DeMint: Defining discourse downward?

Last year was, as we all know, probably the worst year for South Carolina’s image nationally since the heyday of Donna Rice and Jim Bakker. Come to think of it, we looked rather better back then — I don’t think those scandals reflected upon US as a people quite as devastatingly as the Sanford and Wilson and “keep your gummint hands off my Medicare” debacles.

Well, the embarrassment continues. The New Republic helps kick off 2010 by scutinizing our own Jim “Waterloo” DeMint, to wit:

For all of Washington’s political polarization, the U.S. Senate remains a clubby place. Sure, lawmakers talk smack about the unparalleled malevolence of the opposition, but there is, in general, a high degree of respect for the institution, its members, and its time-honored Way of Doing Things. While the House is known for its ideological cowboys, demagogues, and revolutionaries, the Senate is where bright lines and rough edges tend to get smoothed out in the name of statesmanship and legislative compromise.

Clearly, no one told this to Jim DeMint. During his first term, South Carolina’s junior senator has made quite the name for himself. Armed with a courtly demeanor, a blandly pleasant visage, and a butter-melting drawl, he has set about flaying Democrats with a fervor that causes even some of his Republican colleagues to cringe. (His July call for the GOP to make health care Obama’s “Waterloo” prompted multiple Republican lawmakers to distance themselves or flatly criticize him.) But more notable than DeMint’s savaging of the opposition has been his savaging of his own people. Perched on the far-right edge of his conference–he was the only senator to speak at the September 12 tea party on Capitol Hill–DeMint has spent recent years conducting something of a party purity crusade. He has repeatedly delayed or derailed legislation supported by the bulk of his conference. He has sought new rules on how leadership and committee seats are doled out. And he has joined forces with from-the-fringe activists to turn his leadership PAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), into a renegade funding operation that often works at cross-purposes with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Among the “rock-solid conservatives” SCF is championing this cycle are Marco Rubio in Florida (over the NRSC-backed Charlie Crist), Michael Williams in Texas (over presumed party favorite David Dewhurst), and Chuck DeVore in California (over establishment pick Carly Fiorina). His PAC, DeMint explains in an “About Us” video on its website, is for everyone “tired of Republicans acting like Democrats.”…

DeMint has indeed, since joining the Senate, increasingly defined himself not as a Republican, but as a particular sort of Republican, the kind who takes partisanship to more extreme levels than usual.

And increasingly, I find myself making up my mind what I think about other SC Republicans by whether they identify with Sen. DeMint, or with sensible Republicans. It seems more and more to me that there are sensible Republicans, and there are the, ahem, DeMinted ones…

For instance, I’ve been disturbed to note DeMint tendencies on the part of two guys about whom I had heard good things:

  • Bill Connor is Capt. Smith‘s former commanding officer, and a pal of Prince Harry (and we Anglophiles say “huzzah” or “hear, hear” to that sort of thing). But I had to cringe when I saw this Tweet from him: “In Aiken tonight for Senator @JimDeMint‘s event at the Magnolia Room. Proud of Senator DeMint’s strong stands for taxpayers.” Ack!
  • Our own KBFenner has said nice things about Leighton Lord, who’s running for attorney general. But then he Tweeted this: “Packed house in Rock Hill for @JimDeMint event. So much energy in the room, lets build on it for tomorrow in MA & November 2010!” Which of course is bad on two levels — the DeMint level, and the interfering-in-other-states’-politics thing.

6 thoughts on “DeMint: Defining discourse downward?

  1. Karen McLeod

    Since we seem to require labels for everything, can we find other labels for the far right extremists and the far left extremists (demented/crazy; idiots/morons; rats/weasels come to mind)? The reason I suggest this is so that the sane (you and me, although I occasionally wonder about you) can discuss and debate issues without being accused or having to deal with issues that belong only to the fringe groups. Perhaps then all of us (the sane/stable parties) can get together and try to at least present voices of reason to these yahoos. At least we can counter the non-facts being spouted by both ends of the fringe with facts).

  2. bud

    And increasingly, I find myself making up my mind what I think about other SC Republicans by whether they identify with Sen. DeMint, or with sensible Republicans.
    -Brad

    Here’s the gold standard for oxymoron’s: “sensible Republican”.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    Hey, I never said Leighton was perfect–he’s a Republican (he’s actually told me he’s more a libertarian—oh well), for one thing. He IS amazing given that he is the chairman of the board of the largest (?) law firm in South Carolina and represents pave-the-wetlands style developers. He’s honest, fair, always pleasant to work with, and according to his staff, for. He’s a really smart guy, a great parent (another friend’s kid is friends with one of his, and from what I can see, he and Caroline are on top of the parenting thing). He’s married to and supports a smart woman who has started a literary magazine (I know–sounds like an oxymoron, but she is independently wealthy, I believe).Why he wants to be Attorney General beats me. Must be some Republican thing.

    I would nominate 2000 as a contender for worst year, though. The flag controversy reached a head, and CNN seemed to have some footage of re-enacters on the State House grounds on permanent loop. If you didn’t know better, you’d think we all dressed like Jed and Granny Clampett. Of course, we redeemed ourselves somewhat with the impressive showing at the first King Day at the Dome.

  4. Randy E

    Brad, the bottom line is this behavior is rewarded. Joe Wilson is treated like a hero. Our elected government officials kiss the ring of Rush Limblaugh when they speak out against him but later repent. Rush is then the keynote speaker at CPAC. Palin lies and speaks of “real America” and is treated as a bonifide leader (who cares if she was a cancer cell from the presidency but didn’t know Korea is comprised of two nations).

    Currently, the GOP is all about message and propaganda so RINOs be damned and Waterloo be commended.

  5. martin

    see, C Street is not mentioned…

    but, I bet everyone who has lived at the house or been more then casually involved says the same thing and votes the same way.

    How else can you explain DeMint’s interest in Honduras? C Street has world wide deals. It sells access to the president at National Prayer Breakfast events, to every two bit dictator on the planet. What is C Street getting from Honduras? Is it getting to US politicians to run their PACs? Is C Street doing the money laundering for foreign governments and businesses to US politicians?

    This is the biggest story that no one covers. I hope when Coburn and the rest refuse to answer FBI questions about Ensign, it will hit the fan.

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