Jim DeMint: Moving the Republican Brand to the Right
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 by Jay Newton-Small
Senator Jim DeMint knows when a brand’s gone bad and what to do to fix it. The South Carolina Republican spent more than 25 years in advertising before going into politics, and his demeanor – from the pin stripe suit to his salesman pitch delivered with a smile – has a Mad Men quality to it, almost as if Don Draper had been thrown forward 50 years and his only client was the Tea Party movement.
The Grand Ole Party’s brand has been failing for some time, DeMint says in an interview at the Capitol Hill Club – an exclusive Washington institution for Republican members and Senators. “The angst was growing during the Clinton years, during the Bush years. And then the bailout was the wake up call,” DeMint says. “The Tea Parties, they’re just saying: ‘Enough is enough.’ The question is are Republicans going to open their arms and say, ‘We’re sorry we made a mistake, trust us again.’ Or are they going to keep spit-balling them?”
For years, DeMint has been the Cassandra of the fiscal right, warning that his colleagues were ignoring their base on everything from No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Prescription Drug Program to the Bridge to Nowhere. Such gloom and doom – not to mention to DeMint’s amazing capacity to single-handedly gum up the Senate when he objects to a spending bill – would in years past have earned him the chairmanship of the Subcommittee for Underwater Basket Weaving.
But this cycle, Jim DeMint is a prophet. “I think for most Republicans in the Senate the Tea Party is viewed as a threat; to me it’s the cavalry I’ve been waiting for,” DeMint says with a laugh.
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