Josh Barro writes:
… the DeMint choice signals that Heritage will continue its shift away from doing credible policy research and toward being a political pressure group; and its shift away from being inside the Republican establishment and toward pressuring it from the outside, in a way akin to Tea Party groups like Americans for Prosperity.
That sounds basically right, but why is he so pessimistic about it?
Viewing DeMint’s ascendancy in terms of this establishment vs. insurgency dynamic kind of obscures the fact that his selection seems, above all, like an attempt to downplay or overcome that very thing. Maybe Heritage will continue its insurgent drift, supporting primary challenges of establishment Republicans, inveighing against compromise, et cetera, but those all seem like part and parcel of its mission. And there’s no reason that mission can’t be reconciled with doing credible policy research, though DeMint’s selection might indicate that they intend to lean more heavily on the institution’s political arm, Heritage Action (DeMint already has significant experience with that type of work). The question is how independent the rest of the organization will be and how much the policy work will be respected. Anecdotally Heritage is a much more top-down institution than others in Washington, so that could be a problem. On the whole, though, it seems like there are more pluses than minuses.
I confess I have no idea what Jennifer Rubin is talking about when she frets about Heritage turning into “a political instrument in service of extremism,” though. She must get paid every time she uses that “e” word or something. It is, as Barro notes, already the most political Washington think tank on the right. On social issues they’re not nearly as grating as the Family Research Council and despite DeMint’s now-resurfacing comments about gay and single, sexually-active teachers there really isn’t any reason to believe DeMint would drag Heritage further in that direction. On economic matters the institution that devised the original framework for Obamacare might do well with a little more extremism. And her headline, “good riddance,” seems to suggest DeMint is disappearing, which he obviously isn’t. He’ll play the same role, go on the same television shows, and be replaced with someone who will reliably vote in a similar way. The big difference is that he’ll go from being one of the poorest members of the Senate to a multimillionaire.