We've all become accustomed to the term "RINO", short for "Republican in Name Only." It's an appellation most frequently applied by more conservative members of the GOP to fellow partisans deemed not sufficiently devoted to far right principles.
My Republican friend up the street recently modified that term, in the process correctly spelling the shortened name of the species sometimes feared to also be on the brink of extinction. His definition goes like this:
"RHINO … Republicans Having Involuntary Nausea … Often." Those folks swallowing hard to avoid public displays of intestinal disruption aren't too hard to identify.
They include deficit hawks facing burgeoning debt caused by inopportune tax cuts and spending increases that ought to make a real conservative regurgitate voluntarily rather than by accident. Perhaps some true Christians remaining silent in the face of less than scriptural remarks regarding women and minorities. Farmers and ranchers who've seen "trade by text" policies diminish overseas markets, those dollars partially replaced for a lucky few by subsidies derided as "welfare" when received by others less fortunate.
Even those displaying faded orange "Sportsmen for Trump" bumper stickers now worried about impacts of lessening protections on the public lands and waters and critters they value. And Main Street business leaders marking up inventories to account for seat-of-the-pants tariffs, all the while wondering if the self-described real estate genius temporarily occupying the Oval Office is bringing his "Art of the Deal" bankruptcy solutions to our federal government.
Trouble is, few of those "RHINOs" have displayed the intestinal fortitude to publicly step up and say our would-be emperor forgot to get dressed after a morning spent in "executive time" digitally manipulating the day's news cycle. We're left to wonder why.
There might be several reasons for the lack of courage on the part of those my friend from the other party has renamed "RHINOs."
Perhaps it's the sea of MAGA hats and T-shirts flanking the podiums at those choreographed rallies. After all, while GOP voters make up less than a third of the electorate nationally and locally and our president's favorability ratings are mostly in the dumper, he enjoys the support of the overwhelming majority identifying as Republicans. We all find ways, despite periodic misgivings, to run with our peeps. While it may be cozy in the partisan foxhole, unaffiliated voters who now make up the biggest chunk of voters increasingly trend blue and disavow red.
Silent but concerned Republicans probably also read the letters to the editor on this page. Most of us could name the apologists who write frequently defending the current administration. Oft times their letters include "…but Hillary…" or "…Obama…" or some variation of "…it's the economy, stupid." Anybody recall any prominent local Republican calling out misogyny, racism, sexism and the other aberrations emanating from our president? Criticism will get you ejected from the bunker. Remaining silent leaves you on the team even if an inactive member.
But, again this election cycle, prominent Republicans are voluntarily exiting at a pace which mirrors 2016 when 34 GOP lawmakers left. As one of them put it a few days ago, "There's a mood of tremendous frustration with the lack of (legislative) accomplishment,"
Rep. Paul Mitchell of Michigan said. "Why run around like a crazy man when the best you can hope for is maybe you'll see some change at the margins." The president's "go back" tweet about four Democratic women in Congress, he added, was "below the level of leadership that will lead this country to a better place."
Perhaps Mitchell and two other prominent GOP members of Congress who announced last week they are leaving, including the only black Republican in the House, were listening to candidate Pete Buttigieg last week when he said this during the Democratic debates.
"If you are watching at home and you are a Republican member of Congress, consider the fact that when the sun sets on your career, and they are writing your story, of all the good and bad things you did in your life, the thing you will be remembered for is whether in this moment with this president you found the courage to stand up to him or continue to put party over country."
Something for all my GOP friend's RHINOs, whether in Congress or on Main Street, to consider.
"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible."