In 1935, Sinclair Lewis published a political novel titled It Can’t Happen Here in which he wrote: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.”

I’m reminded of this whenever I hear certain South Carolina political figures, regardless of party affiliation, spout off bumper sticker-style platitudes designed to whip up a peculiar constituency.

This is especially true when U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) gets behind a microphone.

DeMint has been very vocal in the current immigration debate, but instead of offering concrete proposals to deal with America’s sizable population of undocumented persons and porous national borders, he seems content to fan the flames of garden-variety racism and partisan politics.

Just last Thursday, DeMint told the Lowcountry Republicans that the compromise immigration bill was cobbled together behind closed doors and was an attempt to skirt public debate and amendments.

Uh-huh. I think he’s still pissed that his colleagues shot down his amendment which would have removed provisions allowing illegal immigrants to gain legal status (Z visas) while remaining in the country.

Perhaps he should listen to his fearless leader. Before DeMint’s amendment got axed, President Bush said, “What do you do with the people already here? Anything short of kicking them out, as far as some people are concerned, is called amnesty. You can’t kick them out. Anybody who advocates trying to dig out 12 million people who have been in our society for a awhile is sending a signal to the American people that’s just not real.”

DeMint told the assembled faithful that the real problem with the immigration bill wasn’t increased costs of benefits to taxpayers, perverts, and criminals sneaking across the border or the threat that these posed to the American way of life.

The real danger to America was Ted Kennedy.

“Once I knew Ted Kennedy was leading it, I knew we weren’t going to get what we liked. The president and the Republicans have good intentions, but those who they are working with on the Democrat side have a different agenda,” said DeMint.

DeMint seems to think that Democrats aren’t drawing a hard line on the issue because somehow they will magically be blessed by new party members and union members.

Now, this isn’t especially worthy of discussion because I’ve grown to expect this kind of nonsense out of South Carolina’s elected leadership.

What I don’t expect is for an elected senator to continue to deny reality by blaming the failure of the war in Iraq on defeatist Democrats.

Last Wednesday, DeMint told a group in Spartanburg that Democratic “wimps” in Congress were responsible for all the American casualties in Iraq (3,475 as of my deadline).

DeMint was focusing on the immigration debate in his remarks, but commented on Iraq in response to a constituent’s question about America’s tenure in Iraq.

“Al-Qaida knows that we’ve got a lot of wimps in Congress … I believe a lot of the casualties can be laid at the feet of all the talk in Congress about how we’ve got to get out, we’ve got to cut and run.”

Afterwards, DeMint told The State that his comment was directed at, “To a large degree, the Democratic party and those who basically declared defeat like Harry Reid.”

He went on, saying the insurgents “feel that if they continue to do harm to American soldiers, they will eventually win in Congress and the funding will be cut off. That’s the clearest signal the Democrats have sent.”

DeMint also said that he disagreed with the almost universally accepted assertion that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and that the dead man had “stockpiles of chemical weapons” still out there, citing a 2005 conversation with an American officer.

Uh, Jim? I hate to break it to you, but even your boy Bush knows there weren’t any WMDs.

DeMint’s comments are the first in what I think is test-marketing strategery for the 2008 general election.

Now, what kind of data the GOP might hope to poll out of this is beyond me, because DeMint’s remarks are simply preachin’ to the choir around these parts.

I’m hoping DeMint will keep on spouting the party line and keeping my fingers crossed that South Carolinians will finally realize that this loose cannon lives in a partisan dreamworld and could give a rat’s ass about their concerns or their kids getting blown up a world away for reasons no one knows.