Why RINOs But Not DINOs?
During every presidential election cycle the left inserts its favorite candidate into the Republican nomination fight. Sometimes, as in 2008, Democrats nominate their preferred Republican. Other times, the left prevents a genuine conservative from getting the nomination. What the left does at the presidential level it does in other political races at all, putting "moderate" Republicans in Congress and statehouses. We, in stark contrast, do not even try to place our sort of Democrat within their party. Why? Why are there RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), but no DINOs (Democrats in Name Only)? Why have conservatives, the largest ideological group in American politics, been content to let Trotskyites run the Democrat Party? It is an important question, especially after John Huntsman, the latest "moderate" Republican, began openly talking of winning early primaries and caucuses with "independent" voters.
Six out of ten Americans, according to the Battleground Poll, are conservatives. Other polls show that conservatives are the largest ideological block in America. According to Pew, 25% of Democrats call themselves "conservative" and 32% of Democrats call themselves "liberals" -- the plurality of leftists over conservatives in the Democrat Party itself is slight. The same poll shows that only 4% call themselves "liberal" and 64% of Republicans call themselves "conservative." There ought to be no RINOs, really, at all, but there ought to be lots of DINOs.
But that is not the case. These conservative Democrats are the most underrepresented group in American politics. One argument for this invisible Democrat is that conservatives cannot win Democrat nominations. That is true in some places, but not in many parts of America where conservative Democrats would actually outnumber leftist Democrats. In Arkansas, where 45% of the people are conservative and only 14% of Arkansans are liberal, the left-of-center Blanche Lincoln faced a primary challenge...from the left. If conservatives flexed their muscle, would not all Democrats from very red states be principled conservatives?
Even in areas which will not nominate conservative Democrats, like California, a conservative challenge in the Democrat primary could make it much easier for a Republican to win and could also push the Democrat nominee to a more conservative position. There are more conservatives than leftists in California, and not just Gallup says so, but Survey USA as well, by 31% conservative to 23% liberal. That should be enough to make primaries competitive even in blue states, and that ought to be our goal: to pull America in a conservative direction.
The biggest loss for conservatives comes from abdicating conservatism in the Democrat presidential nomination. Democrats often pretend to be moderate or even conservative, when they are not at all. Clinton, Gore, and Carter, for example, pretended right up to taking the oath of office to be conservative on some issues. What we need are not faux-conservatives but true conservatives whom we can support in Democrat primaries and caucuses. The punditry is wondering whether Obama will be challenged by a leftist for the Democrat nomination. Why not challenge him from the conservative side? There are a long list of loser's reasons why this is doomed to fail: the media would excoriate such a conservative or would, instead, ignore him; no traditional Democrat donors would give to this campaign; worker bees would be hard to come by too; besides, Democrats are not really conservative, whatever polls say.
One cannot win a battle never fought, and any Sad Sack can find reasons to lose. In fact, the prospects for such a campaign are rather sunny. The February 2011 Gallup Poll shows that conservatives outnumber liberals in every single state, and the same poll shows giant conservative percentages in nineteen states in the South, Great Plains, and Rocky Mountains in which conservatives are a huge plurality of the voters. The vast majority of states with "open" primaries are states shown by Gallup as among the most conservative states in the nation (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Dakota, Texas, and Mississippi). A conservative Democrat who began winning could reach conservatives throughout the nation through the alternative media of talk radio and Fox News, and internet periodicals like this one. If our candidate were brave, articulate, and attractive, what, exactly, would Democrats do? Keep him (or her) out of presidential debates? Denounce this Democrat for views that were, basically, reflective of what Americans believed?
This sort of campaign could also provide another healthy tonic to American politics. "Conservatives" are simply those Americans cast by the left into the ghetto of "non-leftist." There are, or there ought to be, areas in which we can have serious debates within conservatism. Is a national sales tax better than a flat tax? How should we best defend our national security? Conservatives, another name for honest and serious people, can debate the best policies for America and, in fact, that is just what ought to be happening today.
Is nominating, or trying to nominate, conservative Democrats somehow dirty pool? No: it is, rather, honest pool, if they campaign as the conservative voice of the Democrat Party. RINOs, we all know, lie about their ideology. So-called "moderate" Democrats are leftists in disguise. The issue -- really, the only issue -- is whether we wish to move our country back into the happy realm of limited federal power, smaller government, acceptance of the primacy of Judeo-Christian values in public life, and the development of real security for our nation, especially in areas like immigration and energy production. If we care about that agenda, then there is no good reason why we should not fight to advance as many DINOs as we can.
Bruce Walker is the author of a new book: Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life.