GOP Would Be Better Off Without Jim DeMint

Sen. Jim DeMint ends up jeopardizing the Republican candidates he endorses rather than helping them succeed.

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In this June 17, 2011 file photo, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. speaks in New Orleans. Conservative Republicans are giving the business community a hard time, arguing that the marketplace should dictate what businesses thrive and falter, not Washington. "What we find now is this cronyism and this corporate welfare, it's corrupting the politics because there's nothing now that goes through that doesn't have a corporate interest,"DeMint told The Associated Press. He warned that the combination of big government and big industry is creating a nation that is becoming “too big to succeed.”

When the political history of our times is written, who will be seen as the most effective defender of abortion rights, raising taxes, stimulus spending, and liberal control of the U.S. Senate? Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York? Billionaire leftist George Soros? President Bill Clinton, the happy warrior of the Democratic Party? Or Sen. Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Tea Party Republican who is adamantly prolife, and against tax increases and runaway federal spending? DeMint, friend and ally of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, has put the blow into blowback, the boom into boomerang, the lash in backlash.

Jim DeMint means well. Like millions of Tea Party Americans, he sees an establishment Republican Party that has become too cozy with Wall Street and too far from Main Street. He sees Potomac River Republicans who've lost their zest for reforming a government that is out of control. And, to his credit, he has made the Republican Party more coherent by cultivating some primary challengers who offer stronger alternatives to pallid, tired incumbents.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

Through his affiliation with Christian and Tea Party organizations, DeMint has the ability to mobilize armies of volunteers and voters for primary candidates he blesses. Sometimes DeMint backs a Ted Cruz (Princeton, Harvard) or a Marco Rubio (former speaker of Florida's House of Representatives) who are destined to become Senate leaders. But he also has an appalling record of derailing good Senate candidates and replacing them with people who are—to use a precise, anthropological term—goobers. Ill-educated, ill-informed, unelectable goobers.

And the result has been to reward President Barack Obama with liberal allies in the U.S. Senate time and time again.

Consider: DeMint cost the Republicans a sure-win Senate seat in Delaware when the intervention of his national allies forced out former congressman and governor, Mike Castle, and replaced him with Christine O'Donnell, a gadlfy who had to explain her flirtation with witchcraft. O'Donnell lost by 17 percent to Chris Coons, a young senator who—thanks in part to DeMint's help—can now look forward to many years in Joe Biden's seat. DeMint also helped clear the path for Sharron Angle, the Nevada Republican chosen to oppose the most beatable incumbent in the 2010 Senate race—who just happened to be Majority Leader Harry Reid. Angle started out with the one of the largest margins ever seen against an incumbent, only to lose by 7 points.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

And now, of course, there is Rep. Todd Akin—he of "legitimate rape" fame—who was supported by the Family Research Council and other groups close to DeMint. This is another hard-to-lose race against an out-of-touch, vulnerable incumbent liberal, Sen. Claire McCaskill. Control of this Missouri seat may well determine control of the U.S. Senate in 2012. At this writing, Sen. McCaskill is now polling at 10 points over Akin.           

A recent Family Research Council webpage asked readers to "pray for Jim DeMint." As a Republican and a conservative, I too, pray for DeMint. I pray for him to take a moment to consider his record and ask himself if, perhaps, there is something he ought to do differently. As he meditates on this, let me offer some pointers for Jim DeMint and his allies in moving forward.

  1. When your Democratic opponent spends $2 million supporting your candidate in the Republican primary (which the shrewd McCaskill did for Akin) because she believes he's a goober who is going to step on his shoelaces, it is a sign that you may have a flawed candidate.
  2. Conduct background checks on your candidates before the election. After the nomination is a tough time to learn about some ostensibly upright, traditionalist, fiscally conservative paragon's weird fetishes; checkered financial, personal, or business affairs; or idiotic, confidence-destroying suppositions. 
  3. Try to be at least a little strategic in your forays.
  4. [Take the U.S. News Poll: Should Todd Akin Drop Out of His Race After ‘Legitimate Rape’ Remarks?]

    Many Republicans see replacing Indiana's Sen. Dick Lugar with Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock as a sound move. After 36 years, Lugar had become too complacent, too get-along, go-along. But there are parts of the country where a Scott Brown or an Olympia Snowe are not only the best we're going to get—they should be seen as welcome additions to what Ronald Reagan touted as the big tent of the Republican Party. Why? Central to winning elections is an ability to persuade people outside of your base. Central to getting anything done in Washington is the ability to construct winning coalitions with people who are not like yourself.

    If you can't do that, Jim DeMint, the causes we Republicans care most about would ultimately be better off without your help.

    • Read Peter Fenn: GOP Deserves the Todd Akin Mess
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