What does Jim DeMint’s move to Heritage mean for the Freedom Movement

Jim DeMint

Since Jim DeMint resigned his Senate seat on Thursday to run the Heritage Foundation, there has been a lot of discussion about the the future of the conservative movement. Many conservatives are excited, a sentiment perhaps best summed up by Erick Erickson. They believe that DeMint will be free to say what he wants, no longer being pressured or restrained by leadership. Indeed, DeMint did just that on Thursday during an interview on CNN, telling Wolf Blitzer that he’s “not with Boehner,” who called for increased tax revenues in his counter-proposal to the White House. “This government doesn’t need any more money, this country needs less government,” said DeMint.

Other conservatives have used the news to take some shots at DeMint. For example, Jennifer Rubin slammed DeMint, writing, “He’s a pol whose entire style of conservatism –  all or nothing, no compromise, no accounting for changes in public habits and opinions — is not true to the tradition of Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk and others.”

Rubin, who has faced questions over her credibility, also had some very sharp words for Heritage. “By embracing him, Heritage, to a greater extent than ever before, becomes a political instrument in service of extremism, not a well-respected think tank and source of scholarship,” she wrote, adding, “Every individual who works there should take pause and consider whether the reputation of that institution is elevated or diminished by this move.”

But DeMint’s style may be what Heritage needs, notes Karen Tumulty and Allen McDuffee at the Washington Post. From a financial perspective, they note that “DeMint’s selection is likely to be popular with many of the foundation’s conservative financial backers, particularly the legions of small donors who contribute in response to its direct-mail solicitations.” However, they add, “[I]t remains to be seen whether he has the temperament or connections required to manage many of its bigger benefactors.” On that DeMint is used to, as a politician, raising money from big name donors. He is, as Rubin noted, a politician. So that sort of schmoozing shouldn’t be too difficult.

Nick Gillespie wonders is DeMint’s new role will bring a bring a “libertarian flavor” to Heritage. This particular question is of interest given the divide that has grown since between conservatives and libertarians since this year’s CPAC. DeMint has had moments where he hasn’t been so welcoming to libertarians. He was part of the boycott of CPAC, a reaction to the “pro-gay, libertarian tilt” to the annual conservative event. In 2010, DeMint told Bret Baier that one “can’t be a fiscal conservative without being a social conservative.” However, DeMint told Reason earlier this year that Republicans should listen more to libertarians when it comes to economics. DeMint will hopefully continue to reach out to libertarians at Heritage.

And over at The Atlantic, Elspeth Reeve wrote that DeMint’s new gig is a “flip-flop” on ObamaCare. For those of you not familiar with ObamaCare, it was modeled after RomneyCare, a health care law pushed in 2006 by then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The Heritage Foundation had a hand in developing RomneyCare, including its central component — the individual mandate. But DeMint has consistent in fighting ObamaCare, spending his time in the Senate working for its repeal. Plus, DeMint going to Heritage could help ensure that something like RomneyCare never happens again.

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