How the GOP’s dirtiest slur got a new life

In speeches, ads and on social media, it is fast becoming the defining smear of the 2022 primary campaign season: RINO.

The acronym — short for ‘Republican-In-Name-Only’ — is hardly new. But former President Donald Trump’s frequent use of the term has given it a new life, weaponizing a description once largely reserved for party moderates and turning it into a slur to be avoided at all costs.

“It’s RINO season, and there’s no bag limit!” Nick Taurus, a long-shot House candidate, said on Twitter, where he posted a photo of the group.

While the RINO term has been employed in some form for more than 100 years, its meaning has shifted over time. In previous decades, a Republican risked getting tagged as a RINO for supporting tax increases, gun control or abortion rights. Today, in a reflection of the GOP’s murkier ideological grounding in the Trump era, it’s a term reserved almost exclusively for lack of fealty to Trump.