The law-flouting, truth-denying, science-deriding Trumpian Republican extremists are the real RINOs

March 15, 2022 3:20 am

David Reinert holds up a large “Q” sign while waiting in line to see President Donald J. Trump at a rally. Photo by Rick Loomis | Getty Images.

It’s the MAGA battle cry heading into the primaries. 

“He’s a grandstanding RINO.”-Donald Trump about retiring Ohio Republican congressman Anthony Gonzalez who voted to impeach him for Jan 6. 

“Mike DeWine is the biggest RINO in America today.”-Jim Renacci, Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate about the Republican incumbent. 

“Ohio is not going to tolerate RINOs anymore.”-Marjorie Taylor Green in endorsing Ohio Republican J.D. Vance for the U.S. Senate.  

“This guy [DeWine] is the epitome of a RINO; he’s everything that is wrong with the Republican Party.”-Josh Mandel, Ohio Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. 

They’ve got it all wrong. Those screaming the pejorative acronym “RINO” (Republican in Name Only) at Republicans they jeer as squishy conservatives, have it backwards. They, the norm-breaking, law-flouting, truth-denying, science-deriding extremists, are the real RINOs. They’re the posers, as far from what used to pass for traditional conservatives as neofascists can get. Definitely not your father’s GOP. 

One historian mused that the intellectual predecessors of today’s “Republicans” wouldn’t even recognize them as members of the same party.  ‘Gotta say, not even close to the Ohio Republicans I’ve known, respected and even voted for in bygone years. That’s because the real RINOs don’t give a damn about actual conservative values. They dismiss expertise, obstruct accountability, thwart progress, support regression. The real RINOs champion no policies. They offer no problem-solving, no persuasive arguments. Just clickbait attacking Democrats as the antichrists on social media.   

They peddle fear and loathing for likes. The media is fake and hateful. Godless liberals are ruining everything pure and wholesome and white in America. The more apocalyptic the outrage, the better. It’s a power trip. Light a match on Twitter and watch it all burn. So what if you shred the fabric of the nation in the process? Self-styled conservatives don’t want to conserve the foundations of the American experiment. They want to dismantle them outright. They voted to overturn a free and fair democratic election after a terrorizing assault on the U.S. Capitol, for Pete’s sake. 

The real RINOs are also zero-sum game combatants — out to defeat Republicans who aren’t. These Party of Lincoln pretenders sidle up to white supremacists, lend legitimacy to bigots and lean into “justifiable” insurrection to become far-right celebs. They foment racial division, fuel anti-Semitism and lie through their teeth 24/7 about a “stolen” election that wasn’t. They cheer the “patriots” who viciously beat police, trashed the Capitol and hunted down lawmakers in a violent siege to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

The real RINOs are shameless opportunists looking for nationwide fame and fundraising fortune. To that end, they are willing to fatally wound the last best hope for democracy in the world by pledging total allegiance to a traitorous ex-president who nearly destroyed it.

While the vindictive snake plots his comeback to the White House as a Putinesque thug, the Republicans in name only grovel for his endorsement as an Orwellian badge of honor. Up is down. Black is white. The sore loser of the 2020 presidential election is the legitimate winner. And radical rightists, lining up to return a man to power who nearly ended the republic, are Republicans with firm beliefs in conserving the Republic. 

In that alternate universe, the characters masquerading as “true conservatives” are traipsing around the country getting rich on the gullible as ultra-right provocateurs. They are essentially grifters exploiting white grievance and preaching the false gospel of MAGA on a lucrative circuit selling extreme. They rake in mega bucks in donations. With the fervor of an old-fashioned tent revival, they spread hate and stoke anger, feed intolerance and cultivate mistrust, plant conspiracy and taunt militancy. 

They rally to “Take America Back.” Back to where? To a place where the superiority of white men was unquestioned? To a place where liberty and justice are denied to all but a chosen few — the authentic Americans that meet select litmus tests? Is unwavering loyalty to a corrupt authoritarian who incited an assault on Congress essential for Republicans who want to win primaries? 

Will those who dare speak truth to voters about the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory — and reject the false, self-serving narrative constantly repeated by the vanquished — be the target of RINO slurs by Trumpian agitators?

Yes, to all of the above. But as history professor Robert McElvaine wrote for NBC News, we need to stop providing the cover of Republican legitimacy to those who have, by their cravenness, given up any claim to the legacy of Lincoln’s party. We need to call them what they truly are, “to make it easier for the public to see what they’re doing.” 

He has suggestions.

“One accurate name for those who shroud their anti-republican actions in the false label “Republican” would be the “Anti-Republican Party; other truthful designations could include the Authoritarian Party; the Autocracy Party, the Radical Rightwing Party or the Anti-American Party.” 

Any will do. They all aptly describe those trumpeting the RINO battle cry.



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Marilou Johanek
Marilou Johanek

Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.