Might green shoots of sanity be emerging in the GOP wilderness? Probably not. But the rising volume of grumbling about former Sen. Jim DeMint’s destructive grifting shows that some in the party recognize that his “Defund Obamacare” campaign is more about funding his empire than real political change.
There are plenty of signs of tension. When Congress reconvenes in September, DeMint’s Heritage Foundation staffers will no longer be welcome at meetings of the conservative Republican Study Committee, after decades of having a presence there, because of Heritage’s role in blowing up the farm bill. Friday’s Washington Examiner reveals that the petition drive that goes along with the “defund Obamacare” campaign – dontfundit.com – is collecting “a million potential new donors” for the DeMint-founded Senate Conservatives Fund, even as polls show that the campaign is increasingly politically unpopular.
Clicking to add your name to the “Don’t Fund It” petition actually takes you to the Senate Conservatives Fund website, where signers are asked for donations. (Although DeMint left the fund when he took over Heritage, it’s run by his former staffers.) Republicans are also angry that the site targets only GOP senators, not Democrats, who won’t join the futile push by Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee to somehow defund the Affordable Care Act in exchange for a vote on a continuing resolution to keep government operating.
DeMint and his “Defund Obamacare” touring partner Cruz are peddling political poison to the GOP. As Republican pollster Whit Ayers told Michelle Cottle: “Shutting down the government in an effort to defund is the one way Republicans can turn Obamacare from a major plus to a major minus in the 2014 elections.” But they don’t care. Cruz is building his donor list for a potential 2016 run from the far right, while DeMint, gone from the Senate, pretends he’s going to be Senate kingmaker from his swank office at the Heritage Foundation.
The man who absurdly tweeted “Would MLK support Obamacare?” while the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s landmark speech was being broadcast on Wednesday followed that up Thursday by railing against Medicare and all forms of government-provided healthcare. “I cannot think of anything that’s more un-American than national government-run healthcare,” DeMint said at a town hall in Wilmington, Del. “Those who believe in those principles of socialism and collectivism we’ve seen over the centuries, they see as their holy grail taking control of the healthcare system.”
The Medicare-dependent seniors and military veterans who rely on government-run healthcare can't be reassured by that kind of talk. It's the sort of rhetoric that's great for raising money from the rubes -- sadly, probably even some rubes who don't realize their healthcare is government-run -- but terrible for the Republican Party.