DeMint walks away: An ideological purist takes his influence elsewhere

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South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint announced Thursday that he's resigning from the legislative body he helped paralyze to run the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank located a few blocks away from the Capitol.

Mr. DeMint is walking away from a legislative career that spanned 14 years. Nine were spent in the U.S. Senate where the two-term Tea Party favorite failed to pass or author a single major piece of legislation. He didn't compete with other senators for South Carolina's share of legislative pork, either. His small government, low tax philosophy made him a bitter enemy of earmarks.

Mr. DeMint's role in the most conservative caucus of the Republican Party was as its chief arbiter of ideological purity. Consequently, there was little love lost between Mr. DeMint and the leaders of his party who believed occasionally compromising with Democrats to get legislation passed is good for America.

In his role as a conservative kingmaker, Mr. DeMint routinely backed untenable House and Senate candidates in Republican primaries. Though his picks often beat moderate incumbents, they were just as likely to be beaten by Democrats in the general election. This strategy caused the Republicans to blow a golden opportunity to capture the Senate in 2010.

In moving from the Senate to the Heritage Foundation, Mr. DeMint will continue to harass the GOP and vex Democrats from a perch that was once a bastion of high-minded conservatism. With Mr. DeMint at the helm, we can already smell the tea and the cordite.

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