Capping the opening day of the Conservative Political Action Conference, former Sen. Jim DeMint said Thursday that conservatives must persuade the Republican Party to pursue their limited government agenda because the party establishment has proven that it will not do it own its own.
Mr. DeMint, who recently resigned from his U.S. Senate seat representing South Carolina to take leadership at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington-based think tank, said that conservatives must remember that they are distinct entity from the Republican Party, which has not advanced a conservative agenda since the 1990s when they pushed welfare reform and a balanced budget
“The president and the Congress will not solve America’s problems unless Americans make them solve the problems,” Mr. DeMint said. “Washington is the problem. We are the solution, and it is urgent that we work together to get our act together as a conservative movement and take action right now.”
The tea party favorite is credited with helping get some of the rising stars of the conservative movement elected to office, including Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky — both of whom are now thought to be on the shortlist of 2016 presidential contenders.
Mr. DeMint also has been one of the fiercest critics of the both Democrats and Republicans — taking particular aim at the administration of George W . Bush, which he blamed for opening the floodgates of spending and debt with the help of Democrats. On Mr. Bush’s watch, the federal debt jumped from $5.7 trillion to $10.6 trillion. Since then, it has climbed to $16.7 trillion.
Mr. DeMint said Thursday that voters are now looking for a “little leadership.”
“They want champions who will stand up to the progressives, take on the liberal media and push back against the Republican leadership when they get a little bit wobbly,” he said. “if we will be their champions and lead with courage and bold ideas, they will join us.”
Mr. DeMint argued that conservative ideas trump those of Democrats, and that the economic and social woes of liberal-dominated cities such as Detroit are a “showcase” for the shortcomings of the liberal agenda.
“There are over 400 liquor stores in Detroit, but not one chain supermarket,” he said. “Our ideas make life better for everyone. Their ideas destroy lives and bankrupt cities.”
Mr. DeMint is one of a series of conservative — both past and present — who addressed the crowd gathered for the American Conservative Union’s 40th annual conference at the Gaylord National Hotel just outside the Capital Beltway.
The ex-senator’s remarks followed a performance from country music artist Lee Greenwood, who treated the audience to renditions of “The Wind Beneath My Wings” as well as the “McDonald’s and You” jingle from a 1980s advertising campaign. And they dovetailed nicely with the theme of the conference, which was billed as “America’s Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives: New Challenges, Timeless Principles.”
“This conference links what was, with what is and what will be,” said David Keene, the former head of the ACU and current head of the National Rifle Association.