This morning, South Carolina awoke to a dramatically different political landscape than the one we knew just the night before. The announcement that Senator Jim DeMint is leaving the Senate in January to take the helm at the Heritage Foundation was, at first, as perplexing as it was surprising. Some in pundit class claimed victory, seeing Senator DeMint’s resignation as a sure sign that the conservative crack-up is coming, and that liberalism is the undisputed political champion in America. Those of us in South Carolina, however, know a very different Jim DeMint than the quitter liberal pundits are trying to create, and we look at this very differently than many in the mainstream media.
Unlike most members of the Obama Administration, Senator DeMint got his start in the private sector, running a successful marketing firm here in Greenville. This experience with messaging made DeMint a natural when it came to his first run for Congress in 1998, and his skills have been finely honed during his tenure in the House and the Senate. His marketing acumen led to the wildly successful political juggernaut known as the Senate Conservatives Fund, which was largely responsible for launching conservative champions like Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul to the political forefront in the historic midterms of 2010.This was made possible due to DeMint’s understanding of marketing and messaging.
That’s why, when I heard the Senator DeMint was leaving the Senate for the Heritage Foundation, I tried to look at it from the perspective of a marketing executive. If faced with the choice to ride out the remainder of my second and, self-imposed, last term in the U.S. Senate under the “leadership” of Majority Leader Harry Reid during a non-responsive Obama Presidency, or, take the helm of the nation’s preeminent conservative think tank, I would chose the latter. That’s exactly what Senator DeMint chose to do, and I support his decision wholeheartedly.
We’re a conservative state in South Carolina, and we have a remarkable bench of potential replacements for the United States Senate. There is, arguably, no finer Congressional Delegation in the country, which is an excellent starting point for GOP Governor Nikki Haley as she seeks to replace a conservative icon. This means that Senator DeMint’s departure will not leave the Senate short a conservative champion and it ensures that the nation’s preeminent conservative policy organization has a tested and true conservative to rebrand its message. After all, DeMint has made a career out of branding and rebranding products and policies in the public and private sectors.
I’ve said on my radio program ever since the election that conservatives need to rebrand our message, not abandon it, and modernize our messaging, not moderate it. That’s exactly what I believe Jim DeMint will do with regard to national policy at the Heritage Foundation. The secular-progressive left has, for decades, been playing chess while conservatives have been playing checkers. While Republican leadership has focused primarily on running their party, Democrats have found ways to run the country – though not in a way that will “win the future” for future generations.
Politics is downstream of culture, and we conservatives need to get busy rebuilding a culture that respects life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In short, we need to stick with our product – for it works- while changing the packaging. Abandoning our product will ensure that no amount of repackaging will work, for conservatism will be abandoned in favor of a GOP establishment version of socialism light. As Jesus taught, no one wants lukewarm, they prefer either hot or cold. With Jim DeMint, the conservative movement will get a passionate defender, who understands how to market the message America is waiting to hear.