Alan Zendell, November 28, 2022
Donald Trump refers to them as RINOs, Republicans in Name Only. I call them the Real Republicans who still believe in the Conservative principles laid out by former Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater and his contemporary protege, Jeff Flake. Those principles include integrity in governing, a commitment to keeping taxes low, and preventing the federal government from having too much control over states’ and individual rights.
A decade ago, the Real Republicans were the objects of my ire, largely because of the legacy of Ronald Reagan and Grover Norquist, who promulgated the notion that supply side (trickle down) economics was good for all Americans, though its only goal is to insure that the wealthiest Americans maintain the income gap that exists between them and everyone else. I had been focused on that until the advent of Trumpism made realize that lack of integrity and appeals to bigotry and racism, combined with a total lack of concern for the health and welfare of average Americans are far more important than which economic team you’re on.
Unfortunately, the Real Republicans were unprepared for the no holds barred, streetfighter approach Trump brought to politics in 2015. A candidate who preached forgetting courtesy, truth, and basic decency while appealing to every despicable fringe group willing to bend a knee to him was beyond their experience. That, combined with their personal egos and ambitions allowed Trump to divide, conquer, and destroy the traditional Republican Party.
As Trump has shown that he’s an albatross dragging his party down and placing the alliances that have kept us secure at risk, some of those who jumped on his bandwagon early now realize their error. One such is Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence. In the end, Mr. Pence was the hero of January 6, 2021, but that occurred after five years of marching in lockstep with Trump. In that, he was wrong on two counts.
Besides King George’s taxes, the most powerful driving force of the American Revolution was religious freedom and separation of religion from government. Pence, whose self-righteous view of Christianity has always scared me, reinforced my concern when he succumbed to Trump’s pandering on subjects like abortion and LBGTQ rights. His one supreme act of courage, defending our democracy, earns him a pass on the previous five years. But Mike Pence is not the solution for the future.
America needs a strong Republicans Party rooted in the principles of conservatism and the Constitution, and it would benefit from the emergence of a third, centrist party. Moderate billionaire Democrats Andrew Yang and Mike Bloomberg seem to want to found such a party, but until they convince enough centrists from both parties to join them, our best hope lies in a handful of Republicans who have shown their mettle.
Leading that list is Liz Cheney, Wyoming’s lone member in the House, who will leave office in January. Ms. Cheney fell on her sword to preserve the principles she believes in. She was driven from Congress by money from Trump’s PACs, but even with her defeat a near certainty, she never wavered. She voted to impeach him and led the charge to prove that he was responsible for the insurrection that nearly destroyed Congress and left a stain on our reputation around the world. I hope that behind the scenes, bigger PACs are lining up to support her. She shows no sign of backing down from her commitment to keep Trump from ever holding office again and assure that he is held accountable for his crimes.
Adam Kinzinger of Illinois talked the same talk and walked the same walk as Cheney, although he made the decision to not seek re-election more than a year ago. I haven’t heard him discuss his reasons for quitting or whether he plans to remain in politics, but the story teller in me imagines him rounding up Yang, Bloomberg, and a few other billionaires to join Cheney in challenging Trump for the 2024 nomination for president.
There are others, like Lisa Murkowski of Alaska who put their careers on the line to oppose Trump this year. Murkowski also voted to impeach him and has consistently condemned his actions on January 6th. Even Chris Christie, the former New Jersey Governor who sucked up to Trump at the beginning has realized that his political future, already on life support, can only survive if he joins the anti-Trumpers.
There are two more prominent Real Republicans to watch. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is one who has never been shy about criticizing Trump’s immoral behavior. Hutchinson is an example of a Christian leader who is guided by principle, who believes in our Constitution. Yesterday, he made an extremely forceful statement about Trump hosting Kanye West and avowed White Supremacist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes for dinner at Mar-a-lago. And don’t forget my outgoing Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, who has been a lone Republican voice of reason throughout the period of Trump’s influence.
Both Hutchinson and Hogan may challenge Trump in the ’24 primaries, but this time, the pundits are wrong. A large field of quality Republican candidates who care more about saving the country from Trump than their own ambitions will not be divided and defeated. That encourages me, because Joe Biden has done an incredible job as president for two years. I’ll sleep well at night knowing that even if he is defeated in 2024, it will be by someone who cares about our country more than him or herself.