I’m frankly amazed at how positive the media coverage has been—with a couple of notable exceptions—of Sen. Jim DeMint’s resignation from his Senate seat to head the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The South Carolinian, who opportunistically crowned himself head of the Tea Party faction in the Senate (as Rep. Michele Bachmann did in the House), has been waging a not-so-quiet insurgency inside the Republican Party.
Not only is he an adamant Tea Partier on economic issues; he’s an avatar of the Christian right whose self-righteousness knows no bounds.
He called the stimulus “a mugging, a fraud.” He said he hoped President Obama would “eventually turn away from despots like Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Castro.” And he said homosexuals and unmarried women who were sleeping with their boyfriends “shouldn’t be in the classroom.”
If DeMint has a sense of humor, it’s surely unintentional.
His Senate Conservatives Fund mounted primary fights against establishment Republicans, helping get senators like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz elected. But he also backed wacko losers like Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada. And he supported Mr. “legitimate rape” Todd Akin in his failed effort to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri.
DeMint clearly coveted the Majority Leadership post held by Mitch McConnell. But McConnell is a much shrewder operator and far less extreme, so that wasn’t in the cards. When Democrats actually gained Senate seats in an election where they had to defend 23 seats to the Republicans’ ten, DeMint must have seen the handwriting on the wall.
“His departure from Congress, effective next month, comes as the political winds appear to be blowing against the 61-year-old lawmaker and the movement he has spoken for,” The Los Angeles Times wrote.
Coincidentally—of course–he’ll also make a lot more money: Heritage Foundation president Edwin Feulner was reportedly making $1 million a year, more than five times DeMint’s Senate salary.
Of the three major Washington conservative think tanks, Heritage is the most partisan. In my view, the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute produce more objective and thorough research. Heritage’s defense of the Bush tax cuts was particularly shoddy and verged on intellectual dishonesty.
No doubt DeMint will make Heritage an even more strident soldier in the economic and culture wars. His departure from the Senate will help make it a little easier to get things done there. He was nothing more than a nasty, doctrinaire obstacle whose absence is to be welcomed.
Goodbye, Jim, and don’t let the gavel hit you on the way out.