Today I am covering the term RINO. RINO (Republican in Name Only) is meant to convey that the politician in question is insufficiently conservative to really be a Republican. Although it is an increasingly frequently used term that is often lacking in understanding of the politician’s overall voting record or based on a heavily distorted picture of said record, there was much more validity to it when applied for much of the 20th Century. At that time, the GOP had far more RINOs than today, and their records were significantly more divergent from the conservative line. A few examples:
Case #1: Hugh Scott
Sen. Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania is a very prominent example of someone who could legitimately be called a RINO, and he was the Senate Republican leader from 1969 to 1977. He had a reputation of being the “most liberal conservative”, the “most conservative liberal”, and the “most extreme moderate”. Scott often supported Great Society measures, as evidenced by his 1966 score from conservative group Americans for Constitutional Action (ACA) of only 35 out of 100. Yet, he supported Everett Dirksen’s 1966 efforts at amending the Constitution in a conservative direction and was a reliable ally for Nixon on the Vietnam War. That a supporter by and large of the Great Society could be voted in as leader is evidence of how far from uniformly conservative the GOP was then.
Case #2: John B. Anderson
For political aficionados this name might be familiar to you. It was John B. Anderson, who passed away in December, who was the third party candidate in the 1980 presidential election. He ran to the left of center and served primarily to take votes from Jimmy Carter. However, Anderson had a past…a conservative past. In 1960, he was elected to the House from Illinois. In his first two years in Congress, the ACA rated him a 95 out of 100. The liberal group Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) gave him a 0 out of 100 for his first three years in office. He even went as far as to propose an amendment to officially recognize the influence of God and Jesus Christ over the United States. This went beyond the standard “school prayer amendment” as it had America fundamentally choose a side on religion, and Anderson would come to regret the thoughtlessness of this proposal. However, starting in 1964, Anderson would gradually find himself increasingly at odds with the conservative wing of his party to the point that they became a primary foe for him, and conservatives felt similarly. A major part of this shift was the civil rights movement, particularly his change in position on fair housing legislation. Anderson wasn’t just any old Congressman either: in 1968 the Republicans thought highly enough of him to make him chair of the House Republican Conference. By the 1970s his record had morphed into one of a centrist. In 1973 and 1974 his ACA scores were 46 and 33 respectively. He continued moving leftward throughout the 1970s and by 1980 most of the people who endorsed him were liberals who were not pleased with Carter. After his 1980 bid for the presidency, Anderson endorsed mostly Democrats for president, including Walter Mondale in 1984 and Barack Obama in 2008.
Case #3: Charles Goodell
The father of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Charles Goodell led two political lives. The first began with death, as he was elected to the House in 1959 after the death of Republican Daniel Reed, who had served in the House since 1919. Goodell established a record that was conservative, but not extremely so. He was even awarded a score of 100 by the ACA in his first year. On most of the critical issues, he sided with his party. He opposed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (the Johnson anti-poverty package) and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965. He voted for major civil rights legislation of the time as well. However, as the 1960s wore on, his record grew more moderate…perhaps he was anticipating greater things. After all, he was recognized as a policy wonk and was placed in charge the House Republican Planning and Research Committee so as to craft policies in response to the drubbing the Republicans suffered in 1964. Among other things, he wanted to craft a conservative substitute to the War on Poverty programs. His second political life also began with death: in 1968 Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan. Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, seeing a highly qualified man in Goodell, appointed him to the seat.
It was not long before he came out against the Vietnam War and established a record in the Senate so liberal it rivaled that of longtime liberal Republican Jacob Javits. It was as if his House career hadn’t happened. Goodell also marched with Coretta Scott King in an anti-war protest and even secured the endorsement of Noam Chomsky. These developments resulted in Vice President Spiro Agnew denouncing him as a “radical liberal” and stating that he was the “Christine Jorgensen of the Republican Party” (a famous transsexual). Goodell stood for election to the seat in 1970 under the slogan “Too Good to Lose!”, but ultimately the race became a three-way battle between him, Conservative James L. Buckley, and Democrat Richard Ottinger. Conservatives had no reason to vote for Goodell at this point, his ACA score having fallen to 5 that year. Liberals split their votes between Goodell and Ottinger, resulting in a Buckley victory with Goodell coming in third. This was the end of elective politics for him, although his old friend Gerald Ford would appoint him to head a board pardoning draft dodgers.
Compared to the three cases above, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, who both hold American Conservative Union lifetime scores of 89%, don’t look so bad for conservatives now do they?
Other Notable RINOs:
John Lindsay, Congressman and notoriously destructive Mayor of New York City, switched party affiliation to Democrat in 1972.
Nelson Rockefeller, Governor of New York.
Jacob Javits, Congressman and Senator from New York.
Clifford Case, Congressman and Senator from New Jersey.
Charles Mathias, Congressman and Senator from Maryland.
William Scranton, Congressman and Governor of Pennsylvania.
Arlen Specter, Senator from Pennsylvania, switched party affiliation to Democrat in 2009.
Mark Hatfield, Governor of Oregon and Senator.
Lincoln Chafee, Senator from Rhode Island, failed contender for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.
Crass, S. (2015). Statesmen and mischief makers: Officeholders who were footnotes in the developments of history from Kennedy to Reagan.
Curtis, B. Mr. Goodell Goes to Washington: The father of the commish versus Richard Nixon. Grantland.
Gizzi, J. (24 December 2017). Remembering Ex-Rep. John B. Anderson: Why Did He Move From Hard Right to Strong Left? Newsmax.