Political Animal


December 06, 2012 11:32 AM DeMint Goes Guerrilla

By Ed Kilgore

You’d have to think that the stunning announcement by Jim DeMint that he is resigning his Senate seat in January to succeed Ed Feulner as president of the Heritage Foundation would never have occurred if the widespread conservative expectation of a Republican Congress and a Republican White House had come to fruition on November 6. DeMint would have been perfectly in his element playing commissar in a Republican government, holding Romney and congressional leaders to the promises he extorted from them during the 2012 primary season and in general fighting to consummate the conservative policy revolution that has eluded activists in past periods of apparent ascendancy.

But it didn’t happen, of course, and so it makes some sense for DeMint to take his act to an outside organization that has long occupied a peculiar perch as a breeding ground and holding tank for right-wing human capital ready to staff Republican administrations and congressional majorities—but also as a redoubt of ideological orthodoxy willing to criticize even the sainted Ronald Reagan for his heresies.

This legacy should appeal to DeMint’s own peculiar twin interest in establishment power (evidenced not only in his role as Grand Inquisitor of presidential candidates but as a Purger-in-Chief of Senate RINOs via his Senate Conservative Fund) and militant insurgency. And besides, the current Washington GOP zeitgeist may well be driving him back to a guerrilla posture. At a time when Republicans are stumbling over each other to distance themselves from Mitt Romney’s disdain for the “47%,” consider this quote from DeMint back in 2009:

I regret to say that there are two Americas but not the kind John Edwards was talking about. It’s not so much the haves and the have-nots. It’s those who are paying for government and those who are getting government. At this point, the data I’ve seen is 52% of Americans get their income directly or indirectly from a government source. And if you think about how that works in a democracy, why would the voters be concerned about the growth of government if they weren’t paying and they were getting something from it.
Democracy cannot work when you have a majority of people dependent on the government. And this is not just the poor. The way we’ve set up Social Security and Medicare, everyone who retires are dependent, parents are dependent on the government for education of their children and now, if you look at the folks who come through my office — business people, farmers, bankers — everybody is coming to Washington to get their piece of the government because we’re running all this money through here now.

More than any other major GOP politician, Jim DeMint is at war not just with Obama or with “liberalism” or even with “RINOs” and their alleged twenty-first century heresies against the True Faith. He’s at war with the America of the twentieth century, and it’s probably fitting he’s leaving Congress for a mountain-top perch where he can fire on everything modern (other than the modern corporation!) with relative impunity.

UPDATE: And yes, as commenter AndThenThere’sThat guessed, DeMint will be getting a major lifestyle upgrade for his short three-block move from the Senate to Heritage: probably about a 500% pay raise. He also won’t have to spend much time in South Cackalacky if he does not wish to, and will have a vastly larger staff at his disposal.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • T2 on December 06, 2012 11:42 AM:

    and when the history book is written, it will be guys like Jim DeMint credited with the downfall of the Republican Party as we've known it in decades past. Quite an accomplishment, Jim, I really appreciate it. Really.
    Now he can kick back and dedicate his time to being the best organizer of white male racists ever.

  • Robert on December 06, 2012 11:48 AM:

    The Heritage Foundation is another domestic enemy hiding behind the walls of a think tank...There are many of these stealth groups who plot and plan the downfall of our country...ALEC is another group that needs to be eliminated...these are the people who are hurting the country...and the media continues to ignore the story...licking the boots of their masters seems to be the story....

  • AndThenThere'sThat on December 06, 2012 11:55 AM:

    its probably fitting hes leaving Congress for a mountain-top perch where he can fire on everything modern

    Will he be getting a pay raise also?

  • jim filyaw on December 06, 2012 11:56 AM:

    ideology is one thing, money another. you can damn well bet that demint was more persuaded by the bucks than he was the movement. look at what it just did for armey. its convenient that greed and self interest coincides with their professed beliefs, but in the end, if communism was that profitable, demint and those like him would be doing their best che impersonations.

