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Jim DeMint Kicked Upstairs to Run the Heritage Foundation

Jim DeMint, a leader of the conservative faction in the Senate, is moving on to a place of higher significance: a Washington think tank.

DeMint, a staunch conservative who often clashes with party leadership, was reelected to a second term in 2010. He will depart before the new Congress is sworn in next month. “I’ve decided to join The Heritage Foundation at a time when the conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas,” DeMint said in a statement. “My constituents know that being a Senator was never going to be my career.” […]

DeMint will take over from Ed Fuelner, who has been president of the Heritage Foundation since 1977.

“Senator DeMint has done more to advance the cause of freedom and liberty in Congress than anyone else since his election,” said Chris Chocola, president of the anti-tax Club for Growth, in a statement congratulating the senator. “We wish him nothing but the best in his new role at Heritage.”

Basically, this reduces DeMint’s tenure in the Senate by four years. He always planned to serve two terms and then move on. The Heritage gig came open and he jumped at it.

This really does show the reduction in the perceived power of Congress these days. Jeff Connaughton talks in his book The Payoff about “The Blob,” the collection of power brokers and hangers-on that wield influence in Washington. It looks to me like DeMint is trading up. He’ll be able to merge his robust following with the prodigious resources of a wingnut welfare shop that has an action arm of its own.

Reflecting on what this means for a representative democracy, that you can have more influence running a think tank than as a US Senator, is perhaps worth thinking about.

As for the aftermath, Nikki Haley will name a replacement and a 2014 election will replace DeMint. The last Democrat who ran against DeMint was Alvin Greene. Nothing more needs to be said.

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David Dayen

David Dayen