As a lifelong Republican, I’ve always used the words “Republican” and “Conservative” interchangeably. To me, they’ve always been one in the same. But in popular culture, that’s not the case anymore…and I am having trouble putting my finger on the definition of a “True Conservative”.
As it would seem, if you are not in the category of true conservative, you are a RINO. No in-between. No room for nuance or personal experience guiding the way. You either are or you are not.
If I ask around about what makes a TC, I hear many different answers. “Respects the Constitution.” “Says no to spending.” “Has principles.” “Faithful to constituents.” A good Freedomworks score and some good rhetoric, and that’s how we know the good from the bad.
What’s interesting is that most Republicans by definition feel this way (I know I do, and I’m pretty sure John Boehner doesn’t get up every morning thinking about how he can get around the Constitution), but a small group of grassroots activists disagrees, and since they are new and anyone who was around before them is “establishment”, anyone who doesn’t lockstep agree with them must not really be conservative.
This struck me very clearly on the first day of the new Congress when Mia Love, a “True Conservative” darling, made two choices: she voted for Boehner as speaker, and she joined the Congressional Black Caucus.
Now, Congresswoman Love may have had any number of reasons for doing what she did. She may have spoken to Boehner and liked what she heard. She may have reasonably assumed that since the protest vote was going nowhere (after all, the 25 defectors could not even be bothered to coalesce around one candidate, and instead, split votes even among themselves), the politically expedient thing to do was to not join it. Who knows? As for the CBC, perhaps she felt that her very presence called into question the need for the organization, and she wanted to be a reminder of that at every meeting she joined. Perhaps she thinks that the best way to change an organization like that is from within. Or perhaps, just perhaps, she actually felt that in spite of political differences, she has something in common with other Black members of Congress that made membership in the organization worthwhile.
She may have had any number of reasons for doing what she did. But apparently with those two actions, which are actually fairly innocuous, she took out her copy of the Constitution, tore it up in front of our eyes, and spit on it. Because now, ladies and gentleman, her “True Conservative” card was revoked.
Reaction on social media was swift and merciless. Paraphrased lines included “You’ve stabbed us in the back.” “You have no principles, you lied to us.” “You’re a RINO now.” And my personal favorite “It’s time to get to work to get her out of there in two years and replace her with a (you guessed it) true conservative.” And it continues to be so. If you read anything she posts to her Facebook or Twitter feeds about actions she’s taken since, she’s continuously labeled by some as a RINO. A full 3 weeks into her term.
Does this make sense to anyone? If so, I’d like someone to explain it to me.
I’m beginning to think this “true conservative” is the modern-day quadricorn. Does it exist? CAN it actually exist, when faced with the realities of actually being in power, needing to work with people, the realization that sometimes we need compromise to move forward? Or is the whole movement about having a number of people who just say “no” and get nothing done, unwilling or unable to work with people not lock step with their narrow principles? What exactly does that accomplish?
This is national all the way down to the local level. The Douglas County Republican Party is locked in a battle right now between these so-called “true conservatives” and “RINOs”. No in-between. No compromise. No big tent.
It seems like the “true conservatives” are here to pass the time playing checkers. Don’t our Party and our nation deserve leaders who are willing to play chess?