DeMint Declares Period of Introspection Over

So the brief and generally shallow period of Republican post-election introspection is officially over, before it really ever got to the difficult questions of ideology. How do I know that? Because Jim DeMint, from his new perch at the Heritage Foundation, has declared it so! I occasionally refer to a certain kind of conservative as “hammer-headed.” Read these lines from Boss DeMint’s op-ed in the Washington Times, and see what I mean:

President Obama and Congress will not solve America’s problems unless the people force them to. Washington is America’s problem. We are the solution.

America remains a conservative nation. But the people crave leadership — champions who will stand up to the progressives, take on the liberal media and push back against the Republican leadership when they go wobbly. They are tired of politicians. They want leaders of genuine conviction and passion, willing to take a principled stand.

It’s all very simple: keep moving Right and Republicans will arrive in that fabulous wonder-land where “real Americans” have always lived. You want an “autopsy” of what’s gone wrong with the GOP? You don’t need no 97-page report. Seven hammer-headed paragraphs will do it:

Not since the first few years of the Republican revolution in the 1990s — when welfare reform and a balanced budget were passed — have congressional Republicans seriously championed conservative ideas. By the time I arrived in the House in 1998, my party was increasing spending and handing out earmarks like candy.

The spending binge continued. By 2006, Americans had seen enough, and Republicans lost the majority in both houses. This was not a rejection of conservative policies. It was a rejection of unprincipled governance.

In 2008, things got even worse as Republicans helped pass bailouts for big banks on Wall Street, and for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Barack Obama was elected, and Republicans lost even more seats in Congress.

It wasn’t long before the far-left policies of Mr. Obama and a rudderless GOP finally woke Americans from their apathy. Conservatives, libertarians, independents and even recovering liberals came together in groups called Tea Parties all across the country. They had a unified, simple message: “Stop the spending, borrowing, bailouts and government takeovers — and restore constitutional, limited government.”

The majority of Americans agreed with these ideas. This was the opportunity for Republicans to embrace the movement and build that big tent our leaders have been talking about for years. Instead, the national Republican leadership rejected the Tea Party and joined the liberal media in vilifying it.

Many Republican candidates, though, did embrace the Tea Party ideas. In 2010, they helped the GOP retake the House and gain seats in the Senate.

Yet in 2012, with the presidency on the line, national Republican leadership rejected the lessons of 2010 and went back to the old way of campaigning — relying on big-budget, negative TV rather than painting a bold, positive vision of a better America.

Yeah, we all understand Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008 (Iraq? Katrina?) because they supported too much government spending, and Mitt Romney lost because he failed to come out for the repeal of the New Deal and Great Society and the demise of what DeMint likes to call “government schools.”

You can laugh all you want, but Jim DeMint is a much bigger deal, and a much more representative voice, in today’s GOP than Reince Priebus or Karl Rove or any of the tiny band of “reformist” conservative intellectuals who probably (in private, to be sure) think Jim DeMint is hammer-headed, too.

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.