Andrew Breitbart: A Leader Who Adopted a Movement
"But, why?!?" Andrew implored. "That's just crazy. Who are these people?"
"These people" were the general conservative and Republican establishment, both in DC and around the country. It was late 2003 or early 2004. (As I get older, dates get fuzzier.) We were sitting around my kitchen table and Andrew, in the middle of IMing a dozen people and checking his fantasy baseball stats, was peppering me with questions about the inner workings of DC. Why weren't Republicans doing A or B? Why were conservatives doing X or Y? He seemed stunned that they didn't see the world he saw everyday.
This was years before Barack Obama became a household name. It was before the progressive left won the civil war for control of the Democrat party. Yet, even then, Andrew could see the storm clouds forming. His 24/7 consumption of media and the culture convinced him, at that early date, that forces were mobilizing which would threaten the very fabric of America. "Why don't they see it," he would ask exasperated.
One needs to understand two things about Andrew. He hated the American League, with its corrupt designated hitter rule, more than he hated SEIU. And, he was adopted. He didn't naturally "belong" anywhere he was. As a consequence, he fit in everywhere and with everyone. A secular Jew from Hollywood, he sympathized with, and took strength from, social conservative Christians in the heartland. He championed and defended minorities, whether black, hispanic or gay, who dared to challenge leftist orthodoxy. All were welcome in his world.
Andrew hated politics. The horse-race of elections and campaigns bored him. He viewed it as a necessary side-show to the important matters of our time. It of course mattered to him that certain people won and others lost, but only to the extent that he wanted more allies, and fewer adversaries, for the fight he knew was ahead. He cared little about the individual fortunes of particular politicians. Mostly, he just hated bullies.
Titles, contacts and degrees likewise didn't impress him. As long as you understood the fight we are in, that was the only calling card you needed to be part of his world. His phone would alternate between calls from nationally prominent figures and pensioners or single moms trying to organize a rally.
It was at these rallies over that last few years, organized by every-day people, that Andrew finally "belonged" somewhere. The rise of the Tea Party in 2009-2010 was a moment made for Andrew. It was also a moment that enabled a movement to thrive and succeed because of him. He uniquely, unlike Republicans or even conservatives in DC, understood the raw emotion that fueled the movement. These were not necessarily people with long political pedigrees or deep political knowledge. They were, however, people who desperately loved their country and wanted to do something to preserve it.
So, Andrew went to war for them. He stood up to the elites of both parties and the media and became a movement's champion. He gave voice to millions of average Americans.
In the immediate aftermath of his death a year ago, my inbox was flooded with messages of condolence. Most special, though, were those from people I didn't know. They spoke of meeting Andrew once or twice, perhaps at a rally or conference or, even, just the airport. They all told the same story: how Andrew stopped everything, listened to them, and gave them hope and encouragement. He touched more lives than any of us will know.
The say that a man is made for a moment. It doesn't always line up perfectly, however. Fortunately, Andrew found his exact right moment. He was perfectly aligned to give hope and inspiration to millions of people, at the exact moment they needed it. We are all the better for it.
I'm mad as hell that he isn't here. But, I am so grateful I got to enjoy a slice of it.
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