Democrat In Name Only

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Fossilized remains of a DINO.
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For the Republican equivalent, see RINO.

DINO is an acronym meaning "Democrat in Name Only." It refers to the New Democrat Coalition, Blue Dogs, and similar Democrats who are more concerned about increasing party influence than standing by the party platform. They often, but not always, are trying to compete in more conservative states by leaning to the right. This makes them a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the current way Congress is structured gives disproportionate power to rural white states/districts, which tend to be very conservative, so recruiting a few right-leaning outliers is essential to win a congressional majority. On the other hand, these people are outliers, so pandering to them too much just offends the left-leaning party stalwarts from less conservative regions.

Former Georgia Senator Zell Miller was an excellent example of a DINO. He delivered the keynote address of the 2004 Republican convention, where he slandered John Kerry and challenged Chris Matthews to a duel. It was most likely that Miller is a Democrat because of the Civil War. Another good example is David Clarke, who is as far to the right as they come and literally ran as a Democrat only to get votes.

Accusations are sometimes made by the party faithful for a good reason; they are also made to dissociate the accuser from rhetorical responsibility when convenient.

The House of Representatives, at least, is now "perfectly sorted," meaning that the most conservative Democrat is still more liberal than the most liberal Republican, according to all adequate measures of such things.[1] This screams that there are no DINOs in the House. Their main stronghold is the Senate, where they have given recent presidents from their own party quite the headache when passing legislation.

Democrats accused of being DINOs[edit]

