Editorial: Who are the real RINOs? The Trump critics or the Trump enablers?

It's grown increasingly fashionable over recent years for staunch conservatives to dismiss social moderates in the GOP as RINOs, Republican in Name Only.

Former Sen. Mark Kirk had to deal with that ridicule. To a lesser degree, so did Jim Edgar, Jim Thompson, George Ryan. Even Bruce Rauner, as conservative as he is.

It used to be that taking an accommodating position on abortion, immigration or gay rights would get you tagged with that label. Or if you saw a tax increase you didn't hate or government spending you didn't want to control. GOP war doves, not that there were a lot of them, were RINOs, too.

Whether Republicans should be more of a big tent, whether the complaints in Illinois contradicted electability, at least the disparagement was based on interpretation of party doctrine: Does the candidate truly reflect GOP philosophy?

In the past five years, the definition of RINO has morphed into a litmus test unrelated to party doctrine:

Do you support, unconditionally, Donald Trump?

And more recently, do you support Trump's attempts to undermine the 2020 election?

It is that litmus test that presumably would indict U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Channahon, about 10 miles southwest of Joliet.

Kinzinger is, and always has been, about as conservative a Republican as the party could celebrate.

He is branded a RINO now by increasingly extreme party stalwarts not because of policy issues, but because he views Trump as an existential threat to our democracy.

They consider him a RINO now because he has objected to Trump's refusal to accept the will of the voters in the 2020 election and to the widely disproved fantasy Trump continues to propagate that the election was somehow stolen.

They consider him a RINO now because he was appalled by Trump's encouragement and acquiescence to the Jan. 6 mob assault on the Capitol.

This sadly is the state of the Republican Party these days: As Russell Lissau reports elsewhere in today's editions, four of the six candidates who have announced Congressional campaigns against Kinzinger say Trump actually won last November's election.

Let's repeat: Four of the six candidates for Congress espouse this bizarre conspiracy theory. The GOP has candidates for Congress who refuse to accept the will of the voters.

What is a Republican? It seems to us that the party always has been wrapped around the notions of liberty, rule of law, democratic ideals.

Perhaps the real RINOs are not the ones who call out Trump's authoritarian excesses and tendency toward divisiveness, conspiracy theories and self-centered fantasies.

Perhaps the real RINOs are the ones who refuse to do so.

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