Barbara Olschner believes in her party’s founding principles: lower taxes, less regulation, limited government, and individual accountability. But she also believes in governing through compromise, in respectfully listening to opponents’ viewpoints, and in the possibility that a Republican can be fiscally but not socially conservative. In hindsight, it isn’t surprising that when she ran for Congress at the height of the Tea Party’s influence she was branded an elitist and a RINO (Republican in Name Only)—and finished dead last.
The Reluctant Republican traces her campaign and her realization that the current leadership of her party demands strict adherence to its ideology. Not only are different viewpoints not tolerated, but those who espouse them are vilified for their disloyalty.
In 2010, Olschner, a trial lawyer, decided to parlay her years of courtroom experience into Florida panhandle politics, and this honest, fast-paced memoir relates the challenges of being a moderate Republican swimming against the tide of the emergent Tea Party. Lacking any political experience, Olschner heads to Washington, D.C., for a policy crash course at the Heritage Foundation. With a war chest of $150,000 and the economy as her platform's centerpiece, she takes on four male opponents in Florida's District 2 congressional primary. Much to her consternation, jingoism replaces debate on the campaign trail. She bristles at the Tea Party slogan "Take our country back" in light of the fact that a Republican held the White House until 2008. Rather than addressing national issues, she finds herself in a contest for most patriotic candidate. Unable to make promises she can't keep, she tanks at a Woman's Club debate where tweets from the audience label her a "RINO" (Republican in Name Only) and faces veiled threats from a young man after refusing to pander at a small town rally. If readers of any political persuasion have doubts that politics is a dirty game, this courageous woman's diary will dispel them.