I have – though not yet in this forum – been accused of being a RINO. I hate the epithet: who, one must ask, has the right to decide what makes for a “real” Republican, and what makes for a Republican In Name Only?
Yet when I went back to first principles and thought through who I am and why, I realized that yes, in fact, I may be a RINO, and I think that might be a very good thing.
To understand my political beliefs, I had to start thinking about who I am, and what aspects of my identity are the most fundamental, working from inside (most essential) outwards.
So who I am, in order of precedence:
- First, I am a human being.
- Second, I am a husband and a father.
- Third, I am an American and a Jew.
- Fourth, I am conservative.
- Fifth, I am a Republican.
Here is the reason for that precedence:
My humanity is what defines me, what separates me from being a rock, a tree, some other species of hairless simian, or a sentient alien life form. Being human comes with some benefits and some baggage, but I embrace all of that.
My belief in humanity and my role in it make me a husband and a father.
My belief in my family, my desire to make for us a good home, and to give us opportunities to better ourselves and the world around us have led me to increasingly base my life, behavior, and views on the twin pillars of the Charters of Freedom (The United States Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights) and on Torah (as embodied in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, and commentaries derived thereof).
My desire to protect and defend these twin traditions (which despite ancient roots continue to grow and evolve,) while continuing to search for ways to better the world with wisdom, justice, and mercy make me a conservative.
My belief that the most practical way to do the above in the context of the American polity is to support the one party of the two dominant parties whose values most closely reflect my own. The one that comes closest is still the Republican Party, and so I am a Republican.
This is important, because the way these principles align make it clear that when the stances or behavior of the Republican Party – either the leadership or the rank-and-file – are at odds with the principles of my conservatism, the legal and moral framework of my Judeo-American ethos, the interests of my family, and/or of my humanity, I am obliged to take a stance at odds with the Party.
My first desire is to do so within the context of the Party, to add to the diversity of voices that the Party nurtured since its rise from the wreckage of the Whig Party in the 1850s. From this constructive if occasionally fractious process should come a party capable of managing and championing measured and careful progress (as opposed to rapid, headlong, and potentially destructive change as advocated by radicals, or the dogged defense of the status quo or a desire to return to the past as advocated by reactionaries.)
But if the behavior and mechanisms of the Party evince a complete and final rejection of the inclusive approach championed by Republicans like Reagan, Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln in favor of an ossified, doctrinaire conservatism that is in truth reactionary, it would be impossible for me to remain a Republican. I consider myself rather far to the right of the Democratic Party on most issues. But if I were to find myself as far from the central axis of the GOP as I am from the Democrats, then my affiliation becomes meaningless, and I can only renounce the former as much as I do the latter.
Thus it is not my own principles or stances that make me a Republican or a RINO, but the platform and behavior of the Party itself.
So call me a RINO if you will. But if you reject me, my die-hard Republican friends, consider carefully whether I am an isolated case, or whether you might be abandoning the very people whose votes you will need if you ever again expect to see a Republican voted fairly into the White House.