DeMint Takes His Hardball and Cashes Out

Whatever it is you're for, I'm probably against.

Whatever it is your for, I’m probably against.

 “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”
~ Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on opposing the president’s health care reforms.

I wanted to find a picture of Jim DeMint and Barack Obama.  You know, just a standard pic of the two politicians smiling for the cameras even while they’re thinking,  “Damn but I can’t stand this guy.”  The thing is  there are no pictures of the two together.    Jim DeMint does not like a lot of people and he would probably cut his right hand off before he would ever shake Barack Obama’s hand.   It’s  personal for DeMint.  It’s not just business.

Then again, the list of who the conservative kingmaker dislikes is a long one and doubtlessly has as many Republicans as it does Democrats.   DeMint is resigning to head up the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank and will likely see a substantial six-fold pay boost in his salary.

DeMint didn’t create the incivility, the gridlock and overall dysfunction of the Senate, but he sure didn’t mind helping it along either.   As the Tea Party’s man in the upper chamber of the legislative branch, DeMint saw his job not to make Congress work better, but for it to not work at all.

Giving credit where credit is due: DeMint understood the arcane rules of the Senate and realized he could accomplish through procedure what the Republicans lacked in numerical advantage.

However, DeMint sneered at the idea of compromise and stressed absolute ideological purity even when it meant taking out his fellow Republicans such as Robert Bennett, Richard Lugar and nearly Orrin Hatch. Their crime? Being willing to work with Democrats.

The members of the Senate that will miss DeMint the least aren’t the Democrats but Mitch McConnell and the Republican caucus.

DeMint has been silent on how public of a role he’ll play in electoral politics over the next two years, and its unclear whether his new position at Heritage, a not-for-profit organization that is barred from playing in politics, will limit his ability to openly push for candidates.

Nevertheless, DeMint’s departure means he could play a pivotal role in the 2014 mid-term elections — either as a conservative kingmaker or as a spoiler who backs ideological pure but fundamentally unelectable candidates, as he did in 2010 with Christine O’Donnell.

And unlike the last two cycles, when DeMint’s activities were constrained by his promise not to target colleagues in primary races, he will be free in the coming months to pick and groom primary opponents to incumbents in the Senate.

"Need a replacement Senator?  I'm your boy!"

“Need a replacement Senator? I’m your boy!”

Remember, this is the guy who said he would prefer the GOP stay in the minority with “30 Marco Rubios than 60 Arlen Specters,” a moderate Republican that DeMint lined up in his crosshairs. As it turns out, Specter went rogue and switched over to becoming a Democrat rather than take on a Tea Party primary challenger DeMint was supporting, but the message was clear:   to create a GOP caucus that was faithful to his brand of ultra-conservatism, DeMint would not hesitate to go after other Republicans he felt were too soft and accommodating the Democrats.

Once again in 2014, the Democrats have more of their incumbents trying to defend their seats, but an unleashed DeMint may be more worrisome to Republican senators who he considers insufficiently conservative.   DeMint has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, but hasn’t said if he’s considering it.  If the GOP selects someone too moderate for his taste, you can expect DeMint or a surrogate to mount a challenge from the Right.

As far as his replacement goes, DeMint is supposedly bullish on Rep. Tim Scott, the other African-American elected as a Republican to the House in 2010 along with the just defeated Allen West. Another Tea Party type, Scott is just as far to the Right as West, but not nearly as prone to put his foot in his mouth.

If chosen by Governor Nikki Haley to finish DeMint’s unexpired term,  Scott would be the first Black Republican from the South in the upper chamber since Reconstruction.   Big deal.  Scott is just another Tea Bagger right-winger.   When he won the election to the House in 2010, he declined an invitation to join the Congressional Black Caucus.   “While I recognize the efforts of the CBC and appreciate their invitation for me to caucus with them, I will not be joining at this time,” Scott said.  “My campaign was never about race.”

Even a tool like West joined the CBC.   During the 2011 clash over raising the debt ceiling, Scott warned the president might face impeachment if he invoked a clause in the 14th Amendment to by pass Congress.   “This president is looking to usurp congressional oversight to find a way to get it done without us. My position is that is an impeachable act from my perspective.”

If chosen to replace DeMint, much will be made of the historical nature of Scott’s appointment.   Much less attention will be paid to how he is little more than DeMint in blackface.

That’s a prospect that remains to be seen if it become reality.   I can respect DeMint’s unshakable commitment to conservative principles, but I despise his legacy of obstructionism and contempt for the beliefs of others.

"How big of a pay raise am I getting?  THIS big!"

“How big of a pay raise am I getting? THIS big!”

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