Republican In Name Only

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"RINO" redirects here. For other uses, see Rino.

Republican In Name Only (RINO) is a pejorative term used by conservative members of the Republican Party of the United States to describe Republicans whose political views or actions they consider insufficiently conservative. The acronym RINO emerged in the 1990s.


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".[citation needed] The phrase Republican in name only emerged as a popular political pejorative in the 1920s, 1950s and 1980s.[1]

The earliest known print appearance of the term RINO was in the Manchester, New Hampshire newspaper then called The Union Leader.[2]

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.

— John DiStaso, "Merrill Taps Scamman, Strome and a Thomson". New Hampshire Union Leader. 31 December 1992. 
The word "RINO" inside a circle, with a red slash indicating negation
Celeste Greig's "No RINOs" button design

Buttons featuring the red slash through an image of a rhinoceros were spotted in the New Hampshire State House as early as 1992.[3] 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.[1] The term came into widespread usage during subsequent election cycles.


That little sobriquet is so baseless and so outrageous... [it was] ginned up by people who don't believe you can be a Republican unless you're hard right on social issues.

— Joe Schwarz, Republican and former Congressman[4]

During Republican primary campaign season, some conservative organizations target RINO Republicans who fail to adopt their stances. National Federation of Republican Assemblies started the "RINO Hunters' Club", whom they believe to be too moderate on such issues as taxes, gun rights, and abortion.[4] The fiscally conservative 501(c)4 organization Club for Growth 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.[4]

Similar terms[edit]

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.

Me-too Republicans[edit]

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.[5][6] 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."

— Franklin D. Roosevelt (D), addressing a Democratic audience in New York, September 1936[7]

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 A. Taft and Barry Goldwater, who rallied against "me-too Republicans",[8] 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 coalition with the "states' rights" Democrats of the South.[9]

Nixonians, and Rockefeller Republicans[edit]

In the 1960s and 1970s, conservatives sometimes called moderate Republicans "Nixonian". A more widely adopted term was "Rockefeller Republican". Neither expression was always considered pejorative.

Gypsy Moth Republican[edit]

This term describes moderate Republicans from the Northeast or Midwest. These regions are also home to the gypsy moth, an invasive species which damages trees and agriculture.[10]


In mid-2015 the term "cuckservative", a portmanteau of "cuckold" and "conservative", was used by those on the right-wing to attack conservatives, Republicans, and others on the right whom they believe to hold positions at odds with conservatism and to be betraying conservative ideals, especially on issues such as immigration, multiculturalism, and demographic displacement.[11][12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Popik, Barry. "RINO (Republican In Name Only)". Big Apple Corner. 
  2. ^ McFedries, Paul. "RINO". Word spy. Logophilia Limited. Retrieved 14 December 2010. 
  3. ^ Landrigan, Kevin (16 December 1992). "Spirou's 'commitments' could disappear in February". The Telegraph 123 (216) (Nashua, New Hampshire: Terrence Williams). p. 21. Button of the week: It's slowly making the rounds as circulation is small but the "RINO" (pronounced "Rhino") could become a collector's item. Pictured is naturally the animal with a Ghostbuster's slash through it. 
  4. ^ a b c Nichols, John (27 August 2004). "Republican Cannibals: Hunting for RINOs". Agence Global. The Nation. Archived from the original on 12 November 2004. 
  5. ^ Shapiro, Walter (29 October 2002). "Suspense, contrast missing in election countdown". USA Today. Retrieved 14 December 2010. 
  6. ^ Blankley, Tony (25 October 2006). "Assessing Last Week's Column". Human Events. Retrieved 14 December 2010. 
  7. ^ Smith, Richard Norton. "Roosevelt and Reagan: Eternal Optimists". Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. Archived from the original on 27 May 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2010. In the 1936 election, FDR had a field day with so-called "me too" Republicans. 
  8. ^ "Farewell to a Quartet of Kings of the Hill". Time (Time, Inc.). 10 November 1986. 
  9. ^ Perlstein, Rick (21 March 2001). Before the Storm. Hill and Wang. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-8090-2859-7. ... the recipe for a new conservative party was plain: one part Midwestern Taft Republican, one part Southern states' rights Democrat. 
  10. ^ Goddard, Taegan. "Gypsy moth". Taegan Goddard's Political Dictionary. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  11. ^ Heer, Jeet (26 July 2015). "Conservatives Are Holding a Conversation About Race". The New Republic. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  12. ^ Lewis, Matt (28 July 2015). "Twitter’s Right-Wing Civil War". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  13. ^ Weigel, David (29 July 2015). "‘Cuckservative’ — the conservative insult of the month, explained". The Washington Post. Retrieved 29 July 2015.