View of Jim DeMint changed radically after the 2004 campaign

I was rather startled to run across something I’d written about Jim DeMint in 2004.

For so many years now, I’ve seen him as a hyperpartisan ideologue, as responsible as anyone in the country for pulling his party into Tea Party extremism right up until his recent resignation from the Senate, that I’d forgotten I used to see him differently.

Here’s what I wrote right after the 2004 election, when he had defeated Inez Tenenbaum in the contest to replace Fritz Hollings:

While I criticized Rep. DeMint heavily for choosing to run as a hyperpartisan (despite his record as an independent thinker), there’s little doubt that that strategy was his key to victory. The president won South Carolina 58-41, and Mr. DeMint beat Mrs. Tenenbaum 54-44, demonstrating the power of the coattail effect. I congratulate him, and sincerely hope he now returns to being the thoughtful policy wonk he was before he wrapped himself in party garb in recent weeks.

Wow. What a difference a few years make. “Thoughtful policy wonk?” I only vaguely remember that Jim DeMint.

So that’s when it began. Before the 2004 campaign, I saw him as a fairly thoughtful guy. But I guess that campaign showed him what red meat could do for him…

14 thoughts on “View of Jim DeMint changed radically after the 2004 campaign

  1. Juan Caruso

    Back in 2004, Brad, did didn’t you have a different job. Is it possible that job required just a bit more political discretion and civility on your part than denigrating those with whom the majority of journalists as a profession popularly disagree?

    The characterization “hyperpartisan ideologue, as responsible as anyone in the country for pulling his party into Tea Party extremism” is no doubt a welcomed aspersion among journalists (the great majority of whom tend toward liberalism) but it is as insulting, insensitive and dismissive as it could be for thoughtful minorities within the “Tea Party”.

    While I have not been a member of nor attended meetings of the Tea Party, I admire their courage, persistence, self-discipline, and spontaneous formation without shady leadership as reported by the press.

    This is still America, not statist socialism yet.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Dang. I just wrote a long reply to that, and somehow deleted it.

      Bottom line: I wish I had something good to say about the Tea Party, but I don’t. I haven’t seen a single good effect from its involvement in our politics, and seen quite a few bad ones (the election of Nikki Haley as governor, the defeat of Bob Inglis, the rise of Jim DeMint as a radical force in the U.S. Senate, etc.).

      As you know, I didn’t think much of the Occupy movement, either — yet another phenomenon based in populist anger, rather than in constructive ideas. But at least that one had no impact on our elections, and had the decency to go away…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I went looking for a post in which I compared the Tea Party and Occupy, but before I got to it, I found this post, which had a passage about Occupy that I like, looking back on it (headline: “‘What do we want?’ ‘WE CAN’T TELL YOU!'”):

      One thing they seem to believe in, and which I strongly oppose, is direct democracy. One of the things that has prevented them from articulating aims is their insistence on everyone participating meaningfully in the decision.Which is impossible. (They’ve tried it with Facebook, then decided not everyone is on Facebook, so that lacks legitimacy. Which shows how extreme they are in their democratic impulse.) Beyond the kind of painfully simplistic, bumper-sticker demands you hear in the kinds of chants I mock in my headline and Tweet above, a crowd can’t take a position on anything. And even on that mob level someone, or some few someones, have to come up with the idea to chant to begin with.

      Where these folks are on the right track is in their sense that our representative democracy isn’t functioning as it should. But the answer is to fix the republic, not to abandon it for mob rule.

      A mob cannot discuss, or refine, or incorporate minority ideas to achieve consensus. A crowd can’t deliberate or discern. Come up with an algorithm to assemble opinions from masses of people and synthesize a position, and you still won’t be arriving at anything like an intelligent decision. (Aside from placing a great deal of undemocratic power into the hands of the writers of the software.)

      Good ideas for governing a multitude seldom spring, like Minerva, directly from the brow of an individual. They are even less likely to do so from a crowd. In either case, the idea should be tested, challenged and refined in debate. The problem in our republic today is that we don’t have real debate between people with differing ideas — we have shouting matches between irreconcilable factions who are not listening to each other. And a crowd on the street is just another set of shouters.

      The thing is, you NEED a “1 percent” to arrive at properly nuanced decisions for a multitude. In fact, the decision-makers need to be fewer than that for anything larger than a village, or a neighborhood. It’s not possible for the 99 percent to all interact with each other meaningfully in arriving at an intelligent decision on a complex issue.

  2. Steve Gordy

    Given the proven involvement of Dick Armey and Freedom Works with the growth of the Tea Party movement, I wouldn’t exactly classify it as an example of “spontaneous formation.”

  3. bud

    Here’s a Reuters headline that appeared in The Huffington Post. If Jim DeMint ever gets his way we’ll likely see this type of headline regarding the US economy:

    “Britain’s ‘Triple Dip’ Recession Perilously Close As Economy Shrinks”

  4. Doug Ross


    So all of Britain’s extensive social programs have nothing to do with the recession? nor the massive influx of immigrants. It’s amazing that you have the perception to completely understand how Britain’s economy works to the point where you know for sure what caused the recession. Seems like someone could get very, very rich with that perceptive ability. But who would want to do that?

  5. bud

    So all of Britain’s extensive social programs have nothing to do with the recession?

    Correct. It’s the austerity.

  6. Doug Ross


    And why is there an austerity program? Why did the money run out to fund all the social programs?

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    Think about how much easier running a business would be if your employees had health care, child care, elder care, college education for their kids, all included in their tax payments, not something you had to deal with or consider.

  8. Ralph Hightower

    I think the reason that DeMint quit was because he met his “Waterloo” instead of Obama’s “Waterloo”.

    It’s over. The Fat Lady has sung. John Roberts has declared “Obamacare” legal.

    Maybe I should start a betting pool as to how many times that the House, with Rep. Joe Wilson (Psuedo Tea-bagger, SC) will introduce legislation to repeal Obamacare. Wilson has no leadership; he just follows the herd.

  9. Kathryn Fenner

    And Fox and Sarah Palin have parted ways. Word is they offered her a fraction of her previous salary and she walked.

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