If you're one of those Democrats who's been riding a huge schadenfreude high since November 6, you probably took news of South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint's retirement in the customary way. With the online equivalent of going "WHOOOOOOOO" out of a limousine's sunroof, after doing a shooter with one of those awesome names like "Sex Intercourse with Boobs Outside."
It's probably best to roll it back a bit. Obama didn't win so hard and shame him into resignation. Nor is this the Admiral Stockdale-esque "WHERE AM I???" resignation of Sarah Palin; DeMint didn't plan to run for Senate again anyway. No sex scandal looms on the horizon. Instead, he loses a seat and gains an empire, as the new president of the Heritage Foundation.
This is a very good development for Jim DeMint. First, he increases his salary from the senate's $174,000 to at least the $1,025,000 of his predecessor Ed Feulner.
Second, the moneymaking opportunities don't stop there. As Heritage's chief, he'll be able to cash plenty of checks for every time he officially speaks outside of Heritage's walls. Don't forget the bonus of having Heritage's researchers on hand to do the heavy lifting of writing his next book; those synonyms for "freedom" don't look up themselves! Who knows—maybe Heritage can buy thousands of copies to give away free to every donor who sends in a check of $50.00 or more. OMG, it's a bestseller!
Three, DeMint is a lockstep teapartier and government obstructionist who's now been given an army of research "fellows" to draft daily think pieces on party orthodoxy and keep an eye on those straying from ideological purity. Obstinacy might have been a mixed bag when he was merely one voice in the senate, but, if your philosophy is that government doesn't work, then there are few risks in using an army to break it. At best, you win elections and are at liberty to destroy the edifice from within. Or you just throw wrenches in the works to render it inoperable. The great thing is getting to prove your point.
And while it might seem laughable that a think tank could effect so much change, remember that the national dialogue has been manipulated so far rightward that Obamacare poses an existential communist threat to the United States. And it's based on a Heritage Foundation proposal from the 1990s. Just think what they can do with proposals they still support.
There's less room for lefty excitement back in South Carolina. DeMint's departure allows Republican Governor Nikki Haley to appoint a successor. Despite occasionally giving the impression of being someone who might accidentally name a Democrat to the post, Haley probably won't screw this one up. (Unless she appoints herself.) This means that while Think Progress can list 11 reasons to be glad DeMint is gone, whomever takes his seat probably won't differ by much. Unless it's Tim Scott, who's just as much of services-slashing, maybe-let's-go-Democrat-impeaching ideologue, while black. Not that Republicans play identity politics.
Don't expect much from a special 2014 election for his seat, either. Despite a noxious track record, DeMint got to run unopposed in 2010. Well, that's not strictly true. DeMint got to run against Democrat Alvin Greene, a big lummox of a man who had no record of activity with South Carolina Democratic politics and tried to pay the over $10,000 filing fee with a personal check—even though he was unemployed and living with his parents at the time.
Now, you'd think America had evolved past its proud history of dominant state or municipal party machines backing patsy candidates to hamstring the opposition, but some people insisted that something fishy was going on with Greene's funding and disorganized campaign. Oh, also he was black, and he was under investigation for showing pornography to a white college girl. In many respects, Alvin was the candidate much of the South Carolina GOP probably wished Obama was.
God only knows what really happened with the Greene thing. Maybe it was the work of party fixers—in which case, the South Carolina GOP is going to be fine—or it was the work of serendipity. Either way, 2014 should still be a cakewalk, so this isn't worth fretting about either.
No, the real thing to take away from DeMint's new position is this: that the nation might have daily excuses to watch the "Alvin Greene Is on the Scene" campaign video.
Written and performed by Bay Area MC Satellite High and edited by Brooklyn freelancer VirgilTexas, the goofy song and accompanying dunk footage accidentally hoaxed the national media and provided the only unalloyed joy that Jim DeMint has ever been loosely affiliated with.
If he spends the next decade or more running Washington with as much obduracy and gridlock as his track record suggests, Democrats might need something about to smile about, even if it's just, "WHAT A BAD MAN." Also, dunks.