  • Josef K on December 06, 2012 12:00 PM:

    Hes at war with the America of the twentieth century

    May that be his professional epitaph. The man doesn't deserve an actual gravestone.

  • emjayay on December 06, 2012 12:01 PM:

    DeMint lumped apples and oranges into his list of who is dependent on government. "Business people, farmers" (meaning big businesspeople in the agrarian sector), "bankers" are not "everyone who retires are dependent, parents are dependent on the government for education of their children"

    The first group are corporate entities using their lobbying and campaign contributions to influence the government into one way or another handing them money. Which is what they are about: making a profit. The second group are citizens who have decided on collective means to benefit all the citizens in the society and society in general as tax paying and voting citizens.

    Not necessarily Demoratic politicians, but certainly Democrats in general would like to get rid of the first subsidies and extend or improve what the government provides for the second group. Republicans, to whom "corporations are people, my friend" see the two goups as both people, and to them some people are more equal than other people.

  • c u n d gulag on December 06, 2012 12:07 PM:

    20th Century?

    Hell, then DeMint is fighting a two front war - because he's also at war with the 19th, too!

  • rdale on December 06, 2012 12:10 PM:

    It may be just the "dump truck full of money," as Krusty the Klown said, but it it would be irresponsible not to speculate. "Hiking the Appalachian Trail?" "Wide stance?" "Dead girl or live boy?" Whatever, good riddance to bad rubbish! Don't let the door hit you in your pasty white butt on the way out!

  • Mimikatz on December 06, 2012 12:11 PM:

    His departure will raise the average IQ of the Senate immensely. Along with Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby hi is one of the stupidest members. Last time DeMint ran virtually unopposed, however, a disgrace in itself. Is there any Dem who could have a chance? Does this mean we get Nikki Haley in the Senate?

  • JM917 on December 06, 2012 12:14 PM:

    What c u n d said.

    DeMint is the closest living, breathing entity that we now have to the Stammvater of nineteenth-century reaction, John C. Calhoun. Like Calhoun, he really aspired to drag the republic back to an ossified, Never-Never-Land version of the eighteenth century, before it got polluted by democracy.

    That's the DeMintian legacy.

  • Josef K on December 06, 2012 12:16 PM:

    I initially thought this was just another Onion spoof. Hard to believe DeMint (you have to wonder if that's he's real name, given his tendency towards avarice) would jump from the spotlight so readily.

  • Bo on December 06, 2012 12:18 PM:

    Well, let's just hope that good old Jim DeMented does for the Heritage Foundation what he did for the Senate GOoPers . . . make them the laughingstock of the American electorate.

    The whole concept of a right-wing think-tank is such an oxymoron that I can't think of a better resting place for DeMented . . . it will soon be the graveyard for all teabaggers.

  • bigtuna on December 06, 2012 1:03 PM:

    At least there will be fewer tax dollars going to bankroll his salary and to promote his twisted notions of the world.

    So, from what I see from his website, he was on:

    Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee
    Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
    Foreign Relations Committee
    Joint Economic Committee

    basically, committees with no spending authority; I suppose the repubs will find some equally detestable thug to be on Banking, and Foreign Relations ....

  • frank logan on December 06, 2012 1:54 PM:

    Democrats had better be vigilant during the next two years. I am afraid of the tactics the republican think tanks will develop in their frustration over the election and Bush's tax cuts. Republicans, in general, look on politics as war and have no scruples about their tactics.

    I fully expect a renewal of the tea party hell promised by Grover Nordquist in the coming year, funded by the Kochs, organized by DeMint, and executed by thousands of paid dupes.

    In 2010 the Democrats were not able to cope with the onslaught. Are we better prepared now?

  • boatboy_srq on December 06, 2012 2:37 PM:

    This is actually a pretty smart move of DeMint's.

