End of the Tea Party Era?


Politico and the Times just broke news a short time ago that Jim DeMint, former Senator and now President of the Heritage Foundation, may be about to get the boot.

On the one hand, this is a pretty insider story: who runs one of the two or three big conservative think tanks in DC. But it’s a notable development on a few fronts.

The first is it appears that DeMint is being fired for doing what he was hired to do, rather than failing at that mission or taking the outfit in a direction that was different than what was planned. Think tanks have endless discontents. But for years Heritage was the ur-Republican think tank. It had lost some of its centrality since the Reagan Era. The American Enterprise Institute had become more prominent, well-funded and ideological. But it was still Heritage, hosting numerous scholars (if the term was sometimes used loosely) churning out the policy papers that would be taken up by the Republican party.

DeMint, at the height of the Tea Party Era, was brought in to change the operation significantly, to make Heritage a much more hard-edged and overtly political and activist organization. Perhaps also a nastier organization, a job to which DeMint was well-suited.

In some ways, this development seems highly surprising to me because that DeMint-Era Heritage seems well suited to the Trump Era: light on substance, heavy on fight. But apparently the board wants him out. Reading between the lines it seems like there were always people on the board who didn’t want DeMint there. Presumably until now they were outvoted by the people who supported the direction he was taking the organization. Seemingly, the folks in the former category convinced enough folks in the latter category to give DeMint the boot.