  • Former Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, who tended to vote with the Grand Old Party on gun control and other issues.
  • Former Senator Joe DonnellyWikipedia of Indiana, who won in an upset landslide after the moronic Republican nomineeWikipedia couldn't keep his mouth shut about his extreme views on rape and pregnancy. A member of the Blue Dog Coalition in the House, his voting record was to the left on labor unions, gun control, minimum wage, corporate regulation-related issues, and gay rights and to the right on taxation, defense, abortion, and immigration. He got destroyed in his re-election campaign by trying to cater exclusively to Indiana Republican voters by telling them he voted with Trump often when he didn't vote with him enough to their standards.
  • Former Senator James Eastland of Mississippi. If that didn't give it away, Eastland was also even more of a Segregationist than Strom Thurmond. He even argued that blacks were an inferior race, which Kamala Harris mentioned when criticizing Joe Biden on race relations because Biden praised both Eastland and Thurmond.[2]
  • Representative Jared Golden of Maine's second district, who is by some measures considered to be the most conservative Democrat in the House.[3] He was the only Democrat in either chamber to vote against the COVID relief bill.[4]
  • Former Congressman Ralph Hall of Texas, 1981 - 2015. Once a self-described "old-time conservative Democrat" who had an obligation to "pull my party back toward the middle." Hall was one of the co-founders of the Blue Dog Coalition and could even rival Stenholm for the title of most conservative Democrat. He hated the Clintons and voted for his longtime friend Dubya in 2000, voted against NAFTA, against abortion, supported gun rights, and in favor of tax cuts. Hall was the only Democrat not targeted by the same redistricting that swept away Stenholm and others. In 2004, after being refused money for his district by Republicans, Hall finally switched parties. He became one of the oldest members of the House until losing in a 2014 primary.
  • Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who voted to the right on issues like energy, gun control, and drug policy. The voters in North Dakota still considered her to be too liberal to win re-election.
  • Former Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, who once said himself that he was to be expected to not always fall in line and vote with Senate Democrats. Nonetheless, liberals still turned out to vote for him in droves, if for no other reason than the fact that his opponent was a complete monster. That being said, Jones proved far too sane for Alabamans, who overwhelmingly voted to replace him with the Republican former football coach Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville consistently supported Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud (even voting against certification of the result after the January 6 coup attempt on the Capitol), and told reporters that his father fought the socialists in World War II, making you wonder which side he was on.[5] Looks like Alabama is still Alabama, and ain't no Georgia.
  • Former Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Like Ben Nelson, she also only voted for the health care law after her state received earmarks, she supports drilling in the Arctic, tax cuts, and repealing the estate tax. Her final act as Senator was to push for the Keystone XL pipeline, which she voted for... and got kicked out in the midterm elections by the people of Louisiana.
  • Congressman Conor Lamb, who supported Trump's steel tariffs,[6] was accused of being one by the GOP in an attempt to explain how they lost in a deep-red district.[7] Funnily enough, many of those same conservatives would accuse him of being "the fifth member of the Squad" by the next election cycle.[8]
  • Senator Joe Lieberman may be progressive on many domestic policy issues, but he was one of the most outspoken chickenhawks in Congress, even more so than many Republicans. When he was first elected to the Senate in 1988, he was elected with the endorsement of the Moral Majority and National Rifle Association, running to the right of incumbent Republican (and quintessential RINO) Lowell Weicker. He went as far as endorsing John McCain in 2008 for these reasons, and got significant backlash from his party. Technically, he has been an independent since 2006, but he caucuses with the Democrats on most issues. Hates violent video games and joined Sam Brownback, Hillary Clinton, and Rick Santorum in crafting a Senate resolution condemning Grand Theft Auto after the "hot coffee" moral panic.
  • Illinois Representative Dan Lipinski,Wikipedia who opposes abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, Medicare for All, and the Green New Deal. He also voted for multiple reauthorizations of the Patriot Act and did not support the DREAM Act until 2018. He was successfully primaried by Democrat challenger Marie Newman on March 17, 2020, in a close race.[9]
  • Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is arguably the most conservative Democrat in the Senate following Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman's retirements in 2012.
  • Senator Claire McCaskillWikipedia of Missouri, chickenhawk, flip flopping on tax reform, described Bernie Sanders as being "too liberal" and "extreme" to be president.[10] Won a second term because her opponent was this jackass, but lost her bid for a third to Republican challenger Josh Hawley.
  • Former Senator Ben Nelson, though representing a reasonably conservative state, remains infamous for only voting for the Affordable Care Act after earmarks were secured for his state.
  • Former Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, opposed gay marriage like Landrieu and Manchin.
  • Representative Loretta Sanchez of California has voted in favor of deregulated for-profit colleges and against lawsuits against gun manufacturers for violence but did vote against the Iraq War and PATRIOT Act.
  • Senator Richard Russell, Jr. While Russell supported most of FDR's and Harry S. Truman's New Deal/Fair Deal, he also supported racial segregation and co-authored the Southern Manifesto with Strom Thurmond.
  • Senator Richard Shelby, Senator from Alabama who is now a Republican, but started out as a Democrat and only changed when it was safe.
  • Congressman Charlie Stenholm of Texas, 1978–2005. Legendary for his "tractor-seat commonsense" on Agricultural issues,[11] was considered not just the most conservative Texas 'yellow dog',Wikipedia but one, if not the most conservative member of the House. Voted against the Americans with Disabilities Act, which Papa Bush proposed and signed. He opposed abortion and gun control. A staunch Republican ally, Stenholm was finally swept out of office when Tom DeLay gerrymandered districts to suit Republicans after declining numerous opportunities to switch parties.
  • Former Senator Strom Thurmond (D-South Carolina). A well-known supporter of the Southern Strategy, Thurmond ran as the openly pro-segregation presidential candidate for the "States Rights" (IE: Segregation) Party. Starting with his vote of President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, he was the most conservative Democrat in the Senate at the time. Thurmond filibustered all of JFK/LBJ's civil rights acts, was anti-New Deal and anti-Great Society. Became a Republican in the early 1970s after the Democratic Party became genuinely supportive of Civil Rights legislation.
  • Former Governor George Wallace of Alabama. The infamous American Independent Party candidate, Wallace was an avowed Segregationist Social Conservative when it came to most civil rights issues. On other matters, however, Wallace was much more economically populist.
  • Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), who voted Rex Tillerson, Mike Pompeo,Wikipedia Rick Perry, and Ben Carson into Trump's cabinet. He also feverishly supports illegal NSA mass surveillance of American citizens, a lowered corporate tax rate, and advocates for "reforming" (read: gutting) Social Security.[citation needed] Also attempted to obstruct both the PRO Act and Biden's Infrastructure Bill.
  • Former State Representative Vernon Jones of Georgia. Self-described conservative Democrat who voted for George W. Bush in 2004. One of the most conservative Democrats in the Georgia House, he endorsed Donald Trump for his 2020 re-election bid.[12] Formally switched parties in 2021 at Trump's Save America Rally, shortly before the 2021 U.S. Capitol riot.
  • Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Despite being a bisexual[13] atheist[14] who supported Ralph Nader and has criticized capitalism,[15] as well as being a former member of the Green Party,[16] she has ended up becoming the only current Democratic senator besides Joe Manchin who votes with the Repulican Party a majority of the time.[17] (By comparison, the next most conservative Democrat, Mark Warner, only votes with the Republicans about a third of the time.) She recently became an independent, so at least she's honest about not being a Democrat.

See also[edit]


  2. Silva, Daniella (June 28, 2019). Kamala Harris on Joe Biden's segregationist comments: 'You have to draw the line'. NBC News. Retrieved February 2, 2021.
  4. Patrick Whittle, Maine's Jared Golden is lone Democrat to vote against COVID relief bill, Seacoastonline 10 Mar. 2021
  10. Bobic, Igor (June 25, 2015). "Claire McCaskill Thinks Bernie Sanders Is 'Too Liberal' And 'Extreme' To Be President". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 31, 2017.