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.