get where they are today without the evangelical Christians and other cultural conservatives, either. The problem now is how to keep both under that shrinking tent.
I'm neither a Republican nor a conservative, but I do have an opinion (trust a blogger to always have an opinion). I don't think the answer is to replace RINOs with traditionally conservative Republicans in states where the latter simply have no chance of winning. I happen to know about one of those states, from which two of the most prominent and vilified RINOs of all hail: Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Senators from Maine and RINOs extraordinaire.
Perhaps the fact that Maine has a long Republican history blinds many conservatives to the fact that it is a solidly Democratic state in many ways, and that the only Republicans who have a chance of being elected there are RINOs. Maine is not New Hampshire (another state of which I have more than a passing knowledge), which is fairly evenly divided, and whose two Congressmen and two Senators are all Republicans in more than name, as opposed to Maine's two RINO Senators and two Democratic Congressmen.
Take a look at Maine's results in the 2004 presidential election. A landslide for Kerry, despite the fact that the Bushes have ties to the state. Does this seem like a place where a conservative Republican could win? Don't think so.
To drive the point home further, look at this map of counties in Maine and how they voted in 2004. You would be hard pressed to find a bluer state--and keep in mind that the south is where the people are (same is true of New Hampshire, by the way; and in Vermont there just aren't any people). Those two lone light pink counties in Maine are very sparsely populated.
Compare it to the map of New Hampshire in 2004, a state in which the vote was very close indeed. Not only are the counties far more evenly divided, but some of the areas that voted for Bush are quite populous. This is a state where conservative Republicans have a chance, although it's not easy.
So, please explain. I don't get this failure to look at things pragmatically. Is it that ideological purity thing again? Would very conservatives Republicans rather a candidate be "right" than elected? Would they prefer the election of a clearly liberal Democrat to that of a person who is in fact a centrist? I don't see how that would benefit them--but hey, it's not my issue. Just trust me when I say that throwing Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to the wolves and replacing them with non-RINOs (love those animal metaphors!) will probably lose you two Senate seats, if that's what you're after.