Jim DeMint on the birth of the Tea Party movement

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Tea Party fervor is bigger than ever as the 2012 presidential race heats up, and conservative Sen. Jim DeMint’s new book, “The Great American Awakening: Two Years That Changed America, Washington and Me,” provides a timely look at the birth of the movement and his role in galvanizing American support to fight big spending and corruption in government leading up to the watershed elections of 2010.

DeMint’s book is both a nonpartisan diatribe against excessive government spending and a rallying cry for a return to “constitutional limited government.” In it he chronicles his crusade against the “Washington establishment” as driven by a desire to end the pork-barrel spending and earmarking perpetuated by too-powerful congressional appropriators — and not as one motivated by partisan loyalties. He proved his mettle by balking traditional conservative leadership and endorsing underdog conservative candidates — including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who authored the book’s forward.

But DeMint did more than just back potential politicians — he also put his name on controversial legislation banning earmarks and setting term limits, alienating himself from many of his congressional allies. Although he said his fight was lonely, DeMint remained resolute, even when other senators told him he couldn’t succeed.

“Something happens to me when someone says, ‘You can’t.’ I’m generally not very competitive; unless someone tells me I can’t do something that should be done … I came away with a new challenge: changing the Senate. If the people in the Senate wouldn’t change their minds, then I should try to change the people in the Senate,” he wrote.

And change them he did — with the help of millions of Tea Partiers — in the 2010 midterm elections. In his book, DeMint gives readers a taste of the powerful rhetoric he used at Tea Party rallies to encourage and inspire voters seeking change in Washington. The Great American Awakening describes the nationalization of healthcare and Wall Street and other egregious government expansions in such a way that it not just chronicles the past, it encourages voters of the future.

“Tea Party activism would not only make historic changes in the 2010 elections; they would also be a powerful force in the 2012 presidential elections,” DeMint wrote. “I really believed that. I still believe that.”

Matt K. Lewis