DeMint and Growing Frustration in the GOP
Many were shocked last week when Jim DeMint announced that he was resigning his senate seat to head the Heritage Foundation. But, should that really come as a shock? Since Reagan establishment Republicans have treated conservatives with disdain. Conservatives had to fight hard to nominate Reagan and every nominee since Reagan has been a moderate, who was a favorite of the GOP establishment. Conservatives were noticeably absent from the 2012 convention. Many conservatives supported Mitt Romney with their votes and contributions. Many others stayed home.
If Republicans had won big on November 6, it’s likely Jim DeMint would not be leaving the Senate to head the Heritage Foundation. In a conversation not long after the announcement, DeMint expressed frustration with being a “Doctor No” in the Senate, that is, a minority lawmaker who spends his time usefully but unhappily stopping misguided legislation. He also expressed a strong desire to become the kind of powerful force in the political world that is not possible for a Republican senator right now. In a move that stunned many Washington insiders, DeMint decided the path to more influence was to leave elected office.
“Yes, I’m frustrated,” he told me. “If Romney was in the White House and Republicans had control of the Senate, I would have had a chance to advance positive ideas, so there would have been a very different scenario.” But that’s just not the case. DeMint explained that he believes “it’s an important role in the Senate to be here and try to stop bad legislation when you’re in the minority,” but the election results made clear that conservatives face more urgent problems.
DeMint said many people were shocked that a U.S. senator would give up his seat. But given today’s political situation, he believes he will have greater influence — not just on the public debate generally but specifically on the Senate — from the outside. “I won’t be taking votes, but I guarantee you I will affect more votes at the Heritage Foundation than I do in the Senate.”
That’s the frustration again. Facing defeat after defeat in a situation in which the most he could do was stop some bad things from happening, DeMint didn’t see much conservative vigor among his colleagues. “I just believed that Republicans have not been reliable partners of the conservative cause,” he said. “I think there is a lack of vision and boldness that we need at the national level. I’m not pointing to anyone in particular, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a conservative conference where someone stood up and just inspired people with a message of what we really stand for and what America needs at this point.”
The result of that continuing Republican weakness has been — no surprise — Democratic victories. The 2012 results convinced DeMint that those victories weren’t flukes and might go on for quite a while if Republicans don’t change. “After the election it was clear that a majority of Americans believe the Democratic Party can do more for them than Republicans,” DeMint said. “Yet I know, factually, provably, that conservative ideas are working at the state level all around the country. Right-to-work states are attracting businesses. School choice is working for minorities and the poor. And we can prove that Obama’s policies, liberal, progressive policies, in California, Illinois, New York — you can see where they’re going. We are going to continue to lose elections at the national level if we don’t convince Americans that our ideas are better.”
Hat Tip: Byron York – Washington Examiner
Can he fight more effectively outside the Senate?