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Republican in Name Only

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The word "RINO" inside a circle, with a red slash indicating negation
Celeste Greig's 1993 "No RINOs" button design
"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

In US politics, Republican in Name Only is a pejorative used to describe politicians of the Republican Party deemed insufficiently loyal to the party, or misaligned with the party's ideology. Similar terms have been used since the early 1900s. The acronym RINO became popular in the 1990s, and both the acronym and the full spelling have become commonly used by former President Donald Trump and his supporters to refer to his critics within the Republican Party.


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] RINO is a backronym invented so that it is deliberately pronounced like "rhino," in order to associate disloyal Republicans with the animal, the rhinoceros.[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.

Buttons featuring a 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.[1] The term came into widespread usage during subsequent election cycles.


During Republican primary campaign season, some conservative organizations target RINO Republicans who fail to adopt their stances. A "RINO Hunters Club" formed by the National Federation of Republican Assemblies has taken political action against those they considered RINOs.[5][6] The fiscally conservative 501(c)4 organization Club for Growth started 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.[citation needed]

Donald Trump[edit]

Donald Trump and his closest supporters have frequently used the term to describe anyone within the Republican Party he deems to be unloyal. During the 2020 presidential election in the United States, Donald 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 his attempts to overturn the 2020 United States presidential election. He also used the term to refer to Maryland governor Larry Hogan in a tweet,[7] as well as House and Senate Republicans who either voted to impeach and convict him during his second impeachment following the January 6 United States Capitol attack or who voted for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill supported by President Joe Biden. 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. Some Republicans critical of Trump occasionally used the epithet to describe Trump himself, due to his history as a registered Democrat.[8][9]

After former Secretary of State Colin Powell died in 2021, Trump described him as a "classic RINO."[10][11][12]

After Tom Emmer failed to get the nomination to Speaker of the House, Trump blasted him as a RINO before the press and on Truth Social. Four hours after the failed vote, Emmer withdrew the nomination and lost.[13][14]

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, the term Me-too Republicans described those running on a platform of agreeing with the Democratic Party, proclaiming only minor or moderating philosophical differences.[15][16] 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[17][18]

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. In the 1950s, conservatives such as Robert A. Taft and Barry Goldwater, who rallied against "me-too Republicans,"[19] 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.[20]

Nixonians and Rockefeller Republicans[edit]

In the 1960s and 1970s, Republicans considered liberal on economic issues but hawkish on foreign policy and social issues were sometimes called "Nixonian," or "Rockefeller Republicans."[21]

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.[22][23] The gypsy moth is an invasive species destructive to trees in the Northeastern United States.[23][24]


