RINOcracy.com was founded in May, 2013 as a voice within the Republican Party, albeit a voice dissenting from party orthodoxy on some significant issues. The 2013 “Welcome to RINOcracy,” which appears below, explained the origin of the name, some of my political background and offered brief thoughts on several issues. Now, however, things have changed. In a Special Bulletin on November 9, “Au Revoir, But Not Goodbye,” I announced that I would be leaving the Republican Party and that RINOcracy would no longer claim to be a voice from that party. This decision did not reflect any change of position on any issues but spoke of my unwillingness to remain a member of a party headed by Donald Trump and over which he will exert substantial control. That unwillingness is based on both my view of Trump’s temperament, abilities and character as well as various policy positions he took during the campaign.
Since RINOcracy.com had been created as a voice within the Republican Party, the question arose as to whether it should continue at all and, if so under what name. I have decided to continue, for a while at least, on the theory that, apart from formal party affiliation, there is room for a relatively calm voice from the center right. I intend to continue with the name RINOcracy.com because I have gotten fond of it and don’t think it’s worth the trouble of changing. As noted in the Special Bulletin, however, it will now be described as “A Haven for Republicans in Exile.” Hence, it is timely to update the Welcome to RINOcracy.
Before turning to that task, it seems necessary to write a few more words about the results of the recent election. As one who has been highly critical of Donald Trump, and probably will be in the future, I understand and share the distress of many at his election. Many of us, however, have friends and family who saw things very differently and they are not “deplorables,” but decent people who love this country as we do. At the same, we hope that Trump supporters will try to understand and appreciate the depth of the concerns raised by some of the President-Elect’s rhetoric during the campaign.
Now more than ever, it is vital that, as we search for common ground, we do so with every bit of good will that all of us can muster. And when differences are irreconcilable—as they sometimes will be–let those differences be debated honestly, and even with passion, but passion tempered by mutual respect.
Welcome to RINOcracy 2.0
The purpose of Welcome to RINOcracy 2.0 is not only to explain the evolution of RINOcracy.com, but to note some issues that were not mentioned in the 2013 Welcome and to comment briefly on some that were. The catalog of issues mentioned is selective rather than comprehensive, and it offers only brief snapshots without the nuance, depth (and occasional humor) that individual blogs try to provide. The purpose here is only to provide a general sense of the writer’s perspectives and some landmarks for the territory that future discussions may cover. It is assumed that readers will agree with some of the opinions and disagree with others, but disagreement conveyed in a civil manner is always welcome.
Significant domestic issues not mentioned in 2013 included immigration, trade, education, race relations, government regulation, and climate change. With respect to immigration, I support, as almost everyone does, improved border security, but I believe that a wall as described by Donald Trump is unnecessary and would be ineffective (and will not be paid for by Mexico). Mass deportation is neither desirable nor feasible. Illegal immigrants in the United States who have not committed criminal offenses should be given a path to legal status and, ultimately, citizenship.
I support free trade agreements including NAFTA and the TPP (which now appears doomed). Such agreements may disadvantage workers in some industries but on the whole benefit our economy. Workers who are hurt by such agreements should be given greater assistance in job retraining and relocation. Any actions that lead to some form of trade war with China or Mexico would be a grave mistake.
Although the efforts of the Department of Education have often been heavy-handed and bureaucratic, there is an important federal role in education in raising and maintaining standards. I share the Republican support for choice through charter schools and vouchers and note that federal support for choice may be a counterweight to opposition from teachers’ unions at state and local levels. I support the Common Core Curriculum although its implementation in some areas has been problematic as a result of insufficient training.
In 2013, issues of race relations lay largely below the surface. Since then, the deaths of several unarmed black men as a result of police actions have resulted in major protests. Without judging the facts of any case, it is clear that we still have much work to do in improving race relations generally and in particular between police and the communities they serve. The federal government should have a leadership role in helping people to find ways of working together.
In general, I am sympathetic to the Republican claim that the Obama administration has imposed costly and, in many cases, unnecessary regulations that have placed a burden on the economy. The difficulty, of course, is in assessing the burden and benefits of particular regulations, which must be done on a case by case basis. I have, for example, not made an analysis of the Dodd-Frank legislation, but I am inclined to believe that there are probably parts that should be scrapped and parts that should be retained.
Unfortunately, climate change received little or no attention in the 2016 campaign, but it is real and needs be taken seriously. Human activity is a substantial cause of climate change and must be regulated if damage from climate change is to be limited. Such regulation, however, should be subject to rigorous cost benefit analysis. The Clean Power Plan mandated by the EPA could be a subject for legitimate debate but is, in any event, likely to be withdrawn by the Trump Administration. If so, alternative approaches should be sought and we should not repudiate the Paris Accords.
Issues touched upon in 2013 but worthy of further comment include social issues, healthcare, tax policy, entitlements and the national debt. In 2013, social issues were at the heart of my self-description as a RINO: “I am pro-choice, pro gay rights and pro gun control.” With the election of Donald Trump, there is hope on the part of some, and fear on the part of others, that Trump appointees to the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. I do not think that will necessarily happen, but I would regret it if it did. Subsequent to 2013, the Supreme Court recognized the validity of same sex marriages. I believe that decision was correct and doubt that it will be reversed. I believe that there are a variety of gun control measures that could be adopted consistent with the Second Amendment, but given the prevailing political climate, that will not happen, at least at the federal level. There has been, however, useful legislation in several states.
