The Interesting Resignation of Senator Jim DeMint (SC)

Oddly selecting to resign, Senator DeMint acts as a spotlight on the GOP and reveals much of its inner-workings.

Oddly selecting to resign, Senator DeMint acts as a spotlight on the GOP and reveals much of its inner-workings.

by Richard Gueren, Political Editor

On Thursday December 6, 2012, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, a tea party stalwart in the Senate announced his resignation from the Senate.  Since Jim Demint is not a “household name”, this article may seem esoteric but, if you stay with me, you won’t regret it.

Mr. Demint leaves the upper chamber with hardly any signature laws to his name, rarely acting as a participant in bipartisan negotiations, and holding a small record as a legislator inside the chamber.  He relied on an outside message operation that often gave him more influence than say Mitch McConnell or Richard Lugar would ever be able to attain.  So what’s the disconnect?  Why is it that even with a small legislative record, was he able to attain the amount of influence he had with the tea party?

Most political analysts now say that powerful, ideologically rigid voices outside of Capitol Hill urging Republicans to stay true to their conservative principles are the driving forces in the halls of Congress.  It underscores how both parties have seen their respective caucuses grow younger and more partisan, overtaking the older and more consensus-minded senators who are more inclined to compromise.

As Congress grapples with the “Fiscal Cliff” at the end of this year, DeMint’s sudden announcement Thursday (that he’d quit his seat in January to head the conservative Heritage Foundation) shows where he thinks the real power-center in his party resides.  “I honestly think I can do a lot more on the outside than I can on the inside,” DeMint said after delivering a speech to an enthusiastic crowd at The Heritage Foundation.

Therefore, the Republican Party must figure out whether this dichotomy is useful for their electoral prospects.  Some questions to consider:  Is it healthy for the Republican Party that the only way Jim DeMint felt he could have as much influence as a senator was to run a special interest group?  Are there limits to being a Republican Senator?

I will leave you with one last idea to ponder about the future Republican Party.  There is currently a fight within the party about whether this outside influence is helpful to their electoral prospects or not.  Steve Schmidt, the senior campaign strategist of the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008 and current MSNBC political analyst went on NBC News during Election night and called on GOP leaders to “stand up” against the extreme elements in the party that the Republican strategist believes are leading it down the wrong path, even singling out radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh by name.  “If you look at the Republican Party over the last couple of years,” he notes,  “It is a tail-wag-the-dog story with the power and the influence of the ‘conservative entertainment complex’ over elected leadership.”

On the other side, some in the Republican Party do not see this outside influence as a problem, “Contrary to what the usual suspects on the Left and mushy middle are saying, Romney’s loss is not an indictment of conservatism,” Laura Ingraham, the conservative talk radio host and Fox News guest host, wrote on her blog recently.  Conservative talk radio continues to thrive, moderate Republican candidates continue to lose,” Ingraham later told POLITICO. “Blaming talk radio for the problems in the GOP elite is hilarious and typical of people who want to continue to get paid to give bad advice to campaigns.”

Maybe this self-reflection shows a political party interested in winning over coalitions in the future that Obama took away from them.  This reflection period can also mark the beginning of the end when it comes to the GOP’s continued loss of the electorate.  Stay tuned to see how this “reflection” inside the party turns out.