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.[25][26][27] 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.[28][29][25][30][31] 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;[26][32] however, the term gained use (with some controversy)[25][26][27] 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.[27][33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Popik, Barry. "RINO (Republican In Name Only)". Big Apple Corner. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  2. ^ McFedries, Paul. "RINO". Word spy. Logophilia Limited. Archived from the original on July 16, 2014. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  3. ^ "RINO - Neologisms". neologisms.rice.edu. Archived from the original on May 12, 2021. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  4. ^ Landrigan, Kevin (December 16, 1992). "Spirou's 'commitments' could disappear in February". The Telegraph. Vol. 123, no. 216. Nashua, New Hampshire: Terrence Williams. p. 21. Archived from the original on June 12, 2022. Retrieved December 3, 2020. 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 (August 27, 2004). "Republican Cannibals: Hunting for RINOs". Agence Global. The Nation. Archived from the original on March 19, 2012.
  6. ^ Brooks, David (October 22, 2006). "Thinning the Herd". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 10, 2023. Retrieved June 10, 2023.
  7. ^ Cillizza, Chris (November 17, 2020). "Analysis: How this Republican became the most hated man in his party". CNN. Archived from the original on June 12, 2022. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  8. ^ "Bill Weld: Donald Trump is a RINO - Washington Times". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on November 7, 2020. Retrieved August 12, 2020.
  9. ^ "Trump: RINO or Gray Rhino? | HuffPost null". July 19, 2016. Archived from the original on September 28, 2023. Retrieved August 12, 2020.
  10. ^ Garrison, Joey (October 18, 2021). "'Country before self ... before all else': US presidents remember Colin Powell as American hero". USA Today. Archived from the original on October 18, 2021. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  11. ^ Benen, Steve (October 19, 2021). "Trump admonishes Colin Powell the day after his death". MSNBC.com. Archived from the original on October 20, 2021. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  12. ^ Jackson, David. "Amid tributes to Colin Powell, Donald Trump disparages former secretary of state". USA TODAY. Archived from the original on October 20, 2021. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  13. ^ Singman, Brooke (October 24, 2023). "Trump blasts Emmer as 'globalist RINO,' warns Republicans it would be 'tragic mistake' to elect him speaker". Fox News. Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  14. ^ Neukam, Stephen; McPherson, Lindsey; Rojas, Warren; Neukam, Stephen; McPherson, Lindsey; Rojas, Warren (October 24, 2023). "Tom Emmer Flames Out Hours After Winning GOP Speaker Nomination". The Messenger. Archived from the original on October 24, 2023. Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  15. ^ Shapiro, Walter (October 29, 2002). "Suspense, contrast missing in election countdown". USA Today. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  16. ^ Blankley, Tony (October 25, 2006). "Assessing Last Week's Column". Human Events. Archived from the original on January 31, 2009. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  17. ^ Smith, Richard Norton. "Roosevelt and Reagan: Eternal Optimists". Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. Archived from the original on May 27, 2012. Retrieved December 14, 2010. In the 1936 election, FDR had a field day with so-called "me too" Republicans.
  18. ^ Franklin D. Roosevelt (1936). FDR 'Let Me Warn You'. Event occurs at 0:01. Archived from the original on November 17, 2021. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  19. ^ "Farewell to a Quartet of Kings of the Hill". Time. Time, Inc. November 10, 1986. Archived from the original on December 21, 2008.
  20. ^ Perlstein, Rick (March 21, 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.
  21. ^ "Bill's Run: Overview: Mommy, What's a RINO?". Bill's Run: A Political Journey in Rural Kansas. PBS. 2004. Archived from the original on November 27, 2016. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  22. ^ McManus, Michael J. (September 21, 1981). "'Gypsy Moth Republicans'". Bangor Daily News. Vol. 93, no. 97. p. 16. Archived from the original on December 8, 2020. 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 ...
  23. ^ a b Goddard, Taegan. "Gypsy moth". Taegan Goddard's Political Dictionary. Archived from the original on October 7, 2015. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  24. ^ "Gypsy Moth". Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Archived from the original on August 31, 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  25. ^ a b c Heer, Jeet (July 26, 2015). "Conservatives Are Holding a Conversation About Race". New Republic. Archived from the original on July 29, 2015. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  26. ^ a b c "Getting Cucky: A Brief Primer On The Radical Right's Newest 'Cuckservative' Meme". Southern Poverty Law Center. August 7, 2015. Archived from the original on August 15, 2016. Retrieved August 21, 2015. ... 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.
  27. ^ a b c Rappeport, Alan (August 13, 2015). "From the Right, a New Slur for G.O.P. Candidates". New York Times. Archived from the original on August 16, 2015. Retrieved August 21, 2015. 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.
  28. ^ Kovacs, Kasla (February 14, 2017). "What Is A Cuckservative? Alt-Right Insult Used By White Nationalists To Describe The Republican Establishment". International Business Times. Archived from the original on February 16, 2020. Retrieved February 16, 2020. Cuckold pornography portrays a white man watching his wife have sex with another man — usually well-endowed, and usually black.
  29. ^ Nordlinger, Jay (February 19, 2017). "What Is a Conservative?". National Review. Archived from the original on June 17, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 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.
  30. ^ Walsh, Joan (August 3, 2015). "The GOP crack-up continues". Salon. Archived from the original on August 16, 2021. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  31. ^ Bernstein, Joseph (July 27, 2015). "Behind The Racist Hashtag That Is Blowing Up Twitter". BuzzFeed. Archived from the original on August 20, 2015. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  32. ^ Weigel, David (July 29, 2015). "'Cuckservative' – the conservative insult of the month, explained". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on April 29, 2016. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  33. ^ Yuhas, Alan (August 13, 2015). "'Cuckservative': the internet's latest Republican insult hits where it hurts". The Guardian. Archived from the original on August 19, 2015. Retrieved May 3, 2016. 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.