DeMint Goes Guerrilla

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

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.