Nick Gillespie & Matt Welch
April 12, 2012
“A lot of the libertarian ideals that Ron Paul is talking about…should not be alien to any Republican,” Sen. Jim DeMint said during an interview at reason’s Washington, D.C., offices in late January. Encouraging words from a South Carolina Republican who has earned a reputation as one of his party’s strongest voices for fiscal conservatism during his six years in the House of Representatives and six years in the Senate.
Yet right after the 2010 midterm elections brought a wave of DeMint-backed Tea Party freshmen to Capitol Hill, the Palmetto State’s junior senator proclaimed that “you can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative,” a comment that was widely viewed as a slap at libertarians. DeMint, a reliable defender of the PATRIOT Act and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is an avowed opponent of what he calls the “destructive forces of secularism.” He is a staunch pro-lifer, has favored a constitutional ban on flag burning, and is on the record saying that gays shouldn’t be allowed to teach in public schools.