The Political Disaster of RINOs
The run for the Republican presidential nomination will start in earnest very soon, and Jeb Bush has already set the RINO argument: Republicans need to moderate ideology and choose, instead, someone who can be elected. What proof is there of this proposition? Precisely once has a conservative candidate done poorly in a presidential election. That was Barry Goldwater in 1964, and it has been RINOs, not conservatives, who have proven political disasters in winning elections.
The Goldwater defeat in 1964 had less to do with Goldwater and more to do with a nation going to the polls 12 months after a shocking assassination. The “fallout” from this election was not what the left would have expected at all. Two years later, in 1966, Republicans won a sweeping midterm landslide, winning races up and down the ticket all across the nation.
Republicans understood the nobility and value of Goldwater’s run in 1964. When he appeared at the 1968 Republican Convention, he received a sustained, heartfelt, long standing ovation. He was not treated as Democrats treated McGovern after 1972, or as Democrats treated Mondale after 1984.
Goldwater was a hero because he stood for something real, and he showed the guts to stand by his convictions. When Goldwater, who had not sought re-election to the Senate in 1964, ran for the Senate in 1968, even leftist magazines like Newsweek actually endorsed him in the general election, and Goldwater won that 1968 Senate race by a landslide.
Every other time Republicans have nominated an unapologetic and firm conservative – 1924, 1980, and 1984 – this conservative Republican won by an enormous landslide. Coolidge in 1924, in fact, won by a wider margin over his Democrat opponent than any presidential candidate in the last ninety years – wider than FDR in 1936 or LBJ in 1964 or Nixon in 1972 or Reagan in 1984.
Reagan ran in four general elections – governor of California in 1966 and 1970 and president in 1980 and 1984 – and he won each race by a landslide. It is easy to forget that the left in those first three elections had predicted that Reagan would lose precisely because he was “too conservative” or that in the only political contest that Reagan ever lost, his 1976 run for the Republican nomination, Reagan came closer to denying the party nomination to a sitting president than anyone had ever done.
What has been the record of RINO presidential candidates? These RINO candidates ran very disappointing losing races in 1936, 1940, 1944, 1948, 1960, 1976, 1992, 1996, 2008, and 2012. They made for disappointing losses as well. RINOs did win elections in 1968, 1972, 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2004, but two of the three RINO candidates in those elections, Nixon and George H. Bush, also lost presidential races. Eisenhower alone was a truly strong RINO candidate, but that was because he was a very popular military leader – so popular that both parties tried to get him to run as their candidate.
As is so often the case, the Establishment simply says what it wishes were true and then tries to convince us that this wish is true. So it keeps repeating the notion that only moderates can appeal to the American people. Conservatives ought to turn this argument around. The best way history shows to win presidential elections is to nominate a real conservative candidate. We ought also to keep noting that polls consistently show that conservatives are a majority of the American people and propose that conservative candidates are best able to appeal to that conservative majority.
There is another reason to nominate a conservative to be the Republican presidential nominee. A victorious conservative president will have a mandate when he takes office to really change Washington and to actually implement those conservative policies he campaigned on in the presidential election.
It is hard to overstate the importance of that fact. Disdain and mistrust of government, especially the federal government, is at an all-time high. The vast majority of the American people want radical change in Washington and pine for someone they can trust to do in office what he had promised to during when running for office. There is only one way to do that: nominate and then election a true conservative to be president.