The rumored departure of Jim DeMint from the Heritage Foundation is a shot across the bow to Constitutional conservatives. My friend, the former U.S. Senator from South Carolina, is one of the key reasons that we have complete Republican government in Washington today. DeMint was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool, and he began the Conservative wave that elected Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio. By being a voice crying in the wilderness for freedom and free-markets, Senator DeMint embodied the effort to oppose the Obama Administration’s rush toward secular socialism. In short, without Jim DeMint, there would be no President Trump.
I remember distinctly standing on the steps of the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, SC, in 2009 when Senator DeMint spoke to 10,000 South Carolinians who came-out to protest the Federal government’s take-over of healthcare. It was DeMint who, after growing frustrated with GOP leadership’s unwillingness to strongly challenge the Obama agenda, founded the Senate Conservative’s Fund to fund constitutional conservatives who ran in Republican primaries against moderates and liberals. As a result of SCF, Marco Rubio beat liberal GOP Governor Charlie Christ, who is now a Democrat congressman, Rand Paul won in Kentucky, Mike Lee took Utah, and Ted Cruz defeated moderate David Dewhurst in the Lone Star State. These elections helped move the United States Senate toward a body of conviction, not just of shallow political maneuvering.
When Jim DeMint left the Senate in 2012 to go to the Heritage Foundation, many South Carolina conservatives were dismayed. I was one of them. We had just reelected Senator DeMint in 2010, and were looking forward to 6 more years of his principled fight in the Senate. I am a friend and support of his successor, Senator Tim Scott, as well, but Jim DeMint was a hard man to see leave office. His rationale at the time, as he stated on my radio program, was that he could make more of a difference at Heritage than in the Senate. I respectfully disagreed, but supported the Senator nevertheless.
At Heritage, DeMint set-out to do what he said he would do as president: energize the conservative movement. Under DeMint, Heritage provided policy briefings and resources to every 2016 GOP presidential contender. Once Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee, it was Heritage that stood by him, helped him woo conservatives, and put-together the famed list of Supreme Court justices that included Neil Gorsuch. Such were Jim DeMint’s efforts that President Trump gave him a personal shout-out at last year’s NRA convention during the general election.
Now that rumors suggest that Jim DeMint is departing from Heritage, folks are trying to rewrite some history. There are tales of a combative DeMint who did not play nice with others, the former Senator who did not know how to be a CEO, and a political operator who hijacked the Heritage Foundation. From my personal knowledge of Jim DeMint’s character, this is all bunk. DeMint is a humble leader who knows how to build collaborative teams, who was a CEO before he was a Senator, and who moved Heritage to the next level.
If DeMint does leave Heritage because the Board wants a policy-wonk less politically active, they are making a tremendous mistake. Policy foundations are only effective if they can put their ideas into practice. There is no point in a think-tank that cannot translate its write-ups into reality. Jim DeMint did at Heritage what he has done everywhere else he has gone: he has been a conservative warrior fighting for the soul of America.
Don’t stop fighting, Jim, come what may.