It was reported this week that Jim DeMint, who is something of a conservative icon, is being forced out of his position at the head of the influential Heritage Foundation think tank. According to sources inside the organization, DeMint is being asked to leave as internal forces battle it out about the direction of the conservative activist group.
Fox News, which is undergoing its own major changes, reported that DeMint is likely a victim of Heritage Action for America’s Michael Needham:
Needham complained to Heritage’s board of trustees that the foundation under DeMint was becoming too political with its outreach and messaging — not on its founding mission of crafting conservative policy — especially when Heritage Action was created in 2010 for such purposes, sources said.
Needham has declined to discuss the matter but praised DeMint on “Fox News Sunday” as a “patriot.”
“I’m not going to add to the speculation and rumor,” Needham said. “The Heritage Foundation is an institution that is committed to formulating and promoting conservative policies. And that is not going to change.”
Some sources, however, say the changes at Heritage have less to do with practical matters like steering clear of political campaigning and more to do with an ideological shift in direction. Rebekah Mercer is a prominent member of the board as well as a major financial force behind the Donald Trump political machine. Mercer is reportedly pushing the board to replace DeMint with someone whose finger is a little closer to the pulse of modern American conservatism. Someone like…Mr. Stephen Bannon.
It’s difficult to say what’s behind the shakeup until the major players start talking openly, but for now, many Republicans who partially owe their Washington careers to the Heritage Foundation are speaking out against his ousting. DeMint, who was a significant force behind the development of the Tea Party, is finding a groundswell of support from Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, and others on Capitol Hill.
“We think they’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who can do better than him,” an anonymous source told the New York Post. “It’s really a loss for them. You have someone who was in the Senate who could pick up the phone and call Cruz or Rubio whenever he wanted. I’m not sure anyone who replaces him could do that overnight.”
It’s baffling to see these conservative institutions crumbling in the wake of one of the Republican Party’s greatest modern victories. Hopefully, conservatism and Trumpism can merge into one force in the coming years and we can get beyond the political infighting that has kept true progress from being realized.