Jim DeMint will soon be gone from the Heritage Foundation but the fiery former South Carolina senator won't be forgotten. While his defenestration continues, a cadre of congressional conservatives have rallied to DeMint, singing his praises in a letter obtained exclusively by the Washington Examiner.
The letter, co-written by Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, has already been undersigned by more than two dozen House and Senate Republicans. The total number is expected to be much larger by the time the letter goes public.
"For the last two decades, you have served faithfully as a leading advocate for America at its best," the letter reads. "You have consistently promoted our founding-era vision of America as a nation of empowered, flourishing citizens."
With one hand on the wheel of Heritage, DeMint used the other, the letter writes, "to inspire a new generation of leaders — at every level of government and society."
Something of a godfather in conservative political circles, DeMint helped bring Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, and Ted Cruz of Texas to prominence. Two of his brood would go onto mount unsuccessful bids for president. And later DeMint would play a hand in the rise of the House Freedom Caucus, those cantankerous conservatives frustrating the plans of Republican leadership.
As accomplished as it was controversial, DeMint's career in and out of Congress has continued to push the Republican party ever farther to the right. He left the Senate behind in 2013, helming the Heritage Foundation for four years before being unceremoniously toppled in full view of the public last week.
Perhaps referring to that occurrence, the letter praised DeMint for preserving his humility even when he "confronted overwhelming opposition, bitter criticism, and nagging skepticism — not only from those who openly oppose your philosophical worldview, but occasionally (and quite painfully) from those who purport to embrace it."
The letter is more complimentary than an early draft obtained by Politico last Friday. That rough draft praised DeMint but added the caveat that "we've not always agreed with every decision." All hedging language was struck for the final product.
While the coup against DeMint is public knowledge, Heritage has remained uncharacteristically silent. Normally media savvy, the group hasn't released a single statement since Friday. The only word from Heritage leadership has been a staff-wide email sent out Saturday warning employees not to talk to the press.
Since then speculation about DeMint's successor has been rampant. On "Fox News Sunday," Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham declined to say whether or not White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is in the running to take the organization.
More forward-looking, the letter focused on what comes next for DeMint, noting that his "positive influence will continue to be felt not only for years or decades, but through many generations."
"As you prepare to take the next step in your fateful, courageous career, we applaud and thank you for being our leader, our friend, and our champion," the letter concluded. "We also express our gratitude to your wife and family, who have sacrificed much in supporting you through thick and thin. We look forward to witnessing God's plan for you and your family in the coming days."
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.