It’s tough being conservative in North Carolina these days, what with your ideological purity being questioned at every turn and all.

Republican In Name Only extraordinaire congresswoman Renee Ellmers found this out the hard way recently after carousing with the GOP establishment in Washington, and for her far-left stance on preserving abortion access for victims of rape and incest.

So, who’s been caught in the trigger-happy, RINO-hunting crosshairs this time around? Why, no less than our friends over at the John Locke Foundation, those self-proclaimed champions of free markets, limited constitutional government and personal responsibility. Total RINOs.

On a conservative blog called The Daily Haymaker— an apparent one-man operation of the blogger Brant Clifton, dedicated to calling out RINOs like Ellmers, and Gov. Pat McCrory and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr who aren’t conservative enough— the John Locke Foundation was called out yesterday for, also, not being conservative enough.

The headline to the story, accompanied by this image, nails it: “#ncpol: John Locke, neutered?”

Here’s a snippet from Clifton:

The so-called hotbed of free market thought in North Carolina has been—lately—championing things like reparations and the installation of tracking devices on cars (for the purposes of taxation). I’ve also been hearing stories about the new Swanson-Gray regime cracking down on any employee who dares to criticize big government antics of anyone in Raleigh with an R next to their name. I hear Becki Gray herself has been censoring and spiking all kinds of pieces that may make either Jones Street or Blount Street unhappy.

Real conservatives hate taxation, and they hate, hate, hate reparations. And, are you kidding me, censorship? That’s so RINO. We read on to find out that Clifton was miffed at receiving a JLF mailer touting the Foundation’s so-called “Candidate Education Forum:”

Reliably conservative elected officials are retiring! We must educate and inspire a new generation of principled leaders!”

You see, Clifton is upset that the spokesperson for this particular JLF campaign is Phil Kirk, who Clifton calls “the granddaddy of North Carolina RINOs himself.”

Why is Phil Kirk the granddaddy of North Carolina RINOs?

Because he worked as an aide to “nice guys,” yet also “big-time RINOs,” Republican former governors Jim Martin and Jim Holshouser and Republican former congressman Jim Broyhill. And also because Kirk was appointed to the state board of education by Democratic former governor Jim Hunt, and continued to serve there under Democratic former governor, Mike Easley. RINO? RINO.

Ok, you may not have taken away a whole lot from that other than some Republicans named Jim are big, big-time RINOs, and Phil Kirk did some work for the Democrats. But there’s more. Apparently Phil Kirk supports Common Core. He supports Gov. McCrory’s ConnectNC bond issue. And, most egregiously, he actually praised “the leftist Wake County school board.” Big-time, granddaddy-of-all-RINO things to do, all. Clifton ponders:

Is this where conservatism in North Carolina has come? Have we gone from John East, Jesse Helms, and Lauch Faircloth to THIS? The folks at Locke like to portray themselves as the last bastion of rebellion inside the beltline against the welfare state. How does that image maintain any credibility when your public “face” is that of the granddaddy of all RINOs?

As astute Daily Haymaker commenter and probable RINO “Albert Blackburg” points out in the comments section of Clifton’s post:

This state is in deep doo-doo when the JLF is considered centrist.

Deep doo- doo indeed, Mr. Blackburg. Deep, deep RINO doo-doo indeed.