WASHINGTON, December 6, 2012 — Republicans are losing a major conservative voice in the Senate with the January resignation of South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, 61. He will become the president of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, currently headed by Ed Feulner.
Sen. DeMint was reelected for a second term but had announced earlier that he would not run a third time. This means that South Carolina’s Republican Governor Nikki Haley will name a replacement, who will then have to run in a special election in 2014 to retain the seat.
A Major Influence on the GOP’s Thinking
An active and often controversial conservative who often battled with the GOP leadership, believing it to be too moderate on taxes and government spending, Sen. DeMint was more often than not a thorn it the Republicans’ side. Just this past week, he clashed with Republican Majority Leader John Boehner, saying that the proposal to include $800 billion in further taxes in the fiscal cliff discussions would “destroy American jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more, while not reducing our $16 million debt by a single penny.”
However, despite his caustic style, Sen. DeMint had significant influence as the founding member of the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus and was expected to ascend to a leadership position as more conservatives joined the Senate.
Two of DeMint’s pet projects in the Senate were to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and to repeal Obamacare, the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
The Senator in a prepared statement explained why he is not completing his term: “I’m leaving the Senate now, but I’m not leaving the fight. I’ve decided to join The Heritage Foundation at a time when the conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas.”
He also told the Wall Street Journal that the last year made him realize that “This is an urgent time because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections.”
Heritage Foundation Has Influenced Presidents
The Heritage Foundation was founded in 1973 by Ed Feulner, Paul Weyrich, and the beer magnate Joseph Coors because of their disgust with President Nixon’s “liberal” positions. Its real sphere of influence grew during the Reagan presidency with their report “Mandate for Leadership” in 1981, and several of the report’s authors took positions in the administration. President Reagan even adopted their idea of a ballistic missile defense system, which he dubbed the Strategic Defense Initiative, better known to the public as Star Wars.
The Heritage Foundation became influential in both Bush administrations. It kicked off the cultural wars with the publication of “The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators” by William Bennett, which showed how crime, teen pregnancy, drug use, and other social indicators had worsened since the 1960s. It is still the benchmark for the social conservatives.
In 1994, Heritage Foundation worked behind the scenes with then Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich to frame the “Contract With America,” which is said to have turned the fortunes of the Republican Party around, giving them a majority in Congress.
Alumni from the Foundation who have moved into important government positions include William Bennett, Paul Bremer, Elaine Chao, Richard Allen, and Ed Meese. Today the Heritage Foundation has an annual budget of $80 million and is still a vital force in the conservative movement.
With Jim DeMint at the helm of the Heritage Foundation, expect that force to be felt as it brings even further pressure on Republicans to toe the conservative line.
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.
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