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US Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) smiles as he talks to reporters about his opposition to ratifying the new START treaty, at the US Capitol in Washington, December 22, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Heritage Foundation president and former Sen. Jim DeMint
The Heritage Foundation was once regarded as the weighty, thoughtful, serious policy side of the Republican Party. Its analysts might have churned out reliably right-wing work, but at least they pretended to care about facts—easily clearing the low bar for the status of "the brain trust of the Republican Party," as the New York Times' Jennifer Steinhauer and Jonathan Weisman put it. But no more. In recent years, Heritage has moved toward simply pressuring congressional Republicans to be more and more extremist, with its new wing, Heritage Action, sometimes whipping up opposition to bills that its more old-guard analysts support.

We're talking here about a turn away from serious, fact-based analysis in relation to a think tank which, back in the good old days of intellectual rigor, argued that the Bush tax cuts would spur economic growth and reduce federal debt. Now? Heritage Foundation president and former Sen. Jim DeMint is going around saying things like this:

“Conservative ideas are invigorating,” he said. “We had allowed them to become too serious.”
In addition to the claim that the Bush tax cuts would do away with the federal debt, other "serious" research backed by Heritage included a discredited study claiming that gay parents are bad for their children. To emphasize this, the brains of the Republican Party, has gone downhill from there, intellectually speaking. And the move to even more extreme extremism is deepening the Republican civil war:
Perhaps no event has been more indicative of the foundation’s new relations with Congress than the decision by House Republicans last summer to kick Heritage Foundation analysts out of the weekly meeting of their Republican Study Committee.

Heritage officials had been the only outsiders allowed in the meeting. But as Heritage Action became more aggressive, study committee members demanded to know why the people criticizing them in their districts were listening in on their strategizing in Washington.

We know how far right congressional Republicans are. Heritage is now so far right that it's alienating even them. And it remains powerful and well funded. Best case, it brings down the Republican Party. Worst case, it brings down the nation's economy.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 12:51 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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