Thursday, April 30, 2009

RINO/DINO Mashup

Catalyzed by Sen. Arlen Specter's probably running and maybe winning in 2010 after switching parties, the big what-if looms.

What if every DINO and every RINO in Congress switched parties?

Here in Massachusetts, we have a severe DINO infestation, at the state but not national level. While nominally, the flaccid GOP has only 10% of the House and 12.5% of the Senate, that's deceptive. Roughly half the voters are unenrolled (called independents in most other states). Moreover, many lawmakers enrolled as Democrats are very socially and fiscally conservative (called Republicans in other states).

As a microcosm, the Bay State experience shows much about the misnomer phenomenon. First, here the perception is that the power is in the Democratic Party. Any politician who wants a safe seat in the General Court (called legislature in other states) registers early as a Dem and stays one, at least in name. They may grouse about, vote against and campaign in opposition to the party platform.

Then depending on the district, DINOs can be as secure as a progressive in Boston in getting elected and re-elected. As a general rule, the wealthy and exurban or rural areas are likely to send fairly conservative lawmakers of either party to the State House.

The other little joke is Republican governors. Massachusetts is not the only New England state to play this game.

We even have our own pet ex-governor, Mitt Romney. Our Cap'n Brylcreem has made a career out of repeatedly shouting that he was the reddest of governors in the bluest of states. In reality, of course, he was yet another wishy-washy liberal, who changed his politics like curtains fluttering in the wind. He was also a carpetbagger who stayed only as long as the commonwealth was useful to him politically.

Ours and other New England states with solidly Dem or at least DINO legislatures often elect a Republican governor. That is a pretense that soothes the savage breast. The underlying irrationality is that if both houses of the legislature as well as the governor's office are controlled by Democrats, despotic and profligate policies and laws will flow like a deadly molasses flood.

Of course, there are Dems and Dems as well as Republicans and Republicans. Installing a governor from an opposing party as a check against the legislative majority means little in most cases. It's just a feel-good thing.

Yet in Congress, the in-name-only angle could restructure the legislative world. Clearly, Specter is typical of the mindset there. He switched when he figured, at 79, his best chance at staying in office was to switch parties. He could well continue to vote in his same only RINO way if returned to office for a sixth six-year term, regardless of party. It's not like the electorate doesn't know what he's about after all these years.

So, that brings up the big question of how many DINOs and RINOs would have the incentive or courage to switch, for honesty's sake if no other reason.

The links at the top to the Wikipedia DINO/RINO entries are only two of many similar ones. Some have their own lists of misnamed Congress folk, plus Blue Dog Democrats and such. Consider for one, the recent list of Senate RINOs from Human Events (the self-defined headquarters of the conservative underground) in order from the most liberal voting record:
  1. Olympia Snowe (Maine)
  2. Susan Collins (Maine)
  3. Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania)
  4. George Voinovich (Ohio)
  5. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
  6. Mel Martinez (Florida)
  7. John McCain (Arizona)
  8. Richard Lugar (Indiana)
  9. Robert Bennett (Utah)
  10. Thad Cochran (Mississippi)
An en masse switch would certainly and suddenly impact legislative power at a national level. It's likely that the conservative DINOs in Congress would not make such a big splash. Many already defected, many as early as 1948 when President Harry Truman wanted greater racial integration. The trend became a Southern stampede in the 1960s Civil Rights Era.

Inertia and the fear of losing their highly lucrative sinecure-like posts will keep too many DINOs and RINOs in their particular cages. Yet what a wonderful thought it would be for a big switch to occur. How easy it would make it for voters to know what they were getting. How simple it would be in Congress to predict bill outcomes. How liberating it would be for lawmakers who vote in a party bloc because they are supposed to, even when their minds and hearts are elsewhere.

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