The time is long overdue for ridding the Republican Party of the Republicans-In-Name-Only (“RINOs”) populating much of our government. For many decades, they have traveled under the euphemistic but false label of “moderates” as they sided with the liberals/progressives/socialists of the Democratic Party against Republican conservatives who believe in personal freedom, personal responsibility, a limited federal government, and the Constitution of the United States as “We the People” ordained and amended it. To recognize who the RINOs are, appreciate why they must be removed from office, and maximize our prospects for success in this mission, it is worth considering how they came to hold such sway over our politics.
The origins of the Republican schism go back more than a century, to the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, our first “progressive” president and the first to deserve the RINO moniker. Roosevelt broke ranks with the Republicans who came before by setting the stage for a larger, more intrusive federal government that, among other things, would control entire industries through extensive regulations to be administered by bureaucrats. To pay for this, the progressives -- found mainly within the Democratic Party -- joined with a faction of the Republicans to enact a constitutional amendment allowing the federal government to tax our income, with no cap on the rates of taxation. Over the ensuing decades, progressive presidents -- from Woodrow Wilson to Herbert Hoover to Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama (all Democrats save the RINO Hoover) -- steadily increased the size, reach, and cost of the federal government.
Along the way, a few conservative Republican presidents -- Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Ronald Reagan -- and the conservative Republican Congresses of the 1920s and 1995-2000 acted to restrain government’s expansion and to bring about economic and job growth through tax cuts that empowered the people to exercise greater economic freedom. But these efforts did little more than slow the rate of increase in the size of government, and when these conservatives’ tenures in office ended the rapid government expansion resumed. Abetting this process was a long string of RINO presidents, including Hoover, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and both Bushes, as well as the spendthrift RINO Congresses of 2001-2006.
Central to the economic history of the United States over the last hundred years has been an alliance between the Big Government advocates of the Democratic Party and the Big Business protectors of the RINO wing of the Republican Party. Here, in a nutshell, is how that alliance typically has worked. Some problem surfaces within an industry (a consumer is harmed by an unsafe product or a worker is injured by a faulty factory process). The problem receives media coverage, leading federal officials to declare it to be so urgent that the federal government must step in to solve it (never mind that the bad publicity, the threat of paying stiff judgments to victims, and the prospect of reduced sales would spur the companies to fix the problem themselves; and never mind that any remaining problems could be redressed under state law). Rather than avoid federal intrusion by solving the problem on their own, the large companies in that industry (often acting through trade associations they dominate) cooperate with the federal government to write extensive and complicated regulations that will broadly control the industry. A federal agency is created to administer the regulations and oversee the industry. Staffing for the agency is drawn from the large companies, and the staffers remain long enough to pad their résumés before returning to the large companies (or their outside lobbyists or law firms), at which time they are replaced by younger staffers also drawn from the large companies. As a consequence of the regulations, the compliance costs for companies competing in the industry are driven up, benefitting the large companies -- which can absorb the costs -- but harming smaller companies and consumers. Small companies that fail to comply with the regulations are subject to fines and penalties and, ultimately, to being driven from the market. Even when the regulations exempt small businesses, the exemptions are extended only to very small companies, which are pressured to stay small to avoid the high compliance costs that only major players can afford. The net result is a highly concentrated industry powered by a few dominant competitors whose bloated market shares and profitability are all but assured thanks to collusion that would have been illegal but for the government’s involvement.
For its part, the federal government entered into this alliance on a massive scale, scarcely noticed by the taxpayers because so many of the regulatory costs were imposed on the companies being regulated. These costs came in the form of unfunded mandates that companies generally had to absorb to be allowed into the market. The costs of complying with government regulations were then passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.
Big Business, outwardly waving the flag of public interest but inwardly seeking barriers against new competitors, invited Big Government to expand its authority over our commerce. To ensure that Big Government would not act to eliminate the private sector entirely, Big Business enlisted the aid of Republican politicians eager to have their campaigns funded, in return for which they would cooperate with the Democrats by agreeing to their costly regulatory agenda, by voting for new entitlements, by agreeing to overall tax increases, and by engaging in vote-trading to secure special tax and regulatory advantages for their Big Business patrons (a process now known as crony capitalism). These “cooperative” Republicans are the RINOs.
The alliance of Big Government and Big Business was thought to be working well enough during the decades following America’s victory in World War II. But the underlying reality was that America was artificially benefitting from being the only major industrialized nation whose productive capacity had not been waylaid by the war. Eventually, that advantage would wane as other nations got back on their feet. In the meantime, the alliance remained intact, even as its costs from growing government and curtailing small businesses became ever less affordable.
The 2016 election cycle was a watershed event that is acutely misunderstood by the RINOs in Washington. To them, Donald Trump’s victory is an anomaly to be dismissed as a “populist” overreaction to the voters’ frustration with the status quo ante left by Obama. But most of the anger exhibited by Trump’s supporters was grounded in valid concerns over the perpetually dismal economy, lack of job prospects for Americans, unprecedented spiraling of the federal debt, falling middle class living standards, soaring healthcare costs, reduction in business startups, and uncontrolled illegal immigration (not to mention the worsening race relations and America’s diminished influence abroad). To almost anyone living outside the Beltway and the progressive enclaves on the coasts and in our universities, it came as little surprise that a candidate pledging to “drain the swamp” would win the Republican nomination over the RINOs and prevail in the November election against a classic Big Government progressive.
That the RINOs are not capitulating to the will of the Trump supporters is evident, as we witness the debacle of healthcare reform in Congress. This is especially on display in the Senate, where the RINOs now are revealing themselves to be not merely feckless but disingenuous politicians who deceived the electorate into believing that they would align with conservative values and vote to repeal ObamaCare, when they really just wanted a return to “business as usual” -- meaning more crony capitalism for Big Business and more compromises with the Big Government Democrats. It is distressing and appalling to see RINOs inviting the Democrats to “cooperate” in fashioning an ObamaCare bill, as this will surely mean more of their unholy alliance, with greater federal regulation of the few Big Business insurers able to survive in the distorted and noncompetitive healthcare sector. And, as usual, the Democrats will get the better of the bargain, because healthcare options will only become costlier and less desirable, paving the way for socialized medicine under another progressive Democratic regime in 2020.
Not to be overlooked is what the alliance will do to tax reform later this year. Count on the RINOs to oppose legislation that would dramatically lower tax rates for all businesses and simplify the tax code. After all, it was the RINOs who went along with jacking up the rates in the first place, after which they negotiated for reams of selective reductions to benefit their Big Business donors at the cost of everyone else.
So where does that leave us? As caring conservatives and Americans, we must not allow the current state of affairs, no matter how frustrating, to daunt us into despondency and retreat. Instead, we must let the RINOs know that, come the 2018 and 2020 elections, we will finish the job we started in 2010 (by taking the House of Representatives from the Democrats), continued in 2014 (by taking the Senate), and nearly completed in 2016 (by putting a Republican in the White House).
Contrary to the nonsense the so-called mainstream media are pushing, it is not the conservative Republicans and their agenda that will be ousted, but the RINOs, the progressive Democrats, and their Big Government-Big Business alliance. Only then will the swamp truly be drained.
Blaine Winship was the lead trial counsel for 26 States in their historic lawsuit challenging ObamaCare. He is the author of Moralnomics: The Moral Path to Prosperity, available in hardcover from moralnomics.com and in e-books from amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. (“Moralnomics” is a trademark owned by Blaine H. Winship.)