    Consider: he's in his 60s, his demographic is shrinking, and he's a laughingstock in every blue state (and the blue appears to be finally spreading). The GOTea colleagues in the chamber that he could sway are either learning to listen a little less carefully, or are beginning to throw in the towel, and more than a couple got their pink slips last month. His next turn at campaigning is in four years: depending on who the Dems select, and given the horrific field of candidates we've seen from the GOTea the last two cycles, his chances of being tied to the craziest of the GOTea crazy in public opinion is a little too good for comfort. And his biggest backers aren't at home: they're in Ohio (Koch) and Nevada (Adelson). On the other hand, SC is in the grip of the Teahad, he has a fellow traveler in Gov. Haley, and whoever she appoints to replace him may have as much baggage overall, but no pieces as big and heavy as his from a national perspective.

    I don't think he would have made a different choice had 2012 gone a different way. There's a changing of the guard in the Reichwing think tanks: they're throwing out the rabid ones, and replacing them with lycanthropes and calling that an improvement. This is DeMint's chance to be part of that pack, and he can join it without being particularly afraid of who will replace him. And what happens to his replacement, made conveniently without his express anointing, can hardly be laid at his feet: it won't be his fault if Haley appoints damaged goods that can get beaten by a decent Dem challenger, and he doesn't have to risk facing that drubbing himself.

    I do think, though, that it spells the end of any pretense that the Heritage Foundation is anything more than the John Birch Society with booklarnin'.

  • jjm on December 06, 2012 2:38 PM:

    So why would a 'think' tank choose someone who has been so visibly wrong on so many issues, predictions etc.? It clearly has no concern for reality, but obviously wants only someone who can articulate their ludicrous and backwards ideas in a nice, Southern accent...

    "Think" tank -- hah!

  • Leah A on December 06, 2012 3:10 PM:

    What c u n d gulag and JM917 said, plus add the eighteenth century as well: DeMint's reading of our founding documents are as knuckle-headed as are his reading of contemporary science.

    Does this mean that DeMint will be eligible for his retirement pension from the Senate, and does anyone here think he won't accept it.

    In fact, is there any way we can find out if Alan Simpson has been taking his Senate retirement? He came to the Senate as a wealthy man and left even wealthier, but I bet on Simpson taking that rather generous pension, even while he lectures those ungrateful, greedy middle-class retirees about their willful dependence on Social Security and Medicare.

  • yellowdog on December 06, 2012 3:35 PM:

    DeMint is leaving at about the time the GOP is being pressed for some specifics on governance. With the budget spotlight shining, it is about time for some details to go along with the years of easy rhetoric about government spending.

    DeMint and his ilk have taken all the easy shots at big government, and they've done so for years. Times are changing and DeMint knows it. Executing a disappearing act when it is time for hard, in-touch-with-reality details about government spending is pretty savvy. Now is the moment of specificity, when the speeches give way to spreadsheets, when the GOP has to live up to its years of indictment--and detail exactly which of the scummy 'dependents' among us should see real cuts. This is where the fun-ride of GOP rhetoric gets not so fun anymore. Those dependents? The them is us. It is the military and Medicare and the port of Charleston and farm subsidies and homeland security and tax breaks and bridges to nowhere. The GOP has gotten by for ages with a lot of magic asterisks and numbers that don't add up and bold lying. Poo is now headed toward ceiling fan. Reality breaks in: If you want to cut the budget and the deficit, you cannot stop with just the programs you hate. Austerity means you have to dig in, hard, on the programs people actually like and, yes, depend on. Better to be at a haven of irreality like Heritage than at a podium at the Florence Rotary Club or a town meeting in North Charleston when reality begins to bite. Austerity hits real people--at the air force base that closes, at the port that misses its federal funding, at the local business that misses tax loopholes, at the corner store that misses business from food stamps and unemployment checks. And Medicare? How do you begin to explain what happened at the nursing home or doctors' office? The golden day of economic growth in the GOP vision comes only after some hard winters of austerity--if it comes at all. DeMint will leave the hard reckonining to others.

  • exlibra on December 06, 2012 7:22 PM:

    At least there will be fewer tax dollars going to bankroll his salary [...] -- bigtuna, @1:03 PM

    But we're probably still on the hook for his healthcare plan and his pension.