How Jim DeMint inspired a comeback for conservatism
President Jim DeMint of the Heritage Foundation speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference.

How Jim DeMint inspired a comeback for conservatism

Posted May 02, 2017 11:46 AM by Gaston Mooney President Jim DeMint of the Heritage Foundation speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference.
Gage Skidmore | Flickr
    • Font Size
    • A
    • A
    • A


Starting a political movement certainly isn’t easy. Successful movements require effective messaging that stirs our hearts and resonates with our core truths, a clear vision to break through the noise, and a good dose of courage to enlist the help of others. This is exactly what Jim DeMint gives the conservative movement.

The recent decision to remove DeMint as president of the Heritage Foundation has shocked and perplexed conservatives, but his success in the role and influence over the conservative movement is beyond reproach.

DeMint is a fighter. Unceasingly grounded in true conservative principles, he’s known for rising above party lines and cronyism — acting precisely on what he believes. Unlike the countless politicians who came to D.C. before him campaigning on broken promises of health care reform, reducing the national debt, and reviving America’s economy, DeMint was different; he had the guts to actually do something about them.

During the second term of the Bush 43 administration, when Washington was bailing out automakers, Wall Street, and even European countries and banks, America’s faith in what was supposed to be the party of small government was waning.

While most Republicans passively watched our nation’s debt reach an all-time high and the size of government grow, DeMint wouldn’t stand for it. In his role as South Carolina senator, DeMint fought hard against the status quo to sober up a GOP drunk on spending.

Numerous times DeMint stood in the Senate as a lone voice for fiscal sanity, determined to open the eyes of his colleagues. He’s credited for paving the way for many outspoken conservative fighters in Congress today: Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

DeMint led the charge in changing the culture of Congress, showing conservatives that possessing backbone is the first step to successfully advancing true conservative principles.

America’s founding principles finally made a comeback in 2009 when the Tea Party was born. Aided by the conservative media, the constitutionalist Tea Party began to reclaim the Republican Party, election wave after election wave. This shift was ignited by DeMint’s fierce fight for limited government and willingness to do whatever it takes to protect conservative principles.

DeMint’s zeal and influence was what originally attracted donors and board members of the Heritage Foundation — and his success in the conservative movement translated well.

By gaining the support of the right movers and shakers in Congress, and a strong dose of sweat equity, he increased the think tank’s success during his years as president, from 2013 to today. Before his leadership in 2012, the conservative think tank was rated No. 18 in UPenn’s ”Global Go To Think Tanks Index Report.” In 2016, Heritage jumped to No. 12 in the same report.

In fact, under DeMint’s leadership, Heritage is well positioned to conservatively influence the Trump administration, while retaining its independence and principles.

Removing DeMint will weaken Heritage as an institution and will be to the detriment of the conservative movement and our nation. It calls into question the overall judgment and prudence of the Heritage Foundation board.

Perhaps this is the swing back against DeMint’s one-two punch from the ladder climbers who make up Washington’s insider class. The symbolism in his ousting is clear: Even after the election of an anti-establishment presidential candidate, much work remains in changing Washington’s status quo.

Jim DeMint’s role in shaping the conservative movement and restoring our nation isn’t done; his time at Heritage will be defined by the new life he gave the movement in Washington and across the country. He succeeded in changing the battlefield of ideas by actively turning principled conservatism into action and results.

But again we’re reminded: The siren calls of power and cocktail parties of the swamp are often too loud for some to resist.

Editor’s note: Gaston Mooney previously served as a Legislative Assistant under then Senator Jim DeMint.

Gaston Mooney is executive editor of Conservative Review and you can follow him on Twitter @gastonmooney.