In addressing healthcare in 2013, I expressed a negative view of Obamacare that, in many respects, has been confirmed by experience. Nevertheless, it is now clear that the Affordable Care Act must not merely be repealed but replaced by a system that seeks to meet the same goal of assuring the availability of affordable healthcare for all. Whether Trump and the Republicans in Congress can develop such a replacement remains to be seen.
The 2016 campaign presented almost diametrically opposed approaches to taxes: significant increases proposed by Hillary Clinton and significant tax cuts proposed by Donald Trump. I was and remain skeptical of both. In general, I would prefer to see any tax increases focused largely on reducing the national debt and any tax cuts focused primarily on relief to small businesses.
In 2013, I asserted that “‘entitlements’ (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) are an unsustainable burden on the national economy and must be significantly reformed to be preserved.” I continue to believe that and also that reducing the national debt, an issue largely ignored by both Trump and Clinton, should be made a priority. As to entitlements and matters of fiscal policy generally, I am influenced by the analyses of the bipartisan Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget, a lineal descendant of the Simpson-Bowles Commission.
The 2013 Welcome said nothing on the subject of foreign policy and a great deal has has happened since then, including:
- Russia’s seizure of Crimea and support of insurgents in eastern Ukraine;
- the strengthening of the Assad regime in Syria with support from Russia and Iran;
- the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and terrorist attacks in the United States, Europe and around the world;
- conclusion of the Iran Nuclear Agreement
I believe that, while Russia’s seizure of Crimea will not be reversed any time soon, if ever, the application of sanctions on Russia has provided some restraint on its interference in eastern Ukraine and discouraged such activity in the Baltics. I believe it is important to maintain and improve the strength of NATO, and I am extremely wary of Trump’s seeming admiration of Vladimir Putin.
In Iraq and Syria, no one advocates the introduction of American combat ground forces on a large scale, but an increase from the current level of approximately 6,000 could be required at some point and should not be categorically ruled out. (Similarly, the American ground forces of approximately 10,000 in Afghanistan, who are not involved in combat, should not be be reduced as long as the Taliban continue to present a serious threat.) Replacement of the Assad regime in Syria now appears to be a lost cause, and it may be that consideration should be given to a settlement that would involve a partition of the country.
The Iran Nuclear Agreement had serious flaws and there were strong arguments why it should not have been agreed to. Having done so, however, it would be a mistake to repudiate the agreement in the absence of a significant and demonstrable breach by Iran. The other countries party to the agreement would be unlikely to reinstate sanctions and Iran would likely be able to resume its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
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Welcome to RINOcracy (2013)
For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to the political world, RINO is a term sometimes applied to Republicans who are deemed insufficiently committed to this or that “principle” of the current Republican Party. Hence, in their view: Republicans In Name Only. While intended as a term of derision (or worse), it is a label I bear proudly. As I wrote in a letter to the New York Times published in April 2013, my motto is: “RINOs, let us unite and put our hides on the line to save our party from itself.” Bold words, I later thought, but apart from the occasional letter to the editor, what am I doing about it? This blog is the answer. A very small step indeed, but possibly one that might encourage others.
What are my credentials? First, the Republican part. I have been a Republican all my life. I recall (or possibly I just recall being told) that in 1940, at the age of five, I joined the family in listening to the Republican convention on the radio and added my small voice to the broadcast chorus of “We want Wilkie.” Several years later, as soon as I was eligible to vote, I became a registered Republican and have remained one ever since. Along the way, I served in the Nixon and Ford Administrations in various positions in the White House (including the Counsel’s Office) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Finally, after retiring to Cape Cod in 1995, I was elected to serve on a Republican Town Committee.
So why am I a RINO? In a nutshell, I am pro-choice, pro gay rights and pro gun control. If that were not enough, I do not share the view of the Grover Norquist wing of the Party that any tax increase, on anyone, at any time, for any reason, is a bad idea. Along with Alan Simpson, I believe that increased tax revenues are needed as a part of the approach to our fiscal problems. Those ideas and others will be expanded upon, explained and defended in this blog. In order to be a RINO, though, it is not necessary to share all of my heretical notions. One or two is probably enough: the RINO tent is a big one. (Indeed, even non-Republicans are welcome as “Associate RINOs” if they feel they might become Republicans one day.)
Given my views, some might ask why am I not a Democrat or at least an Independent. The answer is that, in many respects, I remain a more or less traditional Republican. I reject the view of many Democrats that the sole answer to our fiscal difficulties is increasing taxes on “the rich” and that redistributing income through the internal revenue code is the preferred solution to the problems of growing income inequality. Also unlike many Democrats, I believe that “Entitlements” (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) are an unsustainable burden on the national economy and must be significantly reformed to be preserved. I also share the perception of my fellow Republicans that Democrats believe that most social problems are best addressed by complicated (and frequently overlapping) federal programs that require the maximum number of bureaucrats to administer. The most significant initiative of the Obama Administration, the Affordable Health Care Act, had worthy objectives, but in practice seems increasingly to be exposed as an expensive and cumbersome apparatus that cannot be sustained. (Readers of a certain age may recognize an analogy to devices created by Rube Goldberg.)
An Independent, of course, is free to be critical of both parties—as I often am. And if I were transplanted from another country (or planet), that’s where I might be most comfortable. But apart from my personal history as a Republican, our politics have been, and remain, very much organized around the two party system. Notwithstanding the gridlock of recent years, that system has served us pretty well and, in any event, there do not seem to be any plausible alternatives in sight. Thus, to be a full participant in American politics, it is useful, if not essential, to belong to one of the two major parties. Put another way, I think that survival of the Republican Party is in the national interest and its survival may depend on the Party changing its course in some respects. And whatever small influence I might have in advocating such change is more likely to have some effect from within than without.