Two Assessments of the DeMint Era and Its Aftermath

Reading right-wingers assess the Senate legacy of Jim DeMint, R-S.C., which we discussed at some length in yesterday’s post, is always amusing, if not so intended by the assessor. Here’s New York Times columnist Ross Douthat:

This chapter — the DeMint chapter, the Tea Party chapter, call it what you will — was probably a necessary stage for the American right. It’s normal for defeated parties and movements to turn inward for a period of ideological retrenchment before new thinking takes hold.

What’s more, the DeMint worldview wasn’t so much wrong as incomplete. It really was important for Republicans to get more serious about entitlements and to shake off their Bush-era blitheness about deficits. The principles of many Tea Partiers really were an improvement over the transparent cynicism of a Tom DeLay.

Of course! True believers in a hate-mongering, hyperpartisan playbook are soooo much more preferable to more pragmatic proponents of hyperpartisan hate-mongering.

For an alternate take, I suggest the always elegant and wryly humorous Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker, who titles his blog post about DeMint’s move from the Senate to the right-wing think tank known as the Heritage Foundation this way: “Heritage Diagnosed: Severe DeMintia“:

DeMint inhabits the outer reaches of movement conservatism pretty much across the board, but his greatest passion seems to be reserved for what are delicately termed “social issues.” On questions of sexual identity and behavior, he is a forthright bigot and a prude. Shortly before the 2008 election, speaking at a Dominionist “Greater Freedom Rally,” he summarized his position thusly:

If someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn’t be teaching in the classroom. And he holds the same position as an unmarried woman who’s sleeping with her boyfriend. She shouldn’t be in the classroom.

Last year, he indicated that his belief in small government is rooted in the theory that there is a fixed and limited amount of space that can be occupied by the government and the deity combined. The size of the public sector and the size of the Almighty are inversely proportional to each other. It’s an iron law, a zero-sum game:

I’ve said it often and I believe it—the bigger government gets, the smaller God gets.

As Hertzberg explains in his lead:

For nigh on forty years, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation have been doing a good-cop/bad-cop routine—make that a bad-cop/really bad-cop routine. Yesterday, Heritage decided to double down on bad, with stained-glass windows.

Trust me, the whole thing is a terrific read, and a trenchant take on the internecine battles of the right, as played out by its two best-known think tanks.