Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin recently stated that she would campaign for conservative candidates, regardless of party. Locally, prominent 20-something conservative talk show host Dana Loesch has stated she will never join a political party, and the “tea party” movement in which she is involved is non-partisan and welcoming to like-minded Democrats.
I admire and support both women, but there are many situations in which that thinking should not apply. It’s appropriate for events/movements of broader appeal, such as the tea parties, but not usually for serious candidate support.
Even though it is infuriating when RINOs (Republicans in name only) cast crucial votes against the party’s (and nation’s) interests, as was the case of the handful of Republicans who gave President Obama’s cap-and-trade bill the margin it needed in the House, we must realize that those “traitors” are still more useful to us than a Democrat replacement, even a conservative DINO (Democrat in name only).
Congressional Quarterly’s party unity ratings provide objective evidence. These ratings measure what percentage of the time a member of Congress votes with his or her party in votes in which most of each party are on opposite sides. These ratings, unlike the presidential support ratings, weed out the numerous consensus matters that get nearly unanimous support.
During the first half of this year, the CQ study shows that all of the notorious “RINO 8″ who voted for cap-and-trade still voted with Republicans and against Democrats on the vast majority of polarizing votes. The worst of the RINO 8, Chris Smith of New Jersey, still voted with Republicans in key votes 64% of the time. In fact, every Republican congressman voted with Republicans more often than any Democrat congressman. Even Idaho Democrat Walt Minnick, whose 40% party unity rating was the lowest in all of Congress, voted with Republicans less than any RINO. Cap-and-trade traitor Mary Bono Mack had an 87% party unity rating on other controversial votes, and the other six RINO 8 members still voted with their GOP colleagues 65% to 76% of the time.
If cap-and-trade is the litmus test, then take note: Congress’ biggest RINO (party unity rating 63), New Orleans’ Ahn Cao (the accidental congressman who ousted “cash in the freezer” Democrat William Jefferson), voted with fellow Republicans against cap and trade. So did notorious RINOs Walter Jones, Don Young, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Steven LaTourette, as well as Missouri’s least reliable Republican, JoAnn Emerson (party unity rating 79%). We were damned glad to have these RINOs for that vote, instead of even a conservative Democrat.
It is well and good to reach out across the aisle to like-minded folks to build coalitions for causes and, of course, for support for oneself. Supporting candidates of a different party can sometimes also be acceptable in hostile one-party-rule areas like the City of St. Louis (and most other urban centers in the U.S.), where a conservative Democrat is the best alternative to another Democrat who is worse, and that support is best limited to the Democratic Primary (unless there is no Republican candidate in the general election). But in contests in which a Republican candidate is even remotely viable, we should be hesitant to support the enemy. That conservative sounding Democrat may realistically be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, even if the candidate’s intentions seem pure. Every DINO votes for Nancy Pelosi for speaker.
The time to challenge a RINO is in a Republican Primary, not with a conservative Democrat in a general election.
And sometimes not even a primary challenge is advisable. One is best avoided if it would so wound the primary winner (whether RINO incumbent or clear-thinking challenger) as to help the Democratic nominee win the general election. That’s how Republicans lost the safely Republican Maryland eastern shore seat held by RINO Walter Gilchrist after he lost the primary to conservative State Sen. Andy Harris. Gilchrist’s replacement Frank Kratovil votes with his fellow Democrats 79% of the time, including for cap-and-trade.
Creating a broad cross-party coalition on an important issue: Good.
Trading in a RINO for someone even worse: Bad.