How Republicans Get Declared RINOs

Are these 12 freshman members of Congress from the "Tea Party" class of 2010 the biggest traitors to conservative causes?

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Stephen Moore, the Club for Growth's founder, once said of his organization, "We want to be seen as the tax-cut enforcer in the party." Since it commenced operations in 1999, it has helped to bring about and defend George W. Bush's tax cuts, spent many millions ousting moderates in GOP primaries, and totally failed to bring about the balanced budgets demanded by fiscal conservatism. Like Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, its disproportionate focus on taxes helps explain how it can claim to be a successful advocacy organization even though Republicans have contributed to massive deficits and totally failed to restrain government throughout its entire existence. It has succeeded in pushing the GOP farther to the right on a range of fiscal issues, and GOP congressmen live in fear of being targeted by the club in a primary.

Seeing which Republicans are presently on its bad side is one reason its report on the Republican class of 2010, "Just How Tea Party Are They?" is of interest. Its introduction affords a concise look at their purpose:
In the 2010 election, 87 freshmen [sic] House Republicans came to Washington pledging fealty to the Tea Party movement and the ideals of limited government and economic freedom. The mainstream media likes to say that the freshman class is the most uncompromising group of fiscal conservatives in history ... but just how Tea Party are they? Did all 87 freshmen always vote to cut spending and limit the size of government, or did some of them vote like the big-spending R.I.N.Os of the past?

.... What we found was that while some freshmen have lived up to the promises they made to the tea party [sic] movement, dozens of them are big-spenders and are no different from many of the veteran Republicans they serve with. While the rhetoric of the freshmen may be loud, the Club for Growth strives to hold lawmakers accountable by examining how they actually voted once they got to Congress. In many cases, the rhetoric of the so-called "Tea Party" freshmen simply didn't match their records.
So there you go. According to the Club for Growth, a lot of Tea Party Republicans are basically frauds. As a result, the club is going to abandon the GOP and transfer its allegiance to Libertarian politi-- oh, sorry, I started hallucinating. The Club for Growth is actually going to keep operating as if one day Republicans will take power and drastically shrink government.

They just need the right Republicans!

Not Republicans In Name Only, like the 12 freshmen who earned less than 50 percent on the club's Congressional Scorecard. It assesses legislators based on their votes on 34 pieces of legislation (mostly free trade bills and cuts to government and taxes) and a few other matters (for example, whether or not they signed a certain letter in opposition to the debt ceiling compromise).

The low scorers:
  • Barletta, Lou (PA - 11) 47%
  • Bass, Charles (NH - 2)  48%
  • Dold, Bob (IL - 10) 42%
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael (PA - 8) 43%
  • Gibson, Chris (NY - 20) 44%
  • Grimm, Michael (NY - 13) 46%
  • Hanna, Richard (NY - 24) 44%
  • McKinley, David (WV - 1) 37%
  • Meehan, Patrick (PA - 7) 42%
  • Rivera, David (FL - 25) 47%
  • Runyan, Jon (NJ - 3) 45%
  • Stivers, Steve (OH - 15) 45%
According to the Club for Growth, these guys are the biggest RINOs in the freshman class of 2010. Does this make them endangered?
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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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