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Republicans In Name Only
Who are the "RINOS," the post-liberal nationalists or those still trying to conserve and renew America's classically liberal order?
What does it mean to be republican? What does it mean to be conservative? What does it mean to be a constitutionalist? Not so long ago, the answers to these questions weren’t so hard to discern.
A republican could be expected to have a clear commitment to the American Republic, its system of government, and the vision established by the founding fathers. A conservative could be expected to understand the importance of tradition, upholding institutions, and maintaining the moors and values that have allowed America’s free society to thrive. A constitutionalist could be expected to have a commitment not only to the written law upon which our free society is established but the values and principles behind our government’s establishing document: liberty, justice, the rule of law, federalism, balance of power, and civic virtue.
But on this side of Donald Trump’s only term as president, many Americans can be forgiven for wondering what these terms actually mean to some who claim them as theirs. An astonishingly significant number of politicians and pundits who carefully built their careers upon years of asserting their commitment to republican ideals, to conserving the founding vision, and to preserving and establishing the values found in the founding documents have laid down the mantle of principle and taken up a very different cause.
Properly understood, neither republicanism, conservatism, or constitutionalism are defined simply by what they oppose. These political philosophies not only stand athwart and holler “stop!” to the progressive vision of the Democratic Party, the degradation of traditional values, and the decay of the founding vision in the halls of government and the hearts of America’s citizens, they have carefully crafted and quite astute alternatives to these developments, ones built on principles, values, and ideals considered and established by reason and the human experience.
I can only assume that many of the Republican Senators and Representatives who today continue down a path wholly committed to the legacy of Trumpism know all of this. Most of them are very smart people who know the depth of the philosophies they claim to represent far better than I do.
They know, or should know, that Donald Trump is the farthest thing from republican, conservative, or a constitutionalist. They know, or should know, that Donald Trump has quite limited philosophical depth. They know, or should know, that Trump’s persona is a caricature of a conservative, a contrived cartoonish performance of what a shallow-minded Democratic booster from New York thinks a conservative is. They know, or should know, better.
So, when these men and women step forward and continue to enable the political influence of a man they know has led the Republican Party and the conservative movement into a stark deviation from the values and principles they should stand for, there’s little else that can be said but that they are the conservatives, constitutionalists, and republicans in name only, the RINOs, in contrast to those of us who continue to stand athwart this deviation and hold to the values and principles that transcend the anxieties of our current political moment.