Tuesday, April 07, 2009
The He-Man RINO haters club
Twenty years ago, the Republican Party in South Carolina was fighting to gain a majority in the General Assembly and among the state’s constitutional officers. While some of the now prominent role players in South Carolina Republican politics can be understood for not knowing that in that they were working in other states, still in grade school, or lurking about the bars of downtown Columbia, the truth remains it was a struggle to gain Republican dominance in state politics.
The late Carroll Campbell was instrumental in bringing about that power shift. Campbell brought Ronald Reagan’s “big tent” policy to the South Carolina Republican Party. If someone agreed on seven or eight out of ten things the Republican Party stood for, they were welcomed to join the party. As Reagan put it once, “a half of loaf is better than none.” The “big tent” philosophy made it comfortable for lifelong Democrats and Independents to vote Republican and give Republicans big election wins.
Twenty years later, a lot has changed. Reagan, Campbell, and the founder of the modern SC Republican Party, Strom Thurmond are all dead. So is their idea of a big tent. Instead, their idea of a big tent for the Republican Party has been replaced by the He-Man RINO haters club’s pup tent.
No matter how long one has worked to elect and support Republicans, disagree with one thing on the agenda of the He-Man RINO hater’s club, and you will be deemed a liberal Democrat out to destroy God and America. The operatives in that club have money from the contacts around a New York real estate tycoon who supported Jimmy Carter for President, but now wants to fund operatives and candidates to define who exactly is a Republican.
Take for example that group’s pet issue of tuition tax credits for private school tuition, i.e. a government spending plan for private schools. One can be pro-life, against gun control, against gay marriage, for tax cuts, against Obama’s stimulus package and budget, but still find himself a RINO for not signing off on that crowd’s government spending proposal. The well paid operatives will say, “a real Republican wants school choice, who cares about the other stuff.” Well, I say, a real Republican uses his brain and realizes that tuition assistance to private colleges and universities brought in government regulation.
Regardless of where one stands on tuition tax credits or vouchers, creating litmus tests for people to identify themselves as Republican is politically dimwitted. Using the methods of the He-Man RINO haters club, Ronald Reagan would never have been elected and the Republican Revolution of 1994 would have never happened. What Reagan and Newt Gingrich knew was that in order to build a successful political coalition you find things that most agree on to talk about and you do not pick a fight with someone who would otherwise support you on this or that issue. Indeed when I think about some of the things Republican stalwarts like Reagan, Campbell, Goldwater and even Gingrich addressed, I can not help but think some well paid operative would call them RINOs today in South Carolina politics.
What those men knew, and the well paid punks running around calling themselves real Republicans now do not know is that there is a great middle ground out there with voters. The average middle of the road South Carolina voter who decides the elections does not want his guns messed with. He is not comfortable with gay marriage and he supports the troops. He is worried about his job and is no fan of Obama’s. Yet, his kids are in public schools. Is the new South Carolina Republican Party now going to tell that guy he’s not welcomed in the party because he’s not comfortable with the tuition tax credit idea? The guy likes Jim DeMint’s stand on the Fair Tax and earmarks, but can not understand why Mark Sanford refuses money taxpayers are going to have to pay back anyway. Does that make that guy a RINO and not welcomed to donate or vote Republican?
Indeed, we in South Carolina who call ourselves Republican are in a crisis of conscious. Are we the party of Reagan and Campbell, or are we going to be a cult of personality revolving around Mark Sanford and those who finance Sanford and his backers? Make no mistake, the agenda espoused by Mark Sanford and his supporters, who are mostly well paid, has nothing to do with traditional Republican politics or even conservatism. It has everything to do with carrying out the vision of Sanford and an eccentric billionaire from New York. If you support that agenda, the money will flow to you. If you question it, and dare to argue sincere conservative principles, get ready to be called a RINO and have some things flat made up against you.
It defies political logic. After nearly 20 years of being involved in South Carolina politics, I have never seen a movement so hellbent on running off potential supporters instead of finding ways to embrace supporters. We Republicans have a choice over the next few weeks. Will we embrace the big tent or the pup tent? If we embrace the pup tent, do not be shocked if in 2010 and beyond Democrats make unexpected gains. Remember, the He-Man woman haters club from the Little Rascals met in a tree house. With the demographic shifts in South Carolina, the He-Man RINO haters club might relegate the GOP to the same venue over the next few years.