06 December 2012

Who's Minding DeMint?

In that panicky Time magazine article about the mortal peril allegedly facing the Republican party, consultant Mike Murphy gave Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina damning credit for keeping control of the U.S. Senate in Democratic hands thanks to "his tireless work to recruit unelectable GOP candidates." In Murphy's view, DeMint is the opposite of what the party needs, griping over an apparently electable but somehow ideologically unacceptable candidate for the 2014 senatorial candidate in West Virginia. Within the week, DeMint has criticized the otherwise intractable-seeming Speaker Boehner for proposing any sort of increase in revenue for government to avoid going over the "fiscal cliff." Now, quite suddenly, DeMint has announced his resignation from the Senate so he can claim a job opening at the Heritage Foundation, the preeminent Republican think tank. Naturally, he claims that his new role will give him more influence over the ideological direction of the GOP, but it seems more likely that he had reached the limit of his influence within the congressional party leadership and was ready to cash out. He may well have fewer fans than ever among congressional Republicans after another round of failed senatorial bids this year. Now he can damn them as political-class insiders, institutionalized establishment creatures against whom he proposes to raise grass-roots armies of primary voters and sucker money from an only temporarily disillusioned donorcracy. It will be interesting to see whether DeMint can hold Republicans more accountable to his ideology from outside the party apparatus, but it's hard to know how to root. You might want someone like him to have as little influence over national politics as possible, but absent his instinct for picking losers, might we not see more Republican Senators starting in 2015? On the other hand, if his descent into the think tank does give him greater influence over future primaries -- I suppose a SuperPAC might help -- won't that mean more hopeless GOP candidates from 2014 forward? Whatever you think of his politics, some readers may want to wish DeMint well in spite of themselves.

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