Republican In Name Only

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In US politics, Republican In Name Only is a pejorative applied to officials elected as members of the Republican Party, who allegedly govern and legislate like Democrats. Similar terms have been used since the early 1900s. The term is an acronym invented so that it is abbreviated to RINO and pronounced to sound like "rhino".[1] The term became popular in the 1990s.


In 1912, former President Theodore Roosevelt, then-President William Howard Taft, and Senator Robert M. La Follette 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.[2]

The earliest known print appearance of the term RINO was in the Manchester, New Hampshire newspaper then called The Union Leader.[3]

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. December 31, 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.[4] In 1993, 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.[2] The term came into widespread usage during subsequent election cycles.


"RINO Hunter" shirts advertised for sale at the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll
"No More RINOs!" sign at a 2010 Tea Party movement protest in Minnesota

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.[5] 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.

More recently, the term has been used to describe Republican critics of former President Donald Trump, with Trump himself tweeting that Congressional Republicans who recognized Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 US Presidential election are RINOs.[6][7] Very controversially, it has been used by Trump's opponents in the party to describe Trump himself.[8][9]

During the 2020 presidential election in the United States, Trump used the term to refer to Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, and Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, due to their refusal to challenge the election results in Georgia during the attempts to overturn the 2020 United States presidential election. He also used the term to refer to Maryland governor Larry Hogan in a tweet,[10] as well as the House and Senate Republican members who voted to convict him in his second impeachment trial in response to the January 6th protests.

Similar terms[edit]

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 1940s, Me-too Republicans described those running on a platform of agreeing with the Democratic Party, proclaiming only minor or moderating philosophical differences.[11][12] 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. We will do all of them—we will do more of them, we will do them better; and, most important of all, the doing of them will not cost anybody anything!

— President and Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, addressing a Democratic audience in New York, September 1936[13][14]

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, and Gerald Ford. The mainstream of the Republican Party was generally supportive of the New Deal. In the 1950s, conservatives such as Robert A. Taft and Barry Goldwater, who rallied against "me-too Republicans",[15] were considered outside of the mainstream; serious consideration was given to leaving the then GOP and forming a new ultra-conservative party in coalition with the "states' rights" Democrats of the South.[16]

Nixonians and Rockefeller Republicans[edit]

In the 1960s and 1970s, Republicans considered liberal on domestic policy but hawkish on foreign policy were sometimes called "Nixonian", or "Rockefeller Republicans".[17] The term Nixonian took on other meanings after the Watergate scandal.

Gypsy moth Republican[edit]

In the 1980s, the term gypsy moth Republican described Republicans from the Northeast and Midwest who voted against the Ronald Reagan administration's proposed cuts in aid to economically distressed people, contrasting with boll weevil Democrats, who voted for these cuts.[18][19] The gypsy moth is an invasive species destructive to trees in the Northeastern United States.[19][20]


In 2015 the term cuckservative, a portmanteau of cuckold and conservative, was popularized on the online forum 4chan, and embraced by both internet trolls and the nativist alt-right.[21][22][23] The metaphorical "cuck" is represented in a genre of interracial pornography as a masochistic white husband who allows his wife to have sex with a stronger black man, thereby participating in his own symbolic emasculation.[24][25][21][26][27] In white supremacist vernacular the term is an accusation of yielding to non-white interests on issues such as immigration or modern display of the Confederate flag;[22][28] however, the term gained use (with some controversy)[21][22][23] by more mainstream conservatives to denounce Republicans whose compromises included vote trading, rhetorical restraint in deference to donors, cooperation with Democrats on any particular initiative, or attempting to court voters by making appeals to supposedly liberal ideals.[23][29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "RINO - Neologisms". Retrieved 2020-11-15.
  2. ^ a b Popik, Barry. "RINO (Republican In Name Only)". Big Apple Corner.
  3. ^ McFedries, Paul. "RINO". Word spy. Logophilia Limited. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Nichols, John (27 August 2004). "Republican Cannibals: Hunting for RINOs". Agence Global. The Nation. Archived from the original on 19 March 2012.
  6. ^ Goldiner, Dave. "Trump targets 25 'RINO's' in Congress who admit he lost election". Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  7. ^ Williams, Jordan (2020-12-05). "Trump demands names of the congressional Republicans who said they recognize Biden as winner". TheHill. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Cillizza, Chris (2020-11-17). "Analysis: How this Republican became the most hated man in his party". CNN. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  11. ^ Shapiro, Walter (29 October 2002). "Suspense, contrast missing in election countdown". USA Today. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  12. ^ Blankley, Tony (25 October 2006). "Assessing Last Week's Column". Human Events. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Franklin D. Roosevelt (1936). FDR 'Let Me Warn You'. Event occurs at 0:01. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  15. ^ "Farewell to a Quartet of Kings of the Hill". Time. Time, Inc. 10 November 1986. Archived from the original on December 21, 2008.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ "Bill's Run: Overview: Mommy, What's a RINO?". Bill's Run: A Political Journey in Rural Kansas. PBS. 2004. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  18. ^ McManus, Michael J. (September 21, 1981). "'Gypsy Moth Republicans'". Bangor Daily News. 93 (97). p. 16. Retrieved April 28, 2016. What was needed was a Northern counterweight to the "Boll Weevil Democrats," some 50 Southerners who consistently voted with [President Reagan] to whack at [aid to economically distressed people] ... some 20 Frostbelt Republicans have decided to defect from their lockstop White House support ...
  19. ^ a b Goddard, Taegan. "Gypsy moth". Taegan Goddard's Political Dictionary. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  20. ^ "Gypsy Moth". Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Archived from the original on August 31, 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  21. ^ a b c Heer, Jeet (July 26, 2015). "Conservatives Are Holding a Conversation About Race". New Republic. Retrieved 2015-08-21.
  22. ^ a b c "Getting Cucky: A Brief Primer On The Radical Right's Newest 'Cuckservative' Meme". Southern Poverty Law Center. August 7, 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-21. ... spread fast across the radical right. And ... found its way into the political mainstream. ... White supremacists ... tailor its definition to further describe politicians who don't fall in line with the white nationalist cause.
  23. ^ a b c Rappeport, Alan (August 13, 2015). "From the Right, a New Slur for G.O.P. Candidates". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-08-21. The radical nature of those ideas along with the pornographic connotations associated with "cuckold" have made the word a subject of hand-wringing among some conservative commentators.
  24. ^ Kovacs, Kasla (14 February 2017). "What Is A Cuckservative? Alt-Right Insult Used By White Nationalists To Describe The Republican Establishment". Retrieved 16 February 2020. Cuckold pornography portrays a white man watching his wife have sex with another man — usually well-endowed, and usually black.
  25. ^ Nordlinger, Jay (19 February 2017). "What Is a Conservative?". National Review. Retrieved 16 February 2020. The idea is, white conservative men enjoy seeing their wives have sexual relations with dark-skinned men, for the purpose of making the country at large darker.
  26. ^ Walsh, Joan (3 August 2015). "The GOP crack-up continues". Salon. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  27. ^ Bernstein, Joseph (27 July 2015). "Behind The Racist Hashtag That Is Blowing Up Twitter". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  28. ^ Weigel, David (July 29, 2015). "'Cuckservative' – the conservative insult of the month, explained". The Washington Post.
  29. ^ Yuhas, Alan (August 13, 2015). "'Cuckservative': the internet's latest Republican insult hits where it hurts". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-05-03. The insult's most general gist is conservatives accused of bowing to one non-conservative idea or another, eg immigration reform, should feel humiliated, their ideology adulterated.