The Case Against Blue-State RINOs

Recently, at RemoveRINOs.com, we posted a response to a column by Bruce Walker: Of RINOs, Moderate Democrats, and Men.” In Walker’s column, he argues that the G.O.P. should target red-state RINOs, while giving blue-state RINOs a pass.  His premise is familiar– in a blue state, a RINO is the best we can do.

Now on the one hand, it’s not difficult to shoot down Walker’s case using simple logic. Likewise, it’s not difficult to shoot down his case citing a few simple facts. But unfortunately, when it comes to the political class (and in a larger sense, I don’t mean to impugn Walker), it seems logic and facts are never enough. And in view of a poll that National Journal recently published, revealing that nearly a third of Beltway Republicans (i.e., political consultants, not the lawmakers themselves) would “most like to silence” Sarah Palin’s voice within the party–nearly three times more than the second place Michael Steele–it’s clear that facts and logic bear constant repeating.

The danger to Walker’s line of thinking is that if we apply no pressure from the right, our RINOs will only feel pressure from the left.  And we simply can’t afford to cede our people to the left, no matter how liberal their constituents are purported to be.

Case in point, in February, MOVEON ran ads pressuring Collins and Snowe to support the stimulus.  Not surprisingly, these two RINOs gave in.  So should we make excuses for Collins and Snowe because they weren’t able to hold up under MOVEON’s pressure? The next time a big vote comes up, should we go easy on them and just concede from the outset that only liberal organizations can “really make a difference” to a senator from Maine?

The bottom line is this–if we’re afraid to bring consequences to Republicans from liberal states, then we cede all power to the liberals of that state.  Because we might be afraid to threaten an Olympia Snowe with real consequences, but leftist groups such as Moveon.org will not be.  The only way we can hope to have true representation in blue states–in particular, in the Northeast–is to put forth a pressure that is equal or greater to that imposed by the left. We can’t do this when we are afraid to hold our own members accountable for their own actions.

The first thing the G.O.P. is going to have to do is take an intellectually honest look at what it’s facing.  And this means taking a good hard look at the word consequence itself.  By any measure, it’s an ugly word.  Consequences can mean only one thing in the vernacular of politics–and that’s defeat. In the case of intra-party consequences: primary defeats.

If we’re afraid that defeat in the primaries will bring defeat in the generals and if we let this fear keep us from making our members face consequences, then we’re ceding all persuasive powers to the left.  And on a grand scale, this is exactly what we did in both ’06 and ’08–before and after the elections–we ceded all power to the left.

Now let’s go a little further with the stimulus votes.  At the time of the stimulus debate, a Rasmussen poll showed that 50% of Americans thought the stimulus would hurt the economy more than help it.  In light of that kind of public skepticism, Snowe and Collins should have been able to oppose the stimulus with little, if any, political risk.  If these two Republicans were unwilling or unable to articulate such fundamental party principles as the need to not print 800 billion dollars to fund the opposition’s pork projects–then the G.O.P. should make them face consequences.

The bottom line is that a party needs discipline.  It ensures the bare minimum of unity that a party must have in order to call itself principled.  Likewise, it ensures the bare minimum of unity that the base requires before it will turn out to vote.

And sometimes, party discipline can be a maverick’s best friend.  Sometimes, it can save candidates from themselves.  Had McCain received a little party discipline along the way, who knows–he might have won in 08.  But that’s speculative.  Let’s look at a few things that are not.

At RemoveRINOs.com, we’re engaged in constant analysis of ACU data, and we’ve come across some interesting Republican tidbits.

In 2008, three House Republicans lost seats in the Northeast–Kuhl, English, and Shays.  Were these guys punished for being “conservatives in liberal states?” It doesn’t look like it.  All three got beat after taking notable turns to the left.  Randy Kuhl’s lifetime conservative rating going into his final term was 88.  The year he lost his seat, 2008, his rating was only 79. Going into his final term, Phil English’s lifetime rating was 77.  The year he lost his seat, his rating was 52.  And then there’s Chris Shays.  His lifetime rating going into his final term was 46.  The year of his defeat–32.

In fact, during the 109th and 110th sessions (the sessions leading up to the ’06 and ’08 defeats), the G.O.P. saw 74 House members move 2 points or more to the left on their LIFETIME ratings.  How many moved two points or more to the right?  Only 19.  Of these rightward-moving candidates, only one lost a seat.  Of those moving to the left, we lost 9.  It’s almost as if once Bush fell out of favor, these people were without a daddy; and in the lack of any semblance of party discipline, their conservatism experienced a free-fall.

Does the above indicate that it’s as easy for a conservative to be elected in New England as in the South? Certainly not.  But it’s a pretty good indication that we’re not shooting ourselves in the foot by demanding our blue-state Republicans uphold certain core principles.  And it’s also a pretty good indication that we’re shooting ourselves in the heart if we do not.