Trump and his herd are the real RINOs

Extract of an opinion by Dana Milbank 

Washington Post Columnist, October 20, 2021.

Republican Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) have refused to join the rest of Donald Trump’s GOP on its goose step toward authoritarianism.

The lonely pair voted with Democrats on the Jan. 6 committee to hold Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon in contempt of Congress for ignoring a subpoena and refusing to comply with a subpoena seeking information on why he told followers on his Jan. 5 radio show that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow” and “we’re on … the point of attack tomorrow.”

“Based on the committee’s investigation, it appears that Mr. Bannon had substantial advance knowledge of the plans for Jan. 6 and likely had an important role in formulating those plans,” Cheney said Tuesday night, adding that the spurious, vague references to executive privilege by Bannon and Trump “suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of Jan. 6.”

Cheney addressed the rest of the Republican herd still trapped in Trump’s corral: “Almost every one of my colleagues knows, in your hearts, that what happened on Jan. 6 was profoundly wrong” and that there was no evidence of widespread election fraud. “I ask my colleagues, please consider the fundamental questions of right and wrong here. … All of us who are elected officials must do our duty to prevent the dismantling of the rule of law.”

Cheney made the motion to hold Bannon in contempt. Kinzinger cast the penultimate vote in the unanimous 9-to-0 roll call.

Trump refers to Cheney and Kinzinger as “RINOs” — Republicans in name only. He used the same term this week to disparage former secretary of state Colin Powell posthumously: “He was a classic RINO.”

He’s used the same term to describe, among many others, Republican officials in Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania who stood by their states’ election integrity; Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), John Thune (S.D.), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.); Paul Ryan; Jeb Bush; and the late John McCain.

By Trump’s standard, Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater would be RINOs today, too. That’s because the real RINOs are Trump and his followers. They’ve abandoned the GOP of Reagan, McCain and Powell — internationalist, free-trading champions of human rights, the rule of law and limited government — and embraced the polar opposite: isolationist, protectionist, white-nationalist, vulgar assailants of legal and democratic structures. Trump’s Republican flock has achieved herd immunity from the truth.

By contrast, Cheney and Kinzinger haven’t changed their stripes. They’re holding fast to the honorable Republican traditions. For the sake of our country, we need more zebras such as them to break free from Trump’s exotic barnyard.