I am sure we are all familiar with the phrase “R I N O”, or “Republican In Name Only”. It got a lot of use in recent election cycles, especially in the GOP primaries.
I have to admit that I have used it myself. It was used to describe those candidates that did not live up to my definition of what a conservative should be.
I have to say that since I became a Republican, I have felt that the party was less than representative of my views on the issues that I feel deeply about. When I first registered to vote, I registered as other. After being a voter for some time, I learned that I was a conservative, not because I was a member of any one party, but because of my reading and understanding of the founding of this nation.
As I learned more about the two major parties, I found that the GOP was the closest thing to being a conservative party. Since I came to understand that it was the two major parties that were able to win elections and therefore able to formulate policies that would lead the nation forward, I became a Republican.
It was not a perfect match by any means. My views of what is or isn’t a conservative often were at odds with what the party defined as a conservative candidate. For many years I tended to follow the party line. We were told,” to be a good Republican” we must support all Republican incumbents. We were told that we must sacrifice certain issues so that we could win elections. We were told that we should never criticise a Republican.
Well when you are young and uninformed you tend to go along with things like that. But as I became more informed about issues and candidates and the things that elected officials were doing once they were elected. Well I came to feel that the GOP leadership was not listening to me or those who felt as I did. I realized by talking to others within the party that I was not alone in these feelings. I realized that many were unhappy with the direction the GOP had been headed in for sometime.
At some point in time the GOP had become a party that seemed to be concerned with fiscal issues only. As a person who is strongly motivated by so-called social issues, I felt left out. Many times I had been told that to talk about social issues was death for any Republican candidate. I was told that I should vote for the Republican because they were more conservative than the Democrat. But in some cases they weren’t. In some cases they weren’t even fiscally conservative, they were just, that’s right, Republican In Name Only .
So I started talking and I started pushing and I started to demand that all issues should have an equal place at the table of the party. It just so happened that others were also talking and pushing and demanding the same thing. But it wasn’t just people like myself who feel strongly on issues such as abortion and illegal immigration. It was people who feel strongly about constitutional issues as well. It was also people who felt that the party was not even living up to the label of being the fiscally conservative party.
As we talked and pushed and demanded, we were accused of wanting to purge the party of those who felt they owned the party. I can only speak for myself. I have never wanted to purge anyone from the party who holds the belief that conservative principles and values can solve the issues facing the nation. That includes fiscal, social and constitutional issues. But if there are people who hold to a more liberal or progressive attitude of how to solve the issues, well then maybe they should seek other avenues other than the GOP.
Now of course there will be those who take that statement as proof that I want to purge the party. Not so. I have often spoken of what I call straight line conservatism. To me this means someone who feels that all issues are important and that our best chance to handle issues, is to apply conservative principles to solve them. I believe that this idea of straight line conservatism is the middle of the GOP.
We will always have factions within the party. Factions that feel stronger about one issue than another. But there is no reason for the factions to work against each other. We must educate our rank and file and more importantly our candidates that it is conservatism, not fiscal conservatism, not social conservatism. We must, as a party, make it known that we are the party of conservatism.
In the last election of 2010 the GOP made great moves to the right. We witnessed the old party leadership and incumbents who were less than conservative in their views of how to solve the problems facing the nation and the states removed from their positions. Of course the old power structure cried foul. They accused the new upstarts of purging the party. I say we were only redirecting the party. I would say that all conservatives were welcome within the party.
I see the party as a pendulum. I see ideology as being laid out on the floor beneath the pendulum. In the center is straight line conservatism, where all are welcome to work at solving all issues through the application of conservative principles. And where all issues are of equal importance. Then of course we have to the left of center, a faction of the old guard GOP and to the right of center, a faction of the new guard of the GOP. For the party to unify, the two factions need only recognize each other’s importance to the other. We need only respect the fact that some within the party feel deeply about things other than money. We must also understand that some care only about money. We must understand that both can serve their selves, by working together.
As I said earlier, I have felt in the past that I was not welcome in the party as someone who wants social issues to have their place at the GOP table. Now that the party has taken a turn to the right I am sensing some within the new guard who would do the same thing to the old guard. They use terms such as “Not A Real Conservative” or (NARC). The pendulum is swinging too far to the right, too far away from the center, or too far away from the straight line of conservatism.
There are some within the new guard that would have you swear a Christian oath to be a member of the GOP. They would have loyalty oaths to the party. We must remember that if we go too far to the right, we come back around on the left side. This is not a new idea for myself. I have long felt that the center of the party is conservatism. Anything to far to either side is dangerous and not conservatism. When I speak of the center, I am not talking about the center the media loves to talk about between liberal and conservative. My center is, conservatism.
Those of us who felt left out of the GOP by those to the left of center within the party, must now stand up for the rights of the very people who once wanted us to be silent. We must grab the pendulum and stop it before it swings so far right that even we become NARCs