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Republican In Name Only is a pejorative term that refers to a member of the Republican Party of the United States whose political views or actions are considered insufficiently conservative or otherwise conforming to liberal positions. The acronym RINO, emerging in the 1990s, is a charge used in campaigns by Republican conservatives against party moderates and liberals.
In 1912, former President Theodore Roosevelt, then-President William Howard Taft, and Senator Robert LaFollette fought for ideological control of the Republican Party and each denounced the other two as "not really Republican". The phrase Republican in name only emerged as a popular political pejorative in the 1920s, 1950s and 1980s.
Bill Clinton would have been proud of what was happening on the third-floor Senate corner at the State House this week.... The Republicans were moving out and the Democrats and "RINOs" (Republicans In Name Only) were moving in.
Buttons featuring the red slash through an image of a rhinoceros were spotted in the New Hampshire State House as early as 1992. In 1993, former Marine and future California Republican Assembly President Celeste Greig distributed buttons featuring a red slash over the word RINO to express opposition to Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan. The term came into widespread usage during the 2000 election campaigns.
During Republican primary campaign season, some conservative organizations classify as RINO's Republicans who fail to adopt their right-wing stances. National Federation of Republican Assemblies started the "RINO Hunters' Club", which targets candidates soft on taxes, gun rights, and abortion. The anti-tax group Club for Growth (which supports the National Federation of Republican Assemblies) invented the "RINO Watch" list to monitor "Republican office holders around the nation who have advanced egregious anti-growth, anti-freedom or anti-free market policies"; other conservative groups published similar lists.
While the term RINO is of recent coinage, the concept of being an inauthentic member of the Republican Party by not representing its more conservative faction is a recurring theme in Party history.
In the 1930s and 40s, Me-too Republicans described those who ran on a platform of agreeing with the Democratic Party, proclaiming only minor or moderating differences. An example is two-time presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey, who ran against the popular Franklin D. Roosevelt and his successor Harry Truman. Dewey did not oppose Roosevelt's New Deal programs altogether, but merely campaigned on the promise that Republicans would run them more efficiently and less corruptly.
Let me warn the nation, against the smooth evasion which says, "of course we believe all these things, we believe in social-security, we believe in work for the unemployed, we believe in saving homes—cross our hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things. But we do not like the way the president's administration is doing them. Just turn them over to us."
From 1936 to 1976, the more centrist members of the Republican Party frequently won the national nomination with candidates such as Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, Thomas E. Dewey, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford. The mainstream of the Republican Party was generally supportive of the New Deal, and the right wing was the more marginalized faction. In the 1950s, conservatives such as Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater, who rallied against "me-too Republicans", were considered outside of the mainstream of the then-centrist GOP; serious consideration was given to leaving the GOP and forming a new conservative party in cooperation with conservative Democrats.