The Great American Awakening: Two Years That Changed America, Washington and Me
By Jim DeMint
(B&H Books, 240 pages, $14.99)
We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
-- Ode, by A.W.E. O'Shaughnessy
It is that rare person who dares go against the flow, challenging the status quo in hopes of a better world. But Senator Jim DeMint has been that dreamer of dreams, a world-foresaker, and over the last several years he has shaken American politics. A quiet, humble man of faith, with a Southern drawl and a constant smile, DeMint hardly seems the revolutionary type. But he was tea party before the tea party, at many times waging a lonely revolution inside the U.S. Senate. He was a voice of reason and common sense when many Republicans felt it better to go along with the Senate's business-as-usual.
Such lone stands are often tests of personal courage and conviction, especially from a position of relative weakness: as a relatively junior Senator, DeMint couldn't wage his battles from a position of strength, yet still he fought because of his deep convictions and love of country. His new book, The Great American Awakening, chronicles DeMint's journey over the years between 2008 and 2010, and the struggles, and ostracizing, he endured as he proposed such things as term limits for appropriators. It also follows his early associations with the tea party, as he earned the nickname "Senator Tea Party."
In his story, DeMint realizes he is up against a system, or as I call it The System: a powerful reinforcing loop that continually strengthens itself. Our System of government, with a Ruling Class of long-time incumbents surrounded by lobbyists and buttressed by the party system, stopped serving the American people a long time ago. With every passing year, it continues to strengthen itself, accelerating as it drifts away from the original vision for our government and nation.
Inside the Senate, within that very System, DeMint sees everything for what it actually is. In a moment of illumination, he realizes he cannot beat the Ruling Class alone, and so he did something many considered startling and infuriating: he created the Senate Conservative Fund to work for personnel change inside the Republican Caucus and the U.S. Senate. Even though he does not state it in such terms, DeMint realized that he who controls the primary nominations controls the party and thus controls the System. And so DeMint set out to do just that, and by force of will, to control the candidate nomination process.
The book also chronicles some of the internal fights DeMint faced with colleagues in the Senate, his thoughts on the rise of the tea party, and even his personal struggle with his wife's breast cancer. There are parts in the story (such as his fight to clarify the facts in Honduras in 2009) that are interesting tidbits of information.
But I had several frustrations with the book. There are really no new revelations and, as with many political books, the writing here is a bit pedestrian. At just over 200 pages, it was a bit of a grind to read, which is a shame because it does give an insider's view of two of the more fascinating years in American politics. In the end, the book is worth a read for the simple fact that you will better understand Jim DeMint the man. You'll understand his fights and the loneliness of his struggle, and come away with a better appreciation for his steel resolve.
There is no doubt that DeMint is on the right path in his war against The System and the Ruling Class. With recent reinforcements like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey, the tides have begun to shift within the Republican Senate Caucus, and within the Senate itself, though there is much work left to be done. My hope is that someday the U.S. Senate has dozens of Jim DeMints in it. That will be the day The System and the Ruling Class lose and the American people win.
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