In yet another sign of the declining fortunes of the Tea Party movement, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has submitted his resignation. His stated reason is that he is going to become head of the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. However, this move comes after a series of resounding defeats of candidates he backed, as well as increasing intolerance of the kind of criticism he liberally (so to speak) dumped on Speaker of the House John Boehner. When Rush Limbaugh asked DeMint if Boehner was forcing him out, the Senator defiantly replied, “It might work a little bit the other way, Rush.”
DeMint was supposed to be the savior of the Republican Party, the crusader who was going to lead the GOP to victory in both chambers of Congress. Instead, a series of electoral defeats in both 2010 and 2012 brought the party a diminished presence. DeMint had a habit of backing candidates who were so extreme they weren’t electable in their home states. Think Sharron Angle of Nevada and Christine O’Donnell of Delaware in 2010; then Todd Akin of Missouri–even after his infamous “legitimate rape” remark–and Richard Mourdock of Indiana–who thinks that a pregnancy as the result of rape is a “gift from God”–in 2012.
According to The New York Times, colleagues in his own party will shed few tears at the Senator’s departure. Nevertheless, Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, huffed and puffed a defense of the Tea Party, saying:
“We had a number of terrific advocates for limited government and freedom who won elections to the Senate — Ted Cruz and Jeff Flake and Deb Fischer. The cause is still strong.”
It’s now up to South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, to appoint a replacement for DeMint until a special election can be held in 2014 to fill the seat for its final two years (out of six). As the editorial board of the The Washington Post wrote on Thursday, in reference to the resignation:
“Everyone has a stake in a Senate whose members, of both parties, are neither ideologically inflexible nor politically cowed by the threat of primary challenges from the ideologically inflexible. Solutions to many of the nation’s problems, its fiscal challenge most of all, will require give and take… Republicans who don’t see compromise as a dirty word could both move their party in the right direction and better influence Democrats to give up some of their unsustainable orthodoxies.”
Are you listening, Governor Haley?