Dissent is democratic: Stop calling McCain, Corker, Flake RINOs

Dissent is democratic: Stop calling McCain, Corker, Flake RINOs
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“If she weighs the same as a duck, she’s made of wood,” a man in an angry mob from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” says. “And therefore?” asks another, helping connect the obvious dots. “A witch!” The logic was simple to them: If she sinks, a witch can escape. If she floats, she’s a witch! Problem solved.

Of course, in real life, they all drowned.

That’s the kind of logic being applied today to any Republican who criticizes President Trump. In this case, the angry mob is made of Republicans like Steve Bannon who believe critics of the president automatically forfeit their conservative credentials. The witches? Senators like Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press Bipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House Flake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense MORE (R-Ariz.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Congress should take the lead on reworking a successful Iran deal North Korea tensions ease ahead of Winter Olympics MORE (R-Tenn.), and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Meghan McCain says her father regrets opposition to MLK Day MORE (R-Ariz.). Let’s stop this madness. It’s time to stop shouting, “RINO!”

As expected, the term RINO (Republican-in-name-only) is being thrown around gratuitously. In particular, Flake, Corker, and McCain have been vilified as shallow Republicans who’ve all along been duplicitously hiding.  But if you really think the likes of Flake, Corker, and McCain aren’t conservative enough, then chances are you never truly understood them.

Senator Flake’s recent speech on the Senate floor was largely seen as a rebuke of “Trumpism.” But in many ways, his last few months have been a defense of party ideals. He spoke of the need to take “the long view” on important issues like free trade which has taken a backseat to protectionist rhetoric. Even the title of his recent book is borrowed from Barry Goldwater whose actions many consider the impetus to the modern conservative movement. As one recent article in The Hill put it, “Jeff Flake was the Tea Party before the Tea Party was cool.” With a lifetime rating of 93 percent from the American Conservative Union, the Arizona senator has often been a thorn in the side of party leadership. A RINO he is not.

If there were anyone with license to criticize Trump, it would be Bob Corker. Corker was one of the earliest establishment supporters of Trump, lending him credibility and foreign policy chops at a time when that was one of his main weaknesses on the campaign trail. Much the same as Flake, the Tennessee senator has voted with Trump over 86 percent of the time and indicated he has no plans of standing in the way of the White House’s agenda. And, unlike the president, he has pushed for increased sanctions on Russia, something that was agreed upon almost unanimously by congressional Republicans this summer. Simply put, Corker has criticized the man, not the policy. A RINO he is not.

John McCain has also been an obvious target for these criticisms for not being a true conservative after he bucked the president on health care during the late-night drama on the Senate floor this summer. The maverick of the Senate has long championed conservative causes from bolstering the defense budget, being a warrior against pork barrel spending, and not to mention, serving as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. A RINO he is not.

So, as Steve Bannon and his motley crew begin setting up primary challenges to consistent conservatives, Republicans should probably do some reflecting. Do we really want to challenge Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerUS trade deficit rises on record imports from China Flake, GOP senators to meet with Trump on trade Senate nixes provision boosting conservative college after uproar MORE in Nebraska because she isn’t a steady sycophant? How about wasting resources with a primary against John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump’s infrastructure plan may slip to next month Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism Trump's infrastructure team to huddle with senators MORE in Wyoming who won his last election by 54 points?

Bannon’s party infighting hurts the GOP by putting their already thin majority in jeopardy. Alabama is the perfect example of this danger. Roy Moore won his primary with some help from Bannon, but at what cost? A recent poll had Moore tied with his Democratic opponent, creating what appears to be the most competitive race in Alabama in years.

While a Moore victory still seems likely, the fact that Republicans should even have to take a second look at this seat should call into question Bannon’s efforts.  Yes, the GOP has won contentious elections in states like Montana, Georgia, and Kansas, but those victories were certainly no sign of party strength.

The incumbents being criticized and challenged for not being pure enough are far from RINOs, and the Republican Party is made up of more than just the man at the top.  A RINO is someone who doesn’t support the policies or the larger, more important ideals which the GOP represents. And when a Republican criticizes their leaders, it doesn’t make them unfaithful to those ideals. Dissent is democratic, not Democratic. No party should have a monopoly on criticism of our country’s leaders.

Sink or float, she’s not a witch. Critic or devotee, they’re still reliable Republicans.

Patrick Wohl is a former campaign staffer for Kentucky Senator Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year Despite amnesty, DACA bill favors American wage-earners MORE, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, and Missouri Governor Eric